Thursday, February 5, 2015

Revisiting Pear Deck

A few months ago I taught a lesson using Pear Deck, an app that lets you incorporate real time polls into a slide show. I was doing a concept formation lesson about mercantilism; I explained examples and had students vote on whether or not they thought that the examples qualified as mercantilism through Pear Deck. I then had students discuss why they chose their answers.
There was definitely some difficulty in managing Pear Deck, as the students were unused to the technology. There was also a learning curve for me as I struggled to show student answers without letting them get too off track in their answers. However, they seemed to be interested in the process and with a little more practice, I still think Pear Deck has potential as a teaching tool.
So, I’m thinking about round two. What is Pear Deck really good for and what do I need to do to make sure it works smoothly?
Pear Deck is useful for getting the whole class to respond to a question when you don’t have time for everyone to respond or students aren’t willing to talk in front of the class. It’s particularly useful for quickly surveying students’ opinions and doing comprehension checks.
One idea I have is to imbed mini quizzes into my powerpoint. I’m thinking about the WWII unit I co-planned which centers around the different ideologies which lead to WWII. One good way to do a comprehension check without stopping the class to poll each student individually would be to do a Jeopardy type of project. Give a definition of an ideology then ask students which one they think it is. For example,
            This ideology embraces advocates a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.
 Is it     A) Democracy
            B) Pacifism
            C) Communism
This would allow me to do a quick formative assessment of all the students in a fun, low-stakes way, all without stopping my powerpoint.
In order to keep students from getting distracted, I have two ideas. One is practice, practice, practice. If the routine isn’t new, students are less likely to get distracted by the novelty. The second idea is to have students close the Chromebooks while I’m talking, only opening them up to answer polls then closing them while we start discussion.

I’m not giving up on Pear Deck. I just think is has too much potential to ignore because of one awkward lesson. 


  1. Liz, It sounds to me like you used Pear Deck wisely. I am not super familiar with the tool, however it seems like you used it to provide you with instant formative assessment during your lessons pretty well. I think your point on making it routine and practicing it in your class will really help you when you do this in the future. In my opinion, it is natural that this lesson was a bit awkward because this exercise using Pear Deck is not a regular routine in your class. If you start doing this regularly and making it a routine, the tool sounds simple enough that it won't become an awkward lesson, as you put it, and it can provide you with valuable instant feedback during your teaching.

  2. Liz,
    I think your instinct is right in keeping it low stakes. A review game seems like the best way to use this, as you can use a whole class period in order to work through the kinks of the tech. This will get you and the kids comfortable with it and--although it will be exhausting (games always are)--you will be laying the foundation for bringing it back later in shorter cycles. Good luck!