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Monday, April 24, 2017

The Thumbs Up and Down of My Tech Experiences: Pear Deck

GUEST POST by Tala Pirouzian, HS English Student Teacher

As I reflect on my student teaching experience thus far, I have not only enjoyed experimenting with the different technology to support and engage my students in their learning but also have learned from them. While I will be sharing some of my most memorable and successful lessons, I would also like to share ones that have been more challenging than I imagined. The one that first comes to mind is Pear Deck. This is a multidimensional tech tool with a unique system set up, but it can also be quite overwhelming the first time a teacher, especially a new teacher, uses it.

Pear Deck

First, let me provide some context for the lesson before explaining the benefits and challenges of using Pear Deck. I used this tech tool during a lesson that also featured a competitive game element in that students worked in teams of four to six to justify their analysis of the text.

Each question posed to students had two parts to it:
First students would type in a quick response (thumbs up/down to indicate agree or disagree, or one word response), which served to check understanding and offer clarification on the topic
Next, we would review the answer and then students would work in their team to find textual evidence that best supports the assertion/topic.
For example:
LOTF Ch. 7 Modified.pptx (33).jpg
LOTF Ch. 7 Modified.pptx (31).jpg
LOTF Ch. 7 Modified.pptx (32).jpg
Some of the questions had several correct textual evidences; thus, I had to switch between different slides in order to double check that the textual evidence students selected corresponded with the ones on the “survey says” list. A part of this has to do with experience and familiarity with the text too in that for this lesson it was a balance of comfort with the tech and proficiency with each significant passage within the novel. Thus, I do believe that as one gets more familiar with teaching a certain novel, this allows for more risks and novelty with tech activities.
Furthermore, as students read their textual evidence I was listening to see if they were reading the passage that contained the specific literary device. For example, in some instances students would read textual evidences that were close or part of the page but did not contain the actual language or literary device. The pressure of time also contributed to the challenging aspect of the lesson and tech.
One of the most challenging management aspects of Pear Deck for me was the display format in that there is a projector and a dashboard setup. The desktop computer is on projector setting so that the electronic whiteboard displays what the students will see on their screens, yet on my laptop I have a dashboard display setup so that I can check their short response data, read their incoming responses, lock/unlock the response page, highlight student answers, and reveal the answers.

The different features of this tech tool are useful and valuable because it keeps students engaged and allows the teacher to assess students responses in real time. For example, during the lesson, I was able use the tech tool to display student responses as models or to use the visual data of the “thumbs up/thumbs down” as an assessment of any remaining misunderstandings, confusions, or understandings  about a topic, character, or literary device. There are so many options and features embedded in PearDeck, such as designing slides with clips, images, questions, and text, selecting from different types of student responses (multiple choice, short response, agree/disagree), and managing the responses by highlighting certain student answers, making the student work anonymous, etc.  
After reflecting on this particular lesson, I believe that there was a discrepancy between how I envisioned and practiced the tech tool to work, beforehand with my mentor, and how it actually worked out during the lesson because there were many moving parts. However, students were engaged in the content learning and given the opportunity to practice their close-reading, literary analysis, justification, vocabulary, listening, and speaking skills with this interactive tool. Next time I use PearDeck, I will have had experience with the tech formatting and will make appropriate adjustments to the task. Although this was one the most challenging lessons and tech tools that I have used thus far, I would definitely use it again and do recommend it to others because with practice comes competence and development.

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