Kids of all ages around Missouri (and maybe in your area and I’m just not aware) have been overtaken by the incredible urge to drink just over half of their bottled water and then spend the next several hours flipping it. Yep. Bottle flipping has become all the rage in my area. My son’s 10u travel baseball team spent lots of dugout hours all summer flipping their bottles. My son was a bit unhappy when I thoughtfully gave him a big sports cooler that could hang on the dugout fence, stayed cold for hours in the sun, and held enough water to get him through an all-day baseball tournament, but he couldn’t flip it. Fortunately (for him), he got over that and quickly began to appreciate his bigger water cooler. Other parents began switching their kid over to the bigger cooler that could hang on the dugout fence. Bottle flipping, however, has not gone away.
All of this year so far, I have had high school students trying bigger and more amazing bottle flips between classes, during our adviser/advisee time (yes, we call it AA and try not to giggle), and at any time they think I’m not looking. Bottle flipping is loud and obnoxious when done indoors, especially in a classroom, but I do appreciate an epic bottle flip when I see one. My son did a bottle flip that landed his bottle onto his basketball goal today, and he did it on his first try. That got me thinking.
As educators, we all want to experience that epic bottle flip. I presented Pear Deck at a recent educational technology conference in Missouri (MOREnet 2016) with the help of a colleague, Kim Foreman, and I consider Pear Deck an epic bottle flip, and a bigger hanging water cooler. The free version is nice, but it is not an epic flip. To reach the status of epic, you must have the full version. I know. Believe me. I don’t like having to pay for things to use in my classroom any more than you do, but sometimes the value outweighs my need for free or cheap. Sometimes I have to be willing to plunk out a few bucks in order to do something for my students that is even more amazing than landing my mostly empty bottle of water on top of my basketball rim (or whatever the square thingy behind the actual rim is called). I currently pay for my full version of Pear Deck out of my own pocket as we work out a plan for a site license for my building or district. I pay for it because Pear Deck provides a way for me to have deep meaningful discussions in my classroom, with 100% engagement, about Lord of the Flies, Masque of the Red Death, character analysis, archetypes, mythology, back to school bonding, you name it.
Before Pear Deck, just a handful of students would dare to discuss anything in class, out loud, in front of other students, and let other hear them sound smart, or stupid. But hold on a second, you say. There have been other devices and technologies used in our classrooms that engage students and assist in classroom discussion. What about those classroom response systems or polls? Sure. They’re out there, but a lot of them are like the half empty water bottles. They can flip and be fun, but Pear Deck is the bigger cooler that keeps your ice cold for hours. With it, I now guide the class discussion, see every student participating, spotlight answers I want students to talk about, keep students anonymous while pointing out brilliant comments (or not so brilliant), and I can now switch to student-paced if the bell rings before we’re finished with our session. I allow students to change their answers after we discuss them because Pear Deck provides takeaways in a .pdf format that integrates with Google Classroom beautifully.
This is one question and response from a Pear Deck takeaway. All student takeaways are stored in my Google Drive so that I can look them over, grade them, use them in blogs, etc.
Students can download the link from their Classroom, use it to study for tests or quizzes, or they can do it to complete further assignments. The takeaways have all of the questions from the session and all answers submitted by that student. They each get one that has all of their answer choices with each question. Oh, and there’s a different cute and historical pear at the end of each takeaway. Pear Deck offers all sorts of question types, so math teachers can have students work out problems in their Decks, art teachers can have students illustrate or draw from a prompt, elementary teachers can have fill in the blank sentences for vocabulary, and the list goes on. It functions on all devices, from desktop to mobile phone. The potential is amazing. I have juniors and seniors begging to do a Pear Deck instead of playing a review game before tests. I have a really good review game called grudge ball, which I stole from some smart teacher who posted it on the internet years ago. The nerve of my students wanting me to create a review Deck instead of playing a review game.
If you are brave enough to rock your classroom boat and try Pear Deck, I offer the following advice. First, sign up for the free trial. Next, create a short easy deck for your first try with students. Five slides will likely enough, but have ten slides in the Deck just to be safe. Remember that your first Pear Deck may not flow seamlessly and without problems, but let your students know that you are all trying something new. Students as a whole, unlike teachers, love trying new technological things. The drawing answer type should always be one slide in your Deck. Students of all ages love that, though drawing on Chromebooks without a mouse can be tricky. Make it a challenge for them, and they’ll jump right in.
Once you feel comfortable presenting wth Pear Deck, invite your principal to come watch you use a new technology that is a great way to assess students and engage them (while your free trial is still operational). Once your administrator sees it in action, having it paid for by your district will increase exponentially. The Pear Deck team offers payment options for your district or per teacher. However you are able to finance it, make sure you do. The full version allows you to control the session and dashboard from your iPad or any other device that has internet capability while you walk around and observe/connect with your students. The dashboard view shows you who is logged into your session and what their answers are BEFORE you show student responses on the Smartboard.Students don’t need a separate login since Pear Deck works with Google. Students just need to log into their school email accounts, join the open session by going to http://www.peardeck.com/join (see below) and enter the code that you can display on the smartboard or screen. I use projector view on my desktop computer/Smartboard, and I use my school iPad to run the session and monitor my students, though a Chromebook or other tablet will also work.
Reading about a new techy tool for the classroom is a lot like seeing the picture of my son’s epic bottle flip without actually witnessing the flip. I get that, but trust me on this. Pear Deck is worth your time as an educator to explore, to attend a workshop or seminar, and to attempt to use. Like bottle flipping, your students will be engaged. But like the bigger water cooler, your students also will be focused on your content, and the silent ones in your class will no longer be silent. Their voices will be heard. That, my friends, is epic.