I have been using some type of student management platform for much of my career. I began with a tool that was attached to Oracle’s Thinkquest. In its simplest form I could gather formative information and communicate with students. This became especially helpful when I had to spend several weeks out recuperating from surgery.
Then I discovered Edmodo, a tool I still use because of its ability for students to attach many different types of files and/or URLs to assignments. I enjoyed the idea of seeing work from my different classes. At the same time I managed the various tools I used through a wiki – in fact I still do this!
Then a couple of years ago, the school system introduced Google Apps for Education and now everyone has a Google Classroom. Sometimes I am not sure how the students keep up. They join classrooms for their subject matter as well as clubs and after school programs. The admin in our building use it as a platform to instruct. That is where I became somewhat disillusioned. I do enjoy assigning work through Google Classroom. It is wonderfully easy to access, grade, and give feedback BUT it is cumbersome as a delivery system for instruction.
Last year I discovered Zeetings. This seemed to be the answer to what I was looking for. I could set up slides, images, and web links and embed checks for understanding throughout the lesson. The problem? Students had to be prompted, more times than I care to say, to add their name so I had anonymous participants. It was designed for the business world with free limited features, such as the class size must be limited to 30 participants. The paid version is quite expensive.
I have looked at Nearpod several times but just can’t seem to warm up to it and then I found Pear Deck. I am still a newbie to this program but I am enjoying what I have discovered so far. It integrates with Google Drive so your files are stored there and you are not limited to how many decks (presentations) you can create. The free version is fine but the paid version is not too bad either. For around $99.00 a year, I can utilize all of its features. Here are a few:
- Instruction may use an item, perhaps a video clip or website on the teacher screen, while the students see a question about it on their screens. If they need access to the site it can be given to them.
- It is easy to embed checks for understanding, multiple-choice and short answer questions, drag a dot, or draw/write on an image are just a few. It even has a feature for a quick question when you realize that you need to ask one while presenting.
- It’s possible to share student responses – they are anonymous but later the information may be saved as a “takeaway” that shares the students’ names for formative assessment purposes.
- Questions are able to be locked so the lesson can continue.
- You can stop at any point, name a session and it saves a version of that. It is not necessary to create multiple decks for multiple classes. I enjoyed not being stressed to complete so much in a single class.
- Pear Deck is quite intuitive and very easy to revise and edit.
- How ELA Teachers Use Pear Deck