The pandemic has taught us all so much. Many continue to uncover deeper meanings to things previously taken for granted: health, relationships, flexibility, and resilience, to name a few.
COVID has also shaken the world of education in ways no one could see coming. Educators around the world have been forced to redefine the very foundations of our systems.
How can we differentiate our supports in providing individualized resources necessary for each student to learn?
What is consistent attendance during a pandemic?
How does time factor into learning?
How can we ensure grades reflect learning?
What can we do to effectively monitor and support student progress in each of the three learning models?
And the question that continues to ring loud and clear-- now more than at any time in public education's history. . .
How can we design learning experiences that are actually engaging for kids?
Looking the Beast in the Eye
The truth is that we should have been asking this question of systems and ourselves long before COVID hit. Until recently, we as educators have--in effect-- been presented with captive audiences. We taught how we chose to teach, and students really didn't have any say in the ways in which we "delivered" instruction.
The focus was on teaching. And teachers for the most part were at liberty to make instructional decisions unilaterally.
Seemingly overnight, the traditional "teacher presence", complete with unspoken rules of learning, classroom routines, and expectations in brick-and-mortar classrooms, all but vanished.
Students were no longer bused to their buildings and shuffled into classrooms at the behest of a bell.
Teachers couldn't see their students in a physical space.
How are we supposed to be able to teach kids when we can't even be with them?
This seemed like an insurmountable challenge. And yet the collective professional growth our nation's educators have experienced in these last twelve months has been astounding.
The Great Inundation
Educators and support agencies responded in the only ways they knew how. They started compiling LISTS.
Lists of learning games kids could play at home.
Lists of free resources for educators.
Lists of subscriptions school and district staff had access to.
Lists of Learning Management Systems.
Lists of phone numbers and email addresses to contact students and families.
Lists of links and resources for staff saliva testing and COVID leave protocols.
Lists of professional organizations supporting teachers.
Lists of tools, websites, and apps.
AND THEN MORE TOOLS, WEBSITES, AND APPS.
Educators, students, and families alike were overwhelmed. And is it any wonder?
The "Weeding Out" Process
Landing on One Great Tool That Works
Inevitably, educators, schools, districts, and charters had to embrace the new-- and sift through the proverbial mountains of information presented to them in order to identify a manageable collection of resources-- little nuggets of gold-- to support effective and engaging instruction for student learning.
In my role as a secondary English/Language Arts teacher, I can't talk up Pear Deck enough.
Back to Beginning
Top 10 Reasons Pear Deck Is My #1 Go-To:
Reason #1: Students tell me they love it.
Reason #2: It's designed on the principles of Learning Science.
Reason #3: It works seamlessly with my Google Slides content.
Reason #4: It helps me ensure I'm incorporating essential building blocks in each of my lessons.
Reason #5: It works for synchronous AND asynchronous instruction.
Reason #6: Students leave each session with a "Takeaways" report of the lesson and their responses.
Reason #7: Ask questions on the fly.
Reason #8: There's something for everyone.
Reason #9: No more asking students to sift through excessive links in the chat!
Reason #10: The professional support is amazing.
Back to Beginning
Reason #1: Students tell me they love it.
Want to know what draws students in? What keeps them engaged?
I started using Pear Deck in my synchronous online class sessions years ago, and their feedback has been consistent.
1. They are more engaged when they are active participants rather than passive recipients in their learning.
2. They feel comfortable sharing and asking questions when their contributions are displayed anonymously.
3. They value the relationship and community building Pear Deck interactivity allows for.
And now that the option for sharing feedback with individual students in real time has been added, our classes feel much more like an authentic exchange.
Reason #2: It's designed around principles of Learning Science.
Pear Deck is accredited for Research-Based Design by Digital Promise for consulting research about learning to inform product design; developing a logic model grounded in that research; and publicly communicating their product's research basis.
Want to know more? Visit Pear Deck's page for Efficacy.
**WARNING! THIS NEXT PIECE IS FOR DATA NERDS ONLY** (If qualitative and quantitative research really isn't your thing, you can jump to my Reason #3.)
So what does the research say about the "Effect Size(s)" of teachers implementing such practices?
According to research claimed to be the "most comprehensive review of literature ever conducted"-- an ongoing database of 1,200+ meta-analyses (including over 70,000 studies with over 300 million students), an "Effect Size" for a given instructional practices "represents the magnitude of the impact that ... approach has". A negative effect size is detrimental to learning-- a practice that actually pushes children back in grade level knowledge and skills. Positive effect sizes up to .2 represent regular growth and development without intervention (i.e. learning by living). Then from around .2 to .4 in effect sizes, "medium" effect sizes can be seen.
Practices that are considered significant, evidence-based, and highly reliable factors to learning include those that reach above an effect size of .4 and can range all the way up to 1.2. (Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Hattie, J., 2016)
So what can teachers do with Pear Deck functions in relation to this barometer of effect sizes?
Pear Deck functions enable teachers to incorporate intentional learning experiences for students that include:
Reducing anxiety = 0.40
Motivation = 0.48
Concentration/persistence/engagement = 0.48
Interactive video methods = 0.52
Classroom management = 0.52