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Using Pear Deck for Student Engagement

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Pandemic Pandemonium

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.

Enter COVID-19.

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.


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.


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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.

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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)

(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

Peer influences = 0.53

Classroom Cohesion = 0.53

Student-centered teaching = 0.53

Cooperative versus competitive learning = 0.54

Direct instruction = 0.59

Concept mapping = 0.60

Not labeling students = 0.61

Problem-Solving teaching = 0.61

Teaching strategies = 0.62

Study Skills = 0.63

Self-verbalization and self-questioning = 0.64

Metacognitive strategies = 0.69

Teacher-student relationships = 0.72

Reciprocal teaching = 0.74

Feedback = 0.75

Teacher clarity = 0.75

Comprehension interventions for students who are learning disabled = 0.77

Classroom Discussion = 0.84

Micro-Teaching = 0.88

Providing formative evaluation = 0.90

Self-Reported Student Expectations = 1.44

(Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Hattie, J., 2016)


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Reason #3: It works seamlessly with my Google Slides content.

If you're a tech nerd like I am, you know how exciting a solid Google Chrome Extension or Google Suite Add-On can be. Well Pear Deck integrates seamlessly with slide presentations you've already developed using Google Slides.

Get ready to blow the dust off those tired old PowerPoints

. . .because the Pear Deck Add-On in Google Slides offers a solid introductory repertoire of super-easy-to-access-and-integrate sharing and questioning activities essential to the principles of Learning Science (retrieval practice, active learning, formative assessment, feedback driven metacognition, deeper learning, and whole child practices and social emotional skills).

Seriously, create yourself what I call a Learning Experience Template for each lesson, and Best Practice has never been easier to implement (and, in conjunction with consistent and meaningful feedback, to guarantee for each student).

Pear Deck also integrates with Google Classroom, Schoology, Canvas, Microsoft Teams, and, most recently, GoGuardian .

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Reason #4: It helps me ensure I'm incorporating essential building blocks in each of my lessons.

You know that learning experience template I mentioned in Reason #3?

I understand wholeheartedly how overwhelming it can be for educators to feel like they are responsible for it all.

And I also understand how important it is for youth in Minnesota that educators give their best efforts day in and day out to live up to those responsibilities.

Research clearly supports that in order for deep learning and transfer to occur, students need:

  • opportunities to recall things they've learned and experiences they've had;

  • regular interactions with grade-level content, frequent exchanges in rich discussions, and ample opportunities for participation in activities;

  • consistent, clear, and specific feedback;

  • opportunities to think about their thinking

  • to create short- and long-term academic goals;

  • to monitor and reflect on their progress;

  • to asses their learning and growth;

  • and to self-select and implement strategies to meet their goals;

  • attention to and direct instruction in social and emotional learning and awareness; and

  • regular opportunities to access higher order thinking skills (critical thinking, complex problem-solving, effective collaboration and communication) for authentic purposes.(See Pear Deck's citations here.)

So when preparing a lesson, I strive to find ways to make these things happen for the kids in my classroom. Do I always reach all of these for every student? Of course not. Do I intentionally plan for opportunities to do so? Yep. And I plan to keep on keepin' on in this regard.

My Learning Experience Template

  • Warm welcome - give students an opportunity for each of their voices to be heard and acknowledged (sometimes I use activities based in SEL or current events; other times I focus on providing students opportunities to share information on what makes them who they are -- hobbies, interests, strengths, aspirations, etc.)

  • Explicit sharing of learning intentions for the lesson (The WHAT) and application of learning within the class, in other academic disciplines, and in life beyond high school (The WHY)

  • Recall of prior knowledge in relation to the learning intentions of the lesson

  • Direct instruction in new content and skills

  • Opportunities to question, to discuss, to build upon collective knowledge and skills, and to express needs

  • Opportunities to reflect on thinking and learning and to outline plans for approaching coursework and skills moving forward with an optimistic close

Pear Deck allows me to easily integrate each of these building blocks into my lessons; and this framework has made all the difference for my synchronous class sessions.

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Reason #5: It works for synchronous AND asynchronous instruction.

I teach one class for a local online high school in my region. We strive to provide flexible supports for students. And while it is ideal to have all students in each of our live, synchronous classes, we also work to accommodate for students who are unable to attend live. Some are new parents. Some live on their own and work fulltime. Some have debilitating illnesses.

What I love about my Pear Decks is that after I finish a live class session, I can quickly share feedback with those students by temporarily closing the session; then, with two clicks, I reactivate the slide deck and change it to "Student-Paced Mode". This allows students who are watching the recording of our live class to follow along on each slide and have the same opportunities as those in the live session to interact with content, reflect, question, and share. AND I can offer timely feedback for those completing asynchronously just as easily as I do for those attending live.

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Reason #6: Students leave each session with a "Takeaways" report of the lesson and their responses.

Once we've finished a lesson and I've temporarily closed it, students are automatically emailed a copy of their own "Takeaways" in a nicely formatted Google Doc. As their teacher, I also get a copy of each. This makes it really convenient for students to review the class session and even to add in notes. In addition, I can also download a spreadsheet in Google Sheets that charts out which students were live and their levels of engagement and accuracy.

While student Takeaways provide detailed information on individual student understanding and performance, this spreadsheet report allows me to take a step back and assess whole-class understanding and performance-- allowing me to identify celebrations in learning and specific points for re-teaching or enrichment.

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Reason #7: Ask questions on the fly.

In a brick and mortar classroom, you are constantly reading the room. You're monitoring students' discussions, questions, and nonverbal cues. When you sense confusion or frustration, you simply pause your lesson and provide further questioning and support. And this all happens on the fly.

In a virtual classroom environment, you may or may not be able to see your students on camera. Even if students use cameras, it's a major juggling act trying to present your screen, monitor the chat for questions, and click through video frames to see all students.

This is why I love how easy Pear Deck has made it for teachers to incorporate impromptu questioning and class activities-- even when they weren't originally in the lesson plan.

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Reason #8: There's something for everyone.

And I truly mean that.

Do you teach Littles, Middles, or High Schoolers? Do you teach multiple disciplines in your grade level, or are you a content specialist? Core or electives? Pear Deck has built up an impressive collection of templates you can easily incorporate in your classes, and they've also got examples of discipline-specific interactive slides you can pull in to your lessons. And the templates provided are just the beginning; teachers can use interactive functions available to create and save original, customized activities for students.

Do you want to incorporate more student voice, but struggle to get those activities planned? Pear Deck makes it so easy to intentionally include class warmups or bell ringers effectively and efficiently.

How about intentionally incorporating community building, practicing gratitude, brain breaks, and social emotional learning? The same holds true for these. . . and many more.

Are you constantly searching for materials to pull into you classes to connect to real life and current events? I cannot contain my excitement over this next piece: Pear Deck has partnered with both Newsela and PBS NewsHour to offer seamless integration of authentic literacy and problem-solving activities in any content area.

And it isn't just for distance learning, hybrid, or online learning models!

I've used Pear Deck in the traditional classroom where students have 1:1 devices, and it is just as effective in a traditional brick and mortar setting. Teachers I've coached in their classrooms have also found success with Pear Deck-- especially with content-related bell ringer activities. I've even used Pear Deck for adults in professional development sessions. The possibilities are endless.

Explore and download templates for your classes today by navigating the slides below.

And now that Pear Deck unveiled the Shared Teacher Dashboard, you can even use team teaching approaches in your lessons or invite guest speakers to present and discuss with your students!

I know. SO awesome.

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Reason #9:

". . . Hold on, I'll put it in the chat."

Share ONE link with students, and they will have access to ALL links you share in a lesson.

Inviting students to join your slide deck is UBER EASY. Just project the join code in class, and students can go to and type in the session's join code. . . or to make things EVEN EASIER, give students a direct link to the session.

Students can use their desktop computers, laptops, tablets, or phones to join; no matter which device they use to login, they will not lose any functionality for interactivity.

With one click, students literally have access to every slide, document, graphic, website, file, and video you share in a class session. AND if they forget to bookmark or open those resources in the live session, no worries; remember, they'll automatically get that individual "Takeaways" Doc sent to them with all of that content for their own reference.

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Reason #10: The professional support is amazing.

Pear Deck offers amazing-- dare I say unparalleled-- support for educators.

In whatever capacity you wish to use Pear Deck in your classes or trainings, Pear Deck has everything you'll need to quickly learn how to utilize its functions and integrate with other platforms you use.

You can download a complete How-To Handbook for the full guide, or you can choose to watch short, topic-specific videos to learn about using Pear Deck to improve both your instruction and students' learning experiences.

PLUS, there's a Teacher Blog, and I love a good post to get me re-thinking and re-imagining education in ways I previously hadn't.

Of course, if all this independent learning isn't your bag, Pear Deck offers lots of synchronous trainings and webinars-- completely free of charge.

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And there you have it. These are my top 10 reasons Pear Deck is my #1 go-to.

I hope this post has inspired you to dig deeper into tech tools you currently use and to explore the many ways Pear Deck can transform your students' learning!

(Also if you really like to geek-out on stuff like this, I'd love to hear from you!)


Pear Deck. (2020). Pear Deck. Retrieved February 17, 2021, from

Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Hattie, J. (2016). Visible learning for literacy: Implementing the practices that work best to accelerate student learning. Corwin.

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