STUDENT ENGAGEMENT in hybrid courses


In Teacher Education technology is integrated into all courses as a means of challenging our students (preservice teachers) to critically think about the ways in which various tech tools can support learning. This is done indirectly (such as by instructors utilizing technology themselves to support preservice teacher learning and model the use of the tool) or directly (by having students tinker with and use the tools themselves to support their students’ learning).

In the spring of 2021 both models of instruction were employed in a sophomore level hybrid Teacher Education course. The hybrid course met online via Zoom and face-to-face throughout the semester. When the course met face-to-face some students joined the class via Zoom because of extenuating circumstances.

Pear Deck and Near Pod were used throughout the semester to equally engage students regardless of context. These facilitation tools were used to deliver course content and at the end of the semester students were challenged with “tinkering” with one of the tools to enhance a digital readaloud lesson.


What is Pear Deck?

Pear Deck is an “add on” to Google Slides.  Once downloaded onto your Google Slides account features to any existing or new presentation.  The goal with the interaction cues is to keep students thinking and engaged, as well as provide formative checks for understanding.  Here are some examples of interaction cues from the students’ perspective.


Personally, I think that Pear Deck is worth the “bang” for the “buck!”  It is easy to use (for both the instructor and students!), keeps students engaged, and enables instructors to implement formative checks (planned or on the spot).  Generally, students also enjoyed the use of Pear Deck in our class.  (See students responses to poll questions about Pear Deck.)

Pear Deck does not have a free “dashboard.”  This means that what you see (when projecting) is also what the students see. If you want to view student responses and are connected to the projector all the students see responses.  In many cases this is actually appropriate as student names are not attached to the responses.  This feature enables students to see how their classmates responded to a prompt.  (Multiple choice questions are reported similarly to how multiple choice questions on a Google Form are reported.) All in all, I prefer to use Pear Deck for daily face-to-face lessons.  


What is NearPod?

Near Pod is a software (so it doesn’t have to be downloaded) that allows users to create interactive lessons.  You can upload existing Powerpoints and Google Slides into nearpod, but the interactivity comes from inserting NearPod “activity” slides.  You can see a NearPod lesson I created here with some of the interactive features such as a collaborative board, matching, and an exit poll (code: YA53K).  This lesson also has slides that I imported from Google Slides (the pink ones), as well as slides I created in NearPod (green slides).


Overall, my students and I preferred to use Pear Deck.  I can conjecture that students preferred Pear Deck because they were more familiar with it (as I leaned into Pear Deck over NearPod).  I LOVED using NearPod for Zoom meetings (and would assume they would work equally well for asynchronous class meetings) but struggled when teaching live using a NearPod.  This is because, opposite of Pear Deck, I could not leave the “facilitator view” when teaching.  While this option was fabulous over Zoom (mostly because I could see student work in real time!) it was troublesome when teaching face-to-face.

To me, PearDeck seems most appropriate and conducive for asynchronous lessons and when teaching online.  Creating these lessons was a bit more cumbersome, so I also don’t see a capacity for creating these lessons for each class meeting.

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