Wednesday, August 27, 2014

All Hands on (Pear) Deck!

One of my favorite new finds this summer is Pear Deck!  My friend Susan from The Digital Scoop and I were blown away when we saw this web tool used this summer at the Great Plains Google Summit.  Pear Deck allows you to plan and create interactive lessons for your classroom.  Slides can be created directly in Pear Deck or imported from your Google Drive presentations.   You can create slides that are content driven in which students are seeing only what you want or interactive slides where kids can move a marker to certain areas (draggable) to show understanding or provide instant feedback to a question (multiple choice or free response).  The best part is all of your Pear Decks are stored in your Google Drive!  You can even import pre-existing PowerPoint and Presentations directly into Pear Deck as PDF's.

Students will need a device (computer, tablet, phone) with an internet connection and the unique student code to access the deck. They simply go to and type in the code and then wait for the teacher to begin the presentation.  As the teacher progresses through each slide, the images on the students device change as well.  

Teachers project the Classroom view on whatever display is in the room.  What's fun about this is when each student chooses an answer or moves the draggable dot to certain areas of the screen -- all answers show up on the Classroom view while the student only sees their response.  Instant feedback!  Great opportunities for discussion!

I have used Pear Deck as an introduction and review of classroom procedures, content review of various skills and programs used in the computer lab, and am happily creating more and more!  The students LOVE them and it's a great way to get quick data on how much students are understanding and retaining.  

Pear Deck is now in Public Beta and available to any Google Apps users using the Chrome browser.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Be Brave!

Be Brave

The new rule in my classroom.  Be Brave.  
Dream.     Create.      Dare.      Risk.      Plan.       Build.

Be. Brave! 

Last week was the start of school in my district.  I spend the first rotation (five days of 27 different classes) going over expectations, rules, and procedures.  Over the years, my rules haven’t changed much, so my “littles” (a.k.a. Students) were surprised when I said I had a new one for them.  Can you imagine the reaction I got when I said my new rule was “Be Brave”?  Exactly what you thought — silence.  Confused silence.  So — I asked them to give me the definition of the word brave.  

I got some great answers:  To not be afraid.  To be strong.  To be powerful.  Merida from “Brave” was Brave!  Yah, but so was Elsa from “Frozen”!  My grandpa is brave — he fought in a war.  

I loved the answers I was getting.  But then — one of my more vocal students asked “What does being brave have to do with Computer class”?  This question was followed by a few gasps and even more giggles.

This is the answer I had in my head:  Over the years I have seen kids (and many adults) become complacent in their lives.  We have become list makers and checkers.  Our mantra is to do what’s on the list and nothing more.  I blame that on time.  We are all so busy with everything life throws at us.  I know that there isn’t nearly enough time in my day to get everything I want to get done even STARTED — let alone finished.  It’s got to be the same for our kids who are going to school all day and then seem to have another days worth of activities filling their night.  Soccer, dance, piano, homework, art class, taekwondo, church….the list can go on forever.  It’s so easy for us to not stretch ourselves beyond what we have to do.  I also blame this on the fact that our kids are being tested and tested and tested……and tested again.  Many students are so “test stressed” that school isn’t fun.  It’s not a place where they feel they CAN make a mistake…. a place where they can be brave and explore and question….a place that will allow them to find not just the quickest answer — but maybe the most creative or FUN answer.  

This is the answer I gave to the class:  Because I want you all to NOT be afraid to try your hardest.  Because I want you go beyond what is expected and do the extraordinary.  Because I want you to not be afraid to try — even if you fail — because that is how we learn.  Because thinking outside the box is FUN!  Because coloring outside the lines is even MORE fun!  Because I believe in you.  Because I know you can do remarkable and wonderful and amazing things if YOU believe in yourself and are Brave.  

Eyes were wide open everywhere.  Smiles on all the faces.  Not a peep in room.  They listened to my words….but more importantly, I think they HEARD what I said.  

One of my “littles” said we should pinky swear to all be Brave.  So we did.  A pinky swear is serious business.  We will be brave in my classroom this year.

NOTE:  The inspiration for this new rule came from a dear friend of mine who is challenging herself to do some amazing things.  She calls it the Brave Project.  I think she is a pretty amazing person already — but I can’t wait to see how wonderful she is after she experiences and conquers all the challenges she sets before herself, and becomes even more brave than she already is.  I believe in you, Lynne!