Technology Pursuit

Blending Technology Into the Language Arts Classroom

Month: January 2015 (page 2 of 3)

Distance Learning via Pear Deck


I was so inspired by these posts at and

In short, two teachers share teach together in two different classrooms 150 miles apart.  The collaborative duo pull off this feat with the use of Google Hangouts and PearDeck.  They each use two projectors in their respective classrooms; one projects the Pear Deck presentation, while the other projects the students from the other classroom 150 miles away.

Utterly inspiring!

While I don’t plan to use this technique in my immediate future, it does open up more possibilities for distance learning.  Since anyone globally can enter an open Pear Deck presentation if he has the PIN code, a teacher could instruct countless students at one time.  Pear Deck and hangouts provide a platform to merge the worlds of traditional classroom instruction and pure online instruction together.  You get the benefit of face-to-face human interaction through Skype and Hangouts while being able to continue education from hundreds–or thousands–of miles away.


Pear Deck Introduces the “Duplicate” Function

Occasionally while I’m making Pear Decks, I find myself wishing I could copy/paste a slide rather than creating a new one.  Unfortunately, that’s never been an option.

Until now.

Pear Deck has been hard at work on this function, and now it’s here!

PD Duplicate


To get it done, just hover over a slide in the left side margin, and a new remove/duplicate window appears.  One quick click and mission accomplished!

I’d love to be able to copy/paste slides into different Pear Decks, but hopefully that time will come.


My Top Three E-Learning Trends to Follow…(Based on TalentLMS’s Top Ten)

The TalentLMS blog has created a fabulous new infographic about the top ten e-learning trends to follow in the coming year.  While all are fascinating, three stand out as my favorites:


Gamification has been smoking hot this year and getting only hotter.  I’ve been reading more on it the past weeks (see Alice Keeler’s fantastic posts about gamification, including this one about getting started.  I do some low-level gamification in my room–oddly, perhaps, it’s not at all technology based but solely based on student improvement of previous vocab/grammar scores.  How much do I want to use in my own room?  I’m not sure.  What I am sure is there’s a place for it.  That’s one of my goals for this year:  Research gamification.


Differentiation has become a hot button issue–many love it, many debate its logistics.  Do I differentiate?  Not enough.  I allow all kids of student choice, but I know there could be more.  The question is how to manage it while still maintaining my sanity.  Technology will decidedly play a role in this, but so will lots of forefront planning.  And perhaps the next trend plays into that.



Here’s one way differentiation could work:  Automation of course creation.  This seems like an impossible accomplishment for the most advanced technology right now.  Sure, I use diagnostic tests online for grammar to help me and students select what grammar topics to study next.  This, however, seems to be taking the next step.  Lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy might be conquerable with automation, but measuring critical thinking?  I’m not sure.  Still, this trend is definitely worth watching.

Want to know the other seven trends?  Check them out:

New Google Read and Write Highlighting Tools!

We tried out a new add-on in my Brit Lit class today:  the Google Read and Write highlighting tools.  The current highlighting tools in the Google toolbar aren’t exactly the easiest to use, but this add-on made highlighting so much easier!

Highlighting Tools

We’re smack in the middle of a Jonathan Swift/satire unit, and we’re prepping to read “A Modest Proposal.”  Today we watched a Stephen Colbert clip that happens to be formatted just like an essay.  After watching the clip, I showed the students a transcript version (slightly altered to be more for the PG-13 crowd) and we reviewed essay structure.  Last semester we practiced highlighting thesis statements in green, main ideas in yellow, and supporting details in pink.  This strengthens both their understanding while reading non-fiction texts and helps them structuring their own non-fiction texts.

Instead of the clunky Google toolbar highlighting, we used the Read & Write tools–so much easier!



With color coding, students can see the patterns in non-fiction writing, which increases their reading ability as well as their writing ability.  Since my objective the next two weeks is to help them develop ideas in their writing, we did a reverse T-chart of this writing, analyzing the main points and then analyzing the different supporting details for each of the four points.  We did the T-charts the old-fashioned way:  plain old pencil and paper.

But today was truly a hybrid class period:  Reading (hard copy books, and ebooks on phones, and iPads),Vocab review on Pear Deck, online video, online text & highlighting, and the classic pencil to paper & whiteboard modeling work.  And to be honest, that’s the way I like it.  A little something for everyone, and it keeps them moving and always doing something new that appeals to their style of learning.

Creating Resumes with Vertex42 Templates

Template Gallery 2

My Business English students are studying about applying for jobs, and one of the obvious, and probably most important, lessons is putting together a resume.  In the past I’d used the Education Quest website, which I liked because it provided a few different formats for students and had a simple “fill in the blank” format.

The downsides of the site were 1) students weren’t consistent with formatting, such as capitalization and spacing; and 2) the site requires a login.  Not a big deal–it’s free, after all–but then it’s another login and password they have to remember.  In a few months after they graduate, they’ll forget the website name completely, and then they’ll have to start from scratch.

This year, I found this add-on in Google Drive:  Vertex42 Template Gallery.  There are templates for dozens of projects, from lesson plans to calendars to billing statements.  I found a student resume template and, using Doctopus, copied a basic resume template to a document for each student.  Then all my students had to do was change the information to reflect their own lives.  They had the power to delete what wasn’t applicable.

Template Gallery


1)  All the resumes look the same.  However, they’re all walking out with a really solid resume that is beautifully formatted.  If four of them applied for the same job, sure, an employer might notice.  Probably not likely, though.

Your Resume      Google Docs

2)  Students don’t get the experience of forming a resume from scratch.  However, my objective in Business English is not in learning how to format word documents.  It’s to use precise language to sell oneself in a resume.  Using this template allows students to focus on WHAT they’re writing rather than how to set tabs and alignments.

3) A few students still fought the template somewhat when they tried to individualize it, as often happens when docs try to auto-correct.  This wasn’t a major issue, though.

Overall, using a resume template like the one provided by Vertex42 Templates add-on has produced the best resumes I’ve yet seen from students.  It’s something I’ll definitely continue to do next year!

Teens and Social Media

Teen Media

I just read an extremely interesting blog post on Medium: A Teenager’s View on Social Media.   I highly recommend reading it.  A 19-year-old gives a teenager’s view of the current teen scene on social media.  Of course, it is only a single teen’s view, but here are the highlights that interested me.

  • Facebook:  Everyone has it because they “have” to have it, but is currently “out.”  This is something I’d already learned from my high school students, but they’d told me last year that was because Twitter was taking over.  However,
  • Twitter:  This app seems also to have lost momentum among the teens.  According to the blog post, Twitter is too similar to Facebook in the sense that it’s too “searchable.”
  • Instagram:  Claimed by the blog post to be the most used social app right now.
  • Snapchat:  Perhaps the fastest growing social app among teens.  It’s more low key and relaxed than Instagram; the quality of photos is lower, but that’s the expectation among users.  The post does point out the question of “where” do these photos go when they “disappear” off phones.
  • Tumblr:  Still pretty popular for a “blog” type site, especially with its ability for teens to take on a “hidden identity” and change URLs easily.
  • YikYak:  It’s hot right now, especially on college campuses.  However, the writer also doesn’t point out the negatives:  extreme potential for cyberbullying.  And really, I don’t just mean potential.  I’ve seen it.  Hypothetically, this could be a fun app if everyone posted positive messages.  But let’s get real–no such high school utopia or college utopia exists.  (Or community, for that matter.  I see adults complaining about other adults on the app, too.)
  • Medium:  This is a blogging platform that Watts believe will become popular with the late teens/twenties sect due to its “recommended” feature that makes Medium more of a community than WordPress or Blogger.  It’s a platform worth watching in the coming months.

Creating Matching Activities in Pear Deck

matching pear deck


One of the first types of review activities I like to do with students after we talk about a set of vocabulary words is matching. Using Pear Deck and Google Docs, it takes only a few minutes to put together a matching activity that students can complete right in front of your eyes.

Step One:  Open a Google Doc and create your matching activity.

Step Two:  Using Awesome Screenshot, crop the screen and save it to Google Drive.

sample matching


Step Three:  In Pear Deck, set the slide to “Drawing” and then upload the image from your Google Drive.   Students can then draw lines on their computers or handheld devices.

The best part about this is in a single glance, I can see the students complete the assignment via the left hand side of the Pear Deck teacher screen.  I can see which words the students struggle with and which ones they’re comfortable with.

matching sample


When everyone is finished, I select one of the student responses at random on the right hand side (that side does not contain student names) and review the answers.  It’s a quick and easy way to review vocabulary and make sure that all students are accountable.

Using Pinterest in the Classroom

A few days ago in one of my Facebook groups, a fellow member queried us for an easy-peasy, low-maintenance way to track the books you’ve read.  Although many use Goodreads (and I have an account there, too), this member wanted to avoid the site and the drama that goes with it.  (Yes, even book nerds have their drama instigators and fomenters.)

So I shared what I used:  A simple Pinterest board. Pinterest Every January, I create a new board for my reading that year.  When I finish the book, I locate an image of it and pin it.  If I want to leave a few notes about it–cool!  If I’m tired or not in the mood, then I don’t write a comment.

This can easily be adopted in classrooms.  Because most students are visual, they enjoy seeing a more visual list of book covers rather than just a list of names.  In the comment area, students can add blurbs, starred ratings, number of pages, or link to other friends they’d recommend the book to.

I know that countless teachers already use Pinterest.  We create boards for lesson plans and writing prompts and art projects and pretty, pretty classrooms (for those of us who do lots of decor) and pin ideas there.  Pinterest is a great resource for that. But Pinterest could be used in other ways more directly relating to students. Think about these possibilities:


1.  Students could create a board that represents a character in a book the class is reading.  Imagine what Gatsby’s board might look like.  Or Daisy’s.  What kind of quotes might Hamlet pin to his board?  What might Jem or Scout pin on their boards?

2.  Give students a collection task related to visual images.  Photography that uses the rule of 9.  Examples of impressionist paintings. Samples of pointellism?  A teacher can then lead a discussion with the class using images that students selected, giving them ownership in the lesson.

3.  Teachers can make Pinterest boards to create a “menu” of ideas for students.  Say students in geography class must select a South American country to research.  Make a Pinterest board with a pin for each country that leads to a reliable website about that country.  Or do students need to research Revolutionary War heroes?  US Presidents?  Civil Rights leaders?  Make a Pinterest board of their possibilities using images from or another website.  Students will likely click on a few pins, learning a little about each, but make their decision faster because of this process.

4.  Only want your students to research certain sites?  Make a board of those sites.

I’m sure others have created more possibilities to Pinterest, and writing this makes me more interested in trying some in my own classroom!

Teaching Grammar with Pear Deck

Teaching Grammar with Pear

Back in my elementary years, I remember writing sentence after sentence out of our grammar textbooks, selecting the correct verb from the parenthesis.  Hours upon hours spent doing this.

Thanks to Pear Deck, I can teach a grammar concept and check student understanding in a fraction of the time.

This week we started on advanced subject-verb agreement.  First, I reviewed the concept–today was subject-verb agreement with multiple subjects–with a “Normal Slide.”

Presentation Session Example 2

Note that this is the teacher view.  Students only see the right portion of the screen on their computers and on the projector screen.  On the left I can see all the students who are logged in.

After a short lecture, we do some practice problems.  This is where the magic of Pear Deck comes in with its drawing component.  These are the steps I follow to set up my practice grammar slides.

1.  I type the practice sentences into Google Drive.

2.  Using Awesome Screenshot, I take an image of the sentences and save it to my Google Drive.  (You can save it to your desktop or elsewhere, too.  Google Drive works great because Pear Deck is quite integrated with Drive.)

3.  Go to your Pear Deck deck and on the chosen slide, upload the screenshot.

4.  Last, I double check that I’ve clicked on the “Drawing” option on that slide.  This allows students to draw or type on the slide on their laptops or iPads.

Here is a teacher view of a “drawing” slide.  On the right hand slide is what the students see and can “draw” on.

Presentation Session 1


And now, a finished look of student work:

Examples of corrections


On the left hand side, I can see a thumbnail of each student’s screen.  On my iPad, I can see how each student is doing at a glance.  Although I do a lot of walking around as students complete the problems, this also allows me to see when students are nearly done.  Then I click the “eye” button, which switches the master slide to a scrolling window of all the student screens.  I choose one at random (or the one that has a really cool rendition of the Tardis, as seen above) and we go through the answers.  No embarrassment if one is wrong since no names are visible.

This method is great for formative assessment, and it allows students to make mistakes without embarrassment.  The drawing slide is a fantastic tool in any content area.  Since any image can be uploaded for students to draw or write on, the possibilities are countless.


I’m Lovin’ It: The New PearDeck Home Page

Home   Pear Deck


Pear Deck gave me a belated Christmas gift:  A new home page!

I love the new window that displays decks that have been recently used.  I’ll usually create a deck to cover several days–sometimes an entire unit–and so I’ll open it a dozen times before I put it away for the year.

Until now, I’ve saved a session and then reopened the deck each time to forego searching my Google Drive and staying within the PearDeck site.  Now, it’s a simple click on my presentation in the recent events.

Today I used a Pear Deck to teach grammar.  The app has become my favorite way to address grammar because students can practice for 5-10 minutes each day.  I can give a traditional lecture on a topic–today’s was subject verb agreement with multiple subjects–and then give them practice problems to complete right on the slides on their computers.  On my iPad I can watch all of them complete the task and see who’s struggling.  When we’re ready to check the answers, I can choose a random student slide to project on the projector screen to use as a visual aid while I’m explaining.

Then we’re done.  No papers to look over.  If I want to, however, I can save the session and look over their work later on.

Want to take a look?  Here it is:  Subject-Verb Agreement Pear Deck

I’m an unabashed supporter, promoter, and user of Pear Deck.  It’s simple interface and amazing student interaction make my lectures much more dynamic.  Plus, I can do quick formative assessments and vastly reduce the paper load.

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