Technology in the Latin Classroom

Getting Started with Pear Deck

Pear Deck is one of my favorite technology tools right now. I have presented about it multiple times to other teachers (see my CV page and scroll to Professional Presentations), and, if I can brag a little about myself, I am one of the “go-to” people at work for tips on how to use and troubleshoot the site.

If you’ve been hearing about Pear Deck but don’t really know what it is, this post is for you! If you’re already using Pear Deck and would like some ideas about how to take it to the next level, the next post will be for you. 🙂

  • What is Pear Deck?
    • I explain it this way: Pear Deck is a web-based tool that allows you to make presentations (or almost any other file) interactive. Now, if you’re thinking…
      • “This sure does sound like a way to put lipstick on a pig (i.e. dress up a lecture)”: First of all, I think there is a time and place for a good lecture (a good lecture), even one with limited audience interaction. And if you are looking for a way to get audience interaction with a lecture, Pear Deck can definitely help you do that. But Pear Deck is not just for lecturing, so please stay with me here!
      • “Another piece of technology to learn? Great…”: Pear Deck is simple to use. If you have pre-made PowerPoints or Google Slides presentations, you have done 95% of the work.
    • Before you read further, please know that I have the premium version of Pear Deck, and almost everything I am referring to involves using the premium version. The good news: there’s a 30-day free trial of the premium version, so you can try it out without the commitment.
  • Interactive… how, exactly?
    • Pear Deck lets you take a slide in a Google Slide presentation and make it so that students can respond to it in one of 5 ways:
      • Text: students respond by typing their answer. When you project their answers, students see everyone’s responses.
      • Choice: students respond by choosing one multiple-choice answer. When you project their answers, students see how many people chose each choice.
      • Number: students respond by typing a number. I’ve actually never had occasion to use the “number” response, but I’m guessing when you project it, it works like the “text” responses (projects everyone’s).
      • Draw: students respond by drawing on the slide. This works even if they are using a laptop and not a tablet – it’s kind of like using MS Paint. When you project their answers, students see everyone’s drawings.
      • Draggable: students respond by dragging any number of icons you choose around the slide. When you project their answers, students see everyone’s icons overlaid on top of one another, which makes this really useful for having discussions or doing anticipation guide-style activities. Here’s an example of something I did with my Latin II CP class (I stole the presentation from Keith Toda):mavis habitare .png
  • Why would I want to start using it in my classroom?
    • Here are my two selling points when I present about Pear Deck: 1) you can project all students’ answers at the same time and 2) those answers stay anonymous when presented to the whole class. 
    • Here are three of my students’ answers about why they like Pear Deck:Pear Deck for Archdiocesan In-Service February 16 2018.pngPear Deck for Archdiocesan In-Service February 16 2018 (1).pngPear Deck for Archdiocesan In-Service February 16 2018 (2).png
  • Okay, so what does it look like? Can you walk me through a presentation? 
    • Well… I did just record a 20-minute screencast walking you through a presentation, but Screencastify is so frustrating sometimes. The audio ended up being distorted, but if you want to suffer through the choppiness, here’s the link. So I will hopefully record another version of it at some point, but in the meantime, here is a Google Slides presentation I made for a story from CLC Unit 1 using Pear Deck. This shows you the kinds of questions I ask using Pear Deck.
  • How do I make one?
    • See my tutorials page for a very short tutorial on how to use the add-on for Google Slides. This is how I (personally) think that everyone should be using Pear Deck, as opposed to the standalone Pear Deck website/presentation creator. The add-on is incredibly easy to use and works with existing Google Slides presentations – you can also upload PowerPoints to Google Drive so you can use the add-on with those files, too.

That’s about it for starting out. Let me know what questions you have!

Technology in the Latin Classroom

Apps and Websites I Love

I am not a “technology for technology’s sake” person. I do a lot of old-school pen-and-paper work in my classroom, and I am happy about it. When I do love an app or website, though, I love it, and the following tools have made their way into my everyday teaching life:

  • Tiny Scanner Pro. Free basic version. $4.99 for the full app, and worth every penny. I have not been teaching for long, but even in a few short years I had managed to amass an ungodly amount of paper. I use TSP to digitize almost everything. Just take a picture with your phone and the app creates a pretty decent PDF of your document. From there,  you can upload to Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Evernote, and more. You can also print (if you have a wireless printer) straight from the app if you need to make a copy or two of the document. I use TSP primarily for digitizing things I want to recycle, but I use it for things like “scanning” workbook pages from other curricula that I want to use as inspiration later. I also use it to scan keys of exercises or “model” work to be posted on Haiku (our LMS) for students to refer to.
  • ZipGrade. Free basic version. $6.99/year for unlimited scans and custom answer sheets. I made the switch to ZipGrade this year after having heard a lot about it for a long time. ZipGrade has made my life so much easier. It has cut down on the time it takes me to grade because I’m not waiting to go run Scantrons; I can scan students’ responses as they turn them in, leaving me to spend my planning time actually planning or giving feedback on their written work. I love that ZipGrade automatically makes item analyses, and I love love love love that it re-grades papers instantly if I change the key. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to Scantrons.
  • Screencastify. Free basic version (and the basic is nothing to sneeze at), and I think about $24/year for full features like video cropping. I have only started using Screencastify in the past few months, but I love how easy it is to make a recording of my Surface while I’m working. I use Screencastify to make short videos for my students showing them how to use an online tool (like Magistrula – see a sort of awkward video here as an example) or walking them through an exercise like conjugating or declining. Next semester, I plan to use it for storytelling – this would be great to incorporate with a website like EdPuzzle. The best part of Screencastify is that it syncs with Google Drive, so your videos are housed there and easy to share.
  • PearDeck. Free basic version, but you most likely want the pro version, and the price will depend on whether you’re buying it individually or as a school/district. PearDeck, which is an interactive presentation tool, is great for having students show their understanding, and I (usually) love the anonymity of student responses in the default display. It makes it easy to discuss a response as a class. I’ve run into some problems before with students submitting inappropriate or off-topic answers, but now I usually require them to include their name in their response. (NB: You can see who made a certain response, but not, as far as I know, in the default way that student answers are displayed on the screen. That’s why I have them put their name in their response most of the time.) PearDeck also has a fun new game called Flashcard Factory and a few more bells and whistles, like their “takeaways” option and their Google Slides add-on, that make it an attractive option for increasing student engagement.

And then there are the “classics” like Quizlet and the things I love, but don’t really have any say in choosing, like our LMS, Haiku (well, PowerSchool Learning now). These are all things that make my life easier and make instruction better (I think) for my students.

Technology in the Latin Classroom

Working with Prepositions

We are working on Stage 14 in my Latin 2 CP class right now, and we are having a lot of fun with prepositions and the cases they take. I was trying to think of a way to get students to understand how prepositions work in Latin (and just to learn what they mean), so I came up with this series of activities, and it’s worked really well these past 2 days:

  • After explaining prepositions that need ablative objects vs. accusative objects, we did a quick round of “Prepositions Charades.” I wrote about 10 phrases out on some cards using two objects we have in our classroom: a Beanie Baby lion (leo) and our flat-top rolling desks (mensa). The phrases were things like “sub leone” and “in mensā.” Students volunteered to act out two phrases while the rest of the class wrote the phrase they were acting out on our mini white-boards. They had a lot of fun with this one, and it was quick and easy.
  • Then I let them work in pairs to take at least 7 pictures with prepositional phrases – basically doing what we had just done, but creating the phrases on their own. They were allowed to use any item in the classroom, so the pictures involved a lot of books and chairs, but some students also used my stress pears (pear-shaped stress balls provided by Pear Deck) and some of my Funko Pop figures. They inserted the photos and the captions into a Google Slides template that I made for them and distributed via PowerSchool Learning (formerly Haiku, our LMS).
  • When we meet again on Thursday, I will have a Pear Deck presentation prepared for them featuring most of their photos. Depending on the photo, students will write the prepositional phrase they think is depicted or answer questions about the photo. The students seem excited about this one; they love seeing their work displayed for others, even “just” their own classmates.

This has been a pretty simple lesson, but they are enjoying it, and it seems to be helping them get the hang of how prepositional phrases are structured.

Examples of student work below!

pro sella
liber est prō sellā.
in mensa
stylus est in mēnsā.
in mensa 2
Super Mutant est in mēnsā.
sub toga
puella est sub togā. We tend to call all clothing a “toga” in this class.
pro pede
cibus est prō pede.