Educator Spotlight: Hooking Kids with Ninja Tech
By Jenna Ervin,
South Lake Tahoe Middle School
For the past two years, I have attended the CLS Teaching with Technology Conference and can firmly state it is by far among the top 3 educational conferences I have ever attended. I imagine that my principal shakes his head and laughs at the steady stream of texts I send for the three days during the conference. “Look at this new idea for animation… and flipped learning...and eportfolios… and getting students to share ideas with video chat… and bringing the community into classroom lessons… oh, and can we buy this 3D printer and setup podcasting?”
The best part of the conference is that the technology being taught in the teacher-pro workshops can be utilized by teachers with any level of tech skills and genuinely inspires students to learn. I tell my colleagues that all of the technology I bring back is “Ninja Tech”: it secretly gets students to learn and demonstrate their mastery without students knowing they are actually learning. It’s genius.
At the 2018 Teaching with Technology Conference, I came away chomping at the bit to implement PearDeck in my classroom. After attending the session by PearDeck’s own Nick Park, I knew I had struck gold. Our district has one-to-one Chromebooks in grade 3-12, and relies heavily on G Suite for Education; therefore, many of my lessons are created on the foundation of Google Slides. Enter PearDeck, which is an online program and Google Slides add-on that provides real-time, interactive, formative assessment. With features like on-the-go questioning, short and long answer responses, and drawing or drag and drop responses, it truly feels more like a game than learning.
On my first day back in the classroom after the conference, I hit the ground running and tried a PearDeck lesson. I was hoping for some positive reviews from the students, but the feedback I received astounded me. At the end of a lesson, I was approached by one of my students who typically refused to participate or complete work in any class. He stayed after class to ask if we could use PearDeck for all of our lessons because it was the first time he has actually wanted to learn and do work in ANY class this year. It took all of my willpower to not jump for joy and do a happy dance in front of him. Using PearDeck has had a long-term effect on his language arts grade, and he is now an active participant in small group discussions, actively volunteers his ideas in class, communicates with me regarding his work, and has seen an improvement in his writing skills.