There are a whole host of teaching tech tools that help teachers engage with their students and create interactive lessons online or in the classroom.
Both apps truly elevate the student learning experience and can be easily accessed through Google Classroom.
Two of the biggest digital teaching tools are Nearpod and Pear Deck.
While it really comes down to personal preference, we’ll run over their best features and decide which comes out on top.
Introducing Pear Deck and Nearpod
Pear Deck launched in 2014 from its home in Iowa and was quickly recognized as one of the best tools for educators. It’s been the recipient of multiple tech awards as well as the “Top Ten School Tool” prize from education journalism initiative EdSurge.
Installation is easy. It can either be installed directly through Google Slides via the Add-ons tab or download the app directly from their webpage.
They have designed their app with tools for Google Slides and Microsoft PowerPoint integration, so you can use whichever suite you prefer.
Pear Deck aims to achieve “100% Student Engagement” through its interactive slides and lessons. This is a bold claim, but they’ve done their best to get this right.
It encourages student engagement with clever design ideas like allowing students to anonymously project their answers to the rest of the class.
They have an array of question types and slides which give educators real-time feedback for each student. You can also view classroom feedback in general, such as multiple choice answer spread and average times taken to answer questions.
Born in 2012 in Hallandale, Florida, Nearpod has hosted over 120 million lessons over the last decade. They’ve seen steady growth since; in 2017 they launched with a full-time crew of educators to build an all-in-one education platform.
In 2019 Nearpod merged with education hip-hop outfit Flocabulary to expand their platform.
Nearpod is aimed to provide educational access to all K-12 learners and they have a wide array of question types and formative assessments to give teachers a variety of tools.
Nearpod also has a library with over 8,500 lessons and videos that you can drop into your lesson plan whenever it suits you. These lessons are gathered from education brands like SciShow Kids and Crash Course.
This saves heaps of time so you can spend less time fiddling with slides and more time focussed on your students.
Features of Pear Deck and Nearpod
Both Nearpod and Pear Deck are available for free as well as offering a paid version that have a lot of bonus features.
Comparing only the free packages can get a little complicated. Peardeck and Nearpod free both allow educators to set-up and design content to teach and test their students through Google Slides add-ons.
Nearpod’s yearly subscription is quite a bit cheaper than Pear Deck’s option, but they both have enough features under their free package to suit most educators.
Pear Deck outperforms Nearpod in this regard as its free version also has support for MS PowerPoint That functionality is only available on Nearpod with a Gold subscription.
Nearpod’s free version is also quite limited in terms of space. Each teacher is allotted 100Mb of storage for videos and lessons, which can be used up very quickly if you incorporate videos or audio files.
Pear Deck integrates right into your Google Drive or One Drive, so size isn’t an issue.
Ease of Use
Any system is only as good as the person using it, and there’s no use in having a tool that can do a million different things if you don’t know how to use it. If you’re trying to quickly put together slides and tests, you want to find something intuitive to use and edit.
It’s also important that your students can use the app properly or they won’t get the full experience of your lesson.
Both apps are easy to use provided you’re comfortable using Google Suite. If you prefer working in PowerPoint, you’ll need to go with Pear Deck or opt towards paying for Nearpod Gold.
Nearpod also allows users to launch their lessons with Zoom so you can teach your class and chat with them face-to-face in one window.
Navigating through Nearpod is easy enough provided you’re on your desktop computer; it’s not the best for educators to use in mobile view as tabs tend to pop up all over the place.
Some users have also noted that their younger students struggle to navigate through the multiple Nearpod tabs.
Pear Deck is set up in a very similar way to Nearpod in terms of its layout. It has a few more features on its slides which can be a little overwhelming to use at first, but it doesn’t take long to figure it all out.
The features like interactive questions and formative assessments are all available in the Pear Deck sidebar on your Google Slides document, and you can just drag-and-drop them wherever you need them.
This is the most important aspect of any educational tool and it’s important to unpack how learners will react to whichever platform you choose to go with.
Nearpod’s approach to engagement is to gamify the learners’ experience. They aim to make their lessons engaging and fun so that students willingly focus on the lesson.
It’s a great philosophy to have, but they don’t always get it right. The types of questions they have available are quite limited in comparison to Pear Deck. This means that after a while questions become samey and a bit boring for students.
Nearpod allows for ‘Live Lessons’ or ‘Student-Paced’ lessons. If the teacher selects ‘Student Paced’ then students are able to move through the lesson at their own pace.
Pear Deck has far more options for how to test your students. Some options are a little obscure, but throwing in a bit of variety is a great way to engage students.
Student Paced mode with Pear Deck allows your students to view presentations independently and work through the content at their own pace, which is especially beneficial for remote learning.
Both packages have real-time feedback for student answers and grades, but Pear Deck allows you to export these via “takeaways” that let you keep important classroom information you can share with other educators or parents.
Both apps are good for keeping learners engaged while doing distance learning, but we think Pear Deck comes out on top here again.
Looking at both options on offer it’s quite easy to pick a winner. Pear Deck has more options available for free and their platform is better at keeping students focused on your lesson.
In reality, both apps work well for teaching. You’re not likely to go wrong with either one.
There is a place for Nearpod, it may be a better fit for some teachers, but Pear Deck is too easy to use to not recommend it wholeheartedly.
Mike Hostetler is an Entrepreneur & Technologist currently working to help technical teams grow and thrive. Mike formerly founded appendTo, a boutique consultancy born out of the jQuery project. He is an active OSS supporter and currently serves as CEO & Publisher of ModernWeb.com. Mike is passionate about Remote Work, the Future of Work, Leadership and helping others succeed.