With the popularity of one-to-one classrooms, and the ensuing demonizing of the lecture as a pedagogical method, software to make lectures/direct instruction more interactive have developed. Pear Deck and Nearpod are the two software companies that have become popular in this field (You can watch their promotional/informational advertisements here and here). Both of these apps allow a teacher to embed formative assessments, engaging activities, and teacher analytics into a slide deck. The days of using just powerpoint, keynote, or google slides are over.
In the last few months of the 2014-15 school year, I tested the paid version of Pear Deck in my one-to-one iPad classes. I used the premium version as a free trial. This summer, I played with Nearpod to compare the two. In the fall, I would like to select one of the free versions of the two as my go to software to make slide decks interactive. The following is what I learned.
When I break down the features of the two apps, it is a difficult choice to make. Lets look at a few key points in each category:
Both have a free and paid version. The prices are quite comparable; about $12 for a monthly subscription or $100 for a year subscription. Click/Tap the images below to enlarge.
Being a thrifty educator, I am most curious about the features offered in the free editions. Thus, breaking down feature comparisons will be helpful for me to make my decision.
Creating Slide Decks
Again, the two apps are similiar when it comes to slide deck creations. Both allow for creation within the app and if you have current slide decks you would like to import, you can do so. The main difference is Nearpod allows for importation for free and Pear Deck offers this as a paid version. However, I quickly found a workaround to this with Pear Deck. On my Mac, I simpily export my presentations as PDF files (You can do this with powerpoint, keynote, and google slides), run an automator that converts PDFs to image files (See instructions for this at the following blog post.), and upload the individual image files to each slide in Pear Deck. It works well and I am certain there is a similiar work around for Windows and Chrome users.
Nearpod offers more options for importation from the cloud by connecting to all the major storage companies: Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box. Pear Deck, on the other hand, is only connected to Google Drive. This, however, is not a big deal for me. Google Drive Edu offers unlimited storage, at this point in time, and all of my materials have pretty much been transfered to my G-Drive. With the free version of Pear Deck, however, I am going to be doing my PDF export, automator workflow no matter what cloud storage I am using.
Interactive Elements in Slides
The two apps diverge slightly when it comes to interactive elements that can be inserted into the slide. For instance, both allow for embedded YouTube videos, but Nearpod offers it as a paid feature where it is free for Pear Deck. Pear Deck allows you to insert webpages (Not images of webpages, but the actual webpage) as a free feature and Nearpod includes it in its paid version. They both allow for multiple choice, free response, write numbers, and polling options as a free feature. However, for a paid feature, Pear Deck allows drawing on images and draging dots over images (This is kind of a fun feature. For example, you could ask students to locate on a world map a country and they would be able to see the dots of everyone’s guess.) Nearpod has the drawing as a free feature but does not have, in any form, the dragable dot feature. On the otherhand, Nearpod offers fill in the blank and matching as a paid feature.
Pear Deck, for me, pulls away in this category. It is tightly integrated with Google and stores all your Pear Decks in Google Drive. That means I have unlimited space for Pear Decks. Nearpod, on the other hand, limits your space to 50 mb for the free version and 3 GB for the paid version. I assume that if I do the paid version one year and go over my 50 mb storage that if I opt for the free version the next year I will lose some of my Nearpods (Someone please correct me if I am wrong on this thought.).
Both of these apps allow for live analyitics (Immediate information for the teacher as the lecture is occurring.) and reports that can be exported and analyized. Nearpod allows live analyitics for free where Pear Deck has it as a paid option. While I was conduting my trial with Pear Deck, I found this feature to be incrediabily useful and will miss it in the free version. However, Pear Deck has much better features for reporting after the session has ended. It allows for exporting to Google Sheets and PDF. The Google Sheets allows you to use the power of Google’s “Add On” feature like Flubaroo (See this cool feature in use here.). Nearpod only allows for PDF in the free version.
Both apps have some extra features that are interesting. For instance, in Pear Deck I can do the neat Flubaroo trick (I like this a lot.) and I can ask a quick question–say I think of something on the fly, I can simply click on the quick question function and have my students submit a response in multiple formats–even some draw and drag functions are available in the free edition.
Nearpod has a nifty store where you can purchase pre-made Nearpods. Purchasing pre-made materials is something I rarely do. However, they offer free ones from time to time that I would snag up and learn from to try to improve my Nearpod skills. Finally, Nearpod has the ability, in the paid version, to share the Nearpod before/after the live session as a link or embed. Nearpod calls this “Homework” and it is a nice feature for students who are gone the day of the live session. Click here for an example (Feel free to answer the questions as this is something I am working on for a future post.)
Side by Side Comparison
If you are unable to view the google sheet below, follow this link.
Both apps are wonderful tools to spice up the lecture format. They allow a teacher to engage students with multitouch activities while bringing formative assessment into one program. The tight Google integration of Pear Deck (They recently have integrated with Google Classroom. I am not a user of that LMS so did not talk much about it.) is an attractive feature. Everything is stored in my Google Drive and seemingly limitless. Furthermore, free embeds of YouTube videos, the Flubaroo trick, and the quick question feature swing me towards the Pear Deck side. However, I really like the Nearpod “Homework” feature. If Pear Deck offered something similar to the “Homework” feature in their paid version, I might even consider shelling out some money. Until that happens, I will use both of these tools depending on my objectives.
Question: Have you used these apps before? If so, do you have a preference? What do you like about them? What am I missing? As always, thank you for sharing your thoughts and questions in the comment section.