Introducing Mrs. Hebert, Instructional Designer (plus a review of Mentimeter)

I think it is time to make my career change Blog-Official. Back on February 1st, I started a new career path as an Instructional Designer, and I have never been happier than I’ve been these past couple months. It was not easy for me to walk away from the classroom, and I spent a lot of time second-guessing my own decision to make this move, but I know this was the right move for me. Considering my career has been on this trajectory since my first Instructional Design course, I’m actually a little surprised at myself for feeling so conflicted.

This blog was originally born from a master’s course assignment and I’ve used it over the past few years as a place to reflect on my work, both as a teacher and student. I’ve talked about different educational technology tools that I’ve discovered and loved. I’ve talked about issues in education. I’ve reflected on my own struggles as a teacher and as a student, first in my master’s program and now as a doctoral student. The important part for me has always been reflection. I’ve learned and grown so much since I wrote my first post here, and I whole-heartedly believe that reflection is the most important aspect of learning and growth. And so, moving forward, I intend to keep that theme. I may one day bring myself to change the name of this website from Mrs. Hebert’s Classroom to something else, but regardless of the name, this will always be my place to reflect and learn from my own practices. If you’re reading this, I hope you are able to learn from my reflections, and I hope that you take some time to reflect on your own practices in your profession.

I chose today to write my first reflection as an Instructional Designer because today I led my first live professional development seminar. In February, I was told that my first topic would be RUBRICS. Throughout March, I designed and developed a 60-minute webinar on that topic, taking my presentation through two rounds of feedback with my team (who are the best, most supportive, intelligent people!). All my effort culminated in a wildly successful seminar today.

Nice to Meet You, Mentimeter

For my first professional development seminar in my new position, I chose to use a tool that I’ve heard compared to Pear Deck, which I’ve loved for years now, but I hadn’t used before: Mentimeter. Before this project, I had very limited experience with Mentimeter, and it was all as an attendee. I’d never seen the back side of it, and I had not idea what all it could do.

I was reluctant to start, but to be honest, I think I’m always a little hesitant of a new tool. Besides, I was (and still am) mourning my loss of Pear Deck Premium.

I can’t move on without taking a moment to express my sense of loss about Pear Deck Premium. I worked so hard to bring Pear Deck to my campus as a teacher and then as department chair. It is such a great tool that engages students better than most other activities I’d tried. In my opinion, the Premium features are essential, so I worked to show my campus administration how great it is. By the time I left for this new opportunity, Pear Deck had spread across the district and the Educational Technology department now provides Premium for the whole district.

In leaving, I left behind my access to Pear Deck Premium. I miss it dearly. I mean, look at that little Pear with his little Pear face! I may one day miss it enough to just purchase it for myself. But for now, Mentimeter is my rebound engagement tool.

Ok so back to Mentimeter. I wanted to optimize participant engagement, and Mentimeter is the premium access tool I have now, so I set out to learn how to use it. As a participant myself, my only experience with it was when presenters used it for a question or two throughout the presentation, generally switching from a PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation to the Mentimeter website to show the results of a single question before switching back to the presentation. So, I assumed that’s what I would need to do.

Well, you know what happens when you assume.

I learned that you can actually build full presentations in Mentimeter, just like I could do back in the early days of Pear Deck before it became entirely a Google Add-On. Building the slides in Mentimeter was effective, but lacked style. My presentations have flair. I spent a whole summer of my master’s learning about slide design, color theory, and presentations. Once you learn how to make a really good-lookin’ PowerPoint slide, it’s hard to go back. I wanted, no I needed, that pop of color and style.

I explored a little more and discovered I could import PowerPoint slides! Exciting! I designed a gorgeous and informative set of slides in PowerPoint online (another sidenote: PowerPoint’s Design Ideas have vastly improved and offer some excellent variety to slide layout). I saved my PowerPoint and imported it into Mentimeter.

Failure. My fonts changed! My formatting shifted. It was a mess. I was so disappointed. All my hard work… gone.

Ah, but I am not one to accept failure so easily. I made a beautiful presentation, and I was going to put it in Mentimeter. After searching around for an alternative method, I discovered that I could important PDFs in addition to PPTs. Ahhh, my solution! A PDF would save all my formatting and fonts!

Success! Each slide imported perfectly.

My next step was to add that oh-so-necessary interactive engagement. I went slide by slide, changing the settings so slides that I designed as questions had the correct question types and adding heart and question mark buttons to every slide that wasn’t a question. This is where I started to see the real benefits of Mentimeter over other tools. There are SO MANY question types I’ve never gotten to use before! I used Pin on Image and Open-Ended the most for this presentation. The Open Ended question type gives you THREE options of how those answers appear on the screen. Plus, there’s a whole separate Word Cloud question type! There are sliding scales and ranking questions. There are even a couple of advanced question types that I haven’t fully explored yet. Plus, there are five buttons that can be added to content slides. I opted to only use the heart to let attendees tell me when they like a bit of information I share and the question mark to let them tell me when I need to pause to answer a question or clarify something. Like, dislike, and cat buttons round out the options (seriously, it’s a little cat button. I have no idea what message the attendees would be sending with a cat button, but it took some expert-level self-control to not put that little kitty face on every slide).

The Verdict

So let’s be honest here. If you gave me the option of Mentimeter or Pear Deck, I’m probably going back to Pear Deck. But Mentimeter is a pretty nifty tool, too! I like the question options and being able to use PowerPoint to make my slides instead of being limited to Google Slides.

There is one feature that Mentimeter has over Pear Deck that I absolutely love – the Preview. I could preview the full presentation, including what would appear on my presentation screen AND what would appear on the attendees’ screens! That’s awesome on its own, but Mentimeter takes it another step. I could also turn on “test votes” and it would simulate answers to each of my questions, so I could see what it would look like with responses. This is such a great feature that I used frequently to make sure everything looked good and was functional.

This is what the preview looks like! See, presentation side AND attendee side!

But, in the end, it just takes so much longer to go from nothing to ready-to-present, especially considering that keeping my design choices meant that I had to save the PowerPoint as a PDF and then import the whole thing into Mentimeter. There were a couple of times that I wanted to make little changes or I noticed a typo, and each time I had to delete all of my slides to import the whole presentation again and start over.

Did I make things a little more difficult for myself because I was committed to my design? Yes, absolutely. But I shouldn’t have to sacrifice design for function.

Once imported, each slide took about a minute to customize with the question options, the buttons, and changing the setting so the join code would appear at the top of every slide. Why isn’t that the default? The default is not to show the join code at all? That’s crazy! I need my attendees to be able to rejoin the presentation if they get lost.

In the end, it’s great for how I used it: a one-hour live seminar. Mine today was delivered online via Cisco Webex, but this tool would be great for in-person professional development (one day…). It would also work for once or twice weekly college-level courses.

However, I would not recommend it for daily K12 use. It just took too long to get everything set up. Pear Deck was much faster because I embedded the question types while I designed the presentation in Google Slides. If Mentimeter ever came out with a Google Add-On version, this would be a whole different conversation (and I did check).

The Real Reflection

So, this has mostly been a review of my experience with Mentimeter, but the real reflecting I need to do is a little deeper. Today’s seminar was great. I feel I was engaging and upbeat, and I had great participation from my attendees. I’ve always thought that I make a good teacher because I’m passionate about what I’m doing, and today I felt that passion again.

I’ve been nervous about this job. I’m a bonafide perfectionist, something that has often caused conflict in my life. This job is everything I loved about teaching, and I want to be the best at it. I have always loved helping other teachers; here I get to work directly with faculty. In the past years, I’ve developed a love of offering full professional development sessions; here I get to do exactly that on a regular basis. Now that I’ve passed this first big milestone of delivering my first seminar, I am confident that I can be truly great here.

I’ve worked so hard to get where I am, and after an incredibly difficult year, I can finally say that I am exactly where I need to be, and I plan to stick around for a good long while.

One last thought about…

… the pandemic. Last semester and up until I left, I was one of thousands of teachers in this country pulling double duty teaching hybrid classes. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I thought I knew Teacher Tired; Pandemic Teacher Tired was unsustainable. I burned out. I just couldn’t do it anymore. And so many teachers are still doing it. I’ve been working through some survivor’s guilt that I was able to move to a position where I’m working from home until it’s safe to return to the office (or for me, go there for the first time).

So to all my teacher friends out there still doing the hard work, still showing up every day for your kids online and in person, I send my love and support. I sincerely hope that this pandemic opens eyes about the reality of education and that real systemic change comes soon.

2 thoughts on “Introducing Mrs. Hebert, Instructional Designer (plus a review of Mentimeter)

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