Interview: Teaching Trauma-Informed Practices with Bethlehem Area School District

At Pear Deck, a source of inspiration is seeing what innovative classroom teachers and school leaders are sharing on social media. This tweet from Bethlehem Area SD Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jack Silva caught our collective eyes a few months ago:

Dr. Silva and Supervisor of Professional Learning and Technology Integration Mark James agreed to sit down with Pear Deck Marketing Director Danielle Stebel to discuss their efforts with building a learner- centered district environment and more.

Let’s start with some background. What led you both to choosing education as a career?

MJ “If I was to go back in time and tell my 17-year-old self I was a teacher, I wouldn’t have believed it. I received my Bachelor’s in Business from Miami University, and worked in the industrial railroad industry as an Account Executive before going to Culinary School. After a stint in food service I became Director of Catering for a school, and was asked to create a training program for undergraduate students.”

Creating the training program planted a seed, which grew into a Masters degree in Education with secondary certification in Math. As a passionate devotee of math and math instruction, James focused on changing, improving, and innovating his math instruction. After 17 years of classroom instruction, at the request of Dr. Silva, he applied for and was promoted to an administrative position focusing on staff development and instructional technology. Mark has been a Pear Deck user for so long that he was even in the original beta test group for Pear Deck back in 2014!

Dr. Silva — “Aside from working a drive-in movie theatre in my teen years, [education] is the only industry I’ve ever worked. I got a teaching job right out of college teaching Middle and High School Social Studies, and since then have tried everything from teacher to Department Chair, Principal, and Director of Secondary Educator. After 33 years in education, you start to lose track.”

With a “first and lasting interest” in educational programs, Dr. Silva jumped on a 2010 opportunity to come to his hometown of Bethlehem where he has been serving as Assistant Superintendent for Education and Chief Academic Officer.

Let’s discuss the tweet that led us to this conversation. Where were you that day?

Dr. S — “The tweet that I made happened after walking through a school who have been taking lead in Trauma-Informed work in the district. I saw that image on a few different doors and wasn’t sure what it was at first. Our first T/I implementation baseline was giving students a paper with pencil and having them mark [a self assessment] on the upper righthand corner with a scale to clue us in. The principal, faced with limitations of paper collection, advocated for a tool to allow for ease of access to the same information. Taking it just a few steps further with Pear Deck, the teachers are able to collect actionable data to allow for informed adjustments in the moment. This is a great example of independent application of formative assessment that shows independent thinking, which happens when they deeply understand a tool.”

Which leads us to your the implementation of Trauma-Informed Practices. How are you seeing the practices implemented, and what is the path forward?

Dr. S — “What we realize as we look ahead to our work with understanding trauma is there are different approaches that work with various school sites. We’ve got Pear Deck in schools with principals who saw the potential to take the Classroom Climate add-on to check in with their students. Some schools use a color system for self assessment of emotional readiness to learn that day. Another middle school is trying a different approach, and took the idea of mood check and decided what we wanted to know deeper insights. They use a two slide Student-Paced deck every morning for students to respond with how they’re feeling. The first is the four faces slide, and the second slide is a text response to ‘tell me more.’ The teachers drove that process, and we’re interested to see how it develops over time.”

MJ — “Understanding what type and how prevalent trauma is for our students. We want to create a clear path to becoming successful learners, and if you’ve got students walking into a classroom experiencing trauma, they can’t engage with their lessons.”

Have you met any resistance along your path of implementation of new practices or tools?

MJ — “Teaching is such a complex profession, and can unfortunately be lonely. Unless you have the good fortune of having a co-teacher, being the only adult in a room can be a lonely endeavor.

It can become isolating, and when you learn to live in that way, that is at the heart of resistance to change. This is not just in education, everyone is resistant to change in some way. When you start saying ‘everyone must or will’ — that’s when resistance comes in. We overcome that by leading by example, by checking in that we’ve provided adequate support, training, and time.”

Dr. S — “Principals are our secret sauce — they model and reinforce through supervision. We’ve come together in a universe where you walk the talk with the tools you’re using and competencies you’re developing.”

What does success look like for your work to come?

MJ — “Adjusting the trajectory of classroom conversation. I’m looking forward to seeing Pear Deck used in a way that becomes really high-level formative assessment in real time. I have a goal of having a mindshift for our teachers to have their students leading for more of a two way socialized learning environment.”

Dr. S — “In the short term, teachers applying and using tools in a unique way, to solve problems in school. Ultimately when our Principals see teachers happy with the tools at their disposal, and when teachers see students command technology to better their learning, then we’ve successfully connected all the dots.”

Our most sincere thanks to Dr. Silva and Mark James for taking time to share the incredible work they’re doing within their district!

This week’s blog post was written by Pear Deck Marketing Director Danielle Stebel.

Effective Secure Coding Teaching Through Gamification

Image result for gamification

Effective ways to teach a technology nowadays is through gamification or a fun documentation. I have been to several workshops with Google and Amazon and they both used styles that are unconventional to teach and have the community try their cloud products.

Google during Google Cloud Summit, hosted an event called Cloud Hero ( for the community to have a hands-on at its Google Cloud Platform products through gamification. Participants were asked to wear capes (like a hero!) and asked to join a game room, desktop PC provided. Everyone would start on time and would be scored upon completion of tasks and speed. Participants are tasked to do certain things per GCP product to advance the game. Scores are shown live on a big screen and you can see the lead scorers. It was fun, challenging, and definitely learned a lot.

Amazon on the other hand hosted an AWS workshop ( This was a smaller event and participants just needed to follow tutorials for each AWS product that was short and sweet and made use of mythical creatures web application.

The two events have similarities in terms of having an engaging speaker and resource persons to help out participants. They emphasize on fun and minimal technical jargon.

One of our schoolmate in City University of Seattle had a small project, which is a capture-the-flag game Python web application that is designed to test your cyber security investigative skills.

A gamification study was made in 2013 and focused on the following topics: Validating User Input; Array Range Checking; Buffer Overflow; Operator Precedence; Rounding Errors; Returning Values and Handling Errors; Numeric Overflow/Underflow. The result of the study was the students were able to make clear correlation between game levels and information assurance concepts (Adamo-Villani, Oania & Cooper, 2013).

We may be able to execute a simple interactive game for a classroom setup. Tackling topics such as SDLC, SDL, threat modelling, attack surface, etc. With the hopes of students to retain the importance of security in every phase of SDLC and importance of software security more than application security with the latter costing more due to development of patches to patch vulnerabilities (Ransome & Misra, 2014).

Researchers were able to overcome perception that security was not important in SDLC. Not so much. The attendees wanted a balance between hands-on and theory. I believe that a gamification of hands-on secure coding could help faculty teach SDL. An example of secure coding website training, The attendees already know that security is important, but because they are overloaded with faculty work and needing more resources, they are unable to implement secure coding.

Thread approach states the amount of time and resources needed to implement changes in the curriculum is minimal.


Adamo-Villani, N., Oania, M., & Cooper, S. (2013). Using a Serious Game Approach to Teach Secure Coding in Introductory Programming: Development and Initial Findings. Journal of Educational Technology Systems., 41(2).

Ransome, J., & Misra, A. (2014). Core Software Security: Security at the Source

11 most important things I learned in 2017

I am 24 years old and as a background, I own a design studio. I got into writing just recently and decided to commit to it. And as part of it, I would love to share with you my most important learnings for this past year. Every time some of these things happened to me I was angry or disappointed. But now as I have reflected on them and wrote an article about it, I feel like I learned a lot. And it gives a sense of satisfaction. So I decided that I will try my best to take out the most important lessons and write short paragraphs for each lesson I learned.

Many people spend time studying the properties of animals or herbs; how much more important it would be to study those of people, with whom we must live or die!

It was a great year and hopefully, the next one will bring more learnings. Thank you for reading and I hope you got something for yourself too.

One more thing

Back To Square One | JavaScript

Do you know that feeling when you know something not quite well and you’re not very confident about it? Well I had that same fear with JavaScript language and then set off on a journey that brought me to a whole new level.
Just sit back and enjoy because I have something amazing to share at the end of this article.

Not so long ago I struggled with the basic concepts of JavaScript language and used Jquery as an alternative. I hated working with vanilla JavaScript, whether is event listeners, XML HTTP, not to mention Promises and I used for loop in places where map and filter are better approach.

As someone who is curious by nature and always wants to improve, I wanted to switch to more popular technologies like React or Angular, but my lack of understanding of JavaScript was always going against me.

I soon realized it is more important for me to fill my gaps than to move forward. So I wrote a list of 30 lessons, things I already know, but have trouble with and the things I don’t know at all. I knew I had to go back to beginning and I wasn’t afraid. 
One thing I did not know at the time is that there is long list of things I never heard of. I set myself a challenge to conquer those fields as well.

The journey began

JavaScript DOM, Object-Oriented programming, Higher order functions, Context, Hoisting, Closures, Prototypes, ES2015, Callbacks, Promises, Async Await… I started watching videos of famous JavaScript developers such as Wes Bos, The Net Ninja, The Coding Train, Traversy Media, FreeCodeCamp and reading articles on MDN and Medium.

I kept working to the point when I see someone teach JavaScript and use Jquery, I’d compete with him using vanilla JavaScript. At the same time I was testing my skills on SoloLearn, where you can challenge anyone who uses the app and then two of you compete through series of questions.
I even started teaching my friends JavaScript and they understood it.

I applied the same idea to other fields. Soon I started rehearsing Node.js, Express and MongoDB. As a big fan of npm, I learned how to setup Webpack so I can install and use npm modules on the client side. And of course, I started learning React.

With each step I took I wrote down what I learned and saved what was useful to my Github repository. As I continued with my journey I realized that lessons I went through can be more than a series of personal practice examples, but also a small library where everyone can learn something.

Today I chose to write this article not only to tell my story and encourage you to keep learning and improving, but also to share my work with the rest of the world. 
Introducing JSLand, frontend to backend Javascript lessons explained in plain English.

JSLand project currently covers core features of JavaScript, major features of ES2015, ES2016, all the way to ES2019, Asynchronous JavaScript, Collections, but also Node, Express, MongoDB, Mocha, Lodash, Webpack, RegExp and React
There is also a section for various interesting modules like Moment, Bcrypt, Validator and many other, as well as few interesting challenges and JavaScript interview questions.

For every example I wrote you’ll find a video or an article where it came from.

I’m expanding JSLand project whenever possible, but I’m also inviting you to join this journey, to contribute, to share your knowledge and build something great that everyone can benefit from. 
There are so many great JavaScript minds out there that helped me learn the things I struggled with and if you are in that group please don’t be shy to share your experience with others, not only through JSLand, but also Stack Overflow, Medium, Youtube and any other way.

Mastering JavaScript remains a daily challenge for me, but it’s also a challenge I take on with a smile on my face. JavaScript is a beautiful language and with so many libraries and frameworks to play with, I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Euclid’s Geometry: Quadrature of a Rectangle

A “quadrature” is a historical mathematical process to determine an area. In other words, it is constructing a square with an area equal to that of a figure like a rectangle, a triangle or a circle bounded by a curve.

Greek mathematicians were obsessed with symmetries, structures of geometric shapes and visual beauty. In the hands of ingenious ancient Greek geometers, a compass and a straightedge first turned into lines, angles, parallels, perpendiculars and then secondly they turned into regular polygons of beauty.

For instance, Euclid loved to build complex structures from simple shapes with only using a compass and a straightedge. Surprisingly we still use his constructions. And of the most challenging problem that he was dealing with was the quadrature or squaring of a plane figure.

Let’s do some example and start with a rectangle.

Let ABCD be an arbitrary yellow rectangle. We will only use a compass and a straightedge for our construction. Then we will get a square which will have the same area as our yellow rectangle.

  • First, we will extend line AB to the right, and we will get point E and segment BE. But, the length of the segment BE and the length of the segment BC are going to equal. We can say BC = BE. It is easy to have this by using a compass and a straightedge.

  • Second, we will bisect AE at center point F. Again it is easy to have this with a compass and a straightedge. Since F is the center, the segment AF and the segment FE are going to be a radius of our semicircle and AF = FE.

  • Finally, at point E, we will draw a perpendicular line to the segment AE until the point G which is the point of the intersection of the perpendicular line and the semicircle. The segment BG will help us construct our new blue square and will be the one side of our square. We will call it GHJB.

Now we can claim and then prove that the area of the rectangle ABCD and the area of the square GHJB are equal.


Now let x, y, z be the lengths of the segments FG, FK, and GK respectively. Since GK is a perpendicular line, FGK is a right triangle. If you have a right triangle, life gives us a chance to apply the beautiful Pythagorean theorem. And it gives us;

  • x² = y² + z². And this gives us
  • z² = x² — y².

Since FK, AF, FG are radii of the semicircle, FK = BG = HG = x. And

  • BE = FE — BE = x — y, and
  • AB = AF + FB = x + y.

Now we can find the areas;

Area of the rectangle ABCD: (height) X (base) = (AB) X (BC)

(x+y) • (x — y) = x² — y²

Area of the square GHJB:

z • z = z² which is also equal to x² — y².

Thus the area of the rectangle and the area of the square are equal. Q.E.D.

Q.E.D. is usually placed at the end of a mathematical proof to indicate that the proof is complete. It means “Quod Erat Demonstrandum”.

Beautiful. We have proved that the original rectangular area equals the area of the square which we just constructed with a compass and straightedge. And this completes the rectangle’s quadrature.

An Interesting technology/tool I encountered in preparation for boot camp

Photo by Hunter Haley on Unsplash

The beginning of this year was particularly an interesting year in my life. I made a resolution that learning, expanding my skill set and trying out new things was the watchword.

After several trials and practices, I reapplied for Andela’s fellowship. I passed the test all thanks to God and I was called up for boot camp. During my preparation for boot camp, I was privileged to be part of the ALCwithforloop program sponsored by Andela which is still ongoing as at the time of this writing. The little time I spent with them was totally amazing, it was as thou the program was designed to help me really prepare for boot camp.

I was exposed to so many tools and Technologies that I never knew on could use to make there work easier. Ranging from Eslint, single repository pattern, continuous integration, git workflow, Test coverage, coveralls etc. The cool thing was that the program was designed to help intending Andelan’s scale during the boot camp. I got to understand how to configure and set up Travis. It was surprisingly not as difficult as I had thought it would have been due to my very little knowledge about docker.

While so many of the tools where quite interesting some actually stood out because of the help they gave while working. For the purpose of this article, I would talk about git workflow.

Git is a tool that most developers, if not almost 90% of developers know how to use because it helps you keep track of your work.

In the most basic level, I understand git ranging from branching out to adding recently changed files to a stage and committing them, pushing and pulling. I never knew there was a better way of using git in your project with git workflow.

Git Workflow is a recipe or recommendation for how to use Git to accomplish work in a consistent and productive manner.

Git workflows encourage users to leverage Git effectively and consistently. Git offers a lot of flexibility in how users manage changes. It encourages better collaboration, it helps to make sure that the project progresses in a predictable manner, it helps developers to be done with a certain feature before going into the next and it really helps in managing stakeholders expectations.

I was able to learn this from ALCwithforloop and by doing some personal research to get a better understanding. So far, the boot camp has been amazing and I look forward to being part of the Andela family.

Cumpliendo una promesa

El éxito, nunca lo di por sentado.

A calm, deeper side of San Francisco — Photo by MontyLov on Unsplash

Mis inicios no fueron sencillos, logre entender un poco de la vida y luego bastante. Algo sobrecogedor, pero grandioso, podía al fin ver todo muy claro, sin embargo procrastine lo suficiente como para no encargarme de algunas inseguridades, pequeños lastres que creí dejar atrás y les reste importancia hasta que se encargaron de pararme en seco, lo suficientemente grandes como para obligarme a enfocarme en lo que nunca quize, así de forma automática, inconsciente, fui encargandome de cada uno de ellos y en mi frustación jamás me di cuenta, en esa desesperación enceguecedora llegue a creer que jamás saldría de ahí, hasta que lo hice.

Junto a grandes personas comprendí que todo estaba en mi mente, después yo mismo decidí parar y al mirar atrás comprendí que jamás procrastine, simplemente no estaba listo, me considere por mucho tiempo un hombre de retos y fue gracioso ver como pase por alto este, quizá el más grande al que jamás me he enfrentado, una lucha contra mi mismo.

Luego descubrí con humildad que tras años de “pesadilla” era una mejor persona de lo que había sido previamente, -“Solo debo superar esto y seré mejor, solía decir”, vaya que no comprendía, YA era mejor, esa limitación vivia en mi mente, era algo etereo, inventado y producto de mis viejas inseguridades. Me dije algo como “Al carajo” y decidí seguir adelante, con múltiples responsabilidades al mismo tiempo, algo de locos, pero loco estaba, siempre he sido un apasionado.

Hoy, veo algo diferente, un sinnúmero de oportunidades y acertijos listos para ser resueltos.

Retos, desafíos de un tamaño indescriptible y eso, es lo que hace esta vida algo digno de experimentarse.
Hoy cumplo una promesa, hoy dejo atrás tantas dudas e inseguridades y me lanzo a lo desconocido. Tal vez este listo, tal vez no, pero de una u otra forma, allá voy.

E2: The Future Of Open Learning with Udara Jay, Founder of Tidl, Alcamy

Udara Jay

In this cast we chat with Udara Jay around his ideas for the future of open learning as he builds Alcamy. We also chat about building great products, Udara’s approach to design and thoughts on the evolving space of AI. is the internet’s catalog of knowledge helping connecting bright individuals to online resources to hyper learn topics.

Interested in Ethereum and Digital Currency? Check out Alcamy’s topic on the subject and learn.

There are also plenty more subjects like:

Machine Learning


Social Media for Startups

and more!

Music Credits to:Dlay — Far Away Place (Intro)
Ant The Symbol — Libby Hill (Outro)

Design inspiration: BlockChannel Media

What Clues Do Millennials Hold for Modern Learning and Development?

Millennials: the word we are — dare I say it — sick of. Yet we still don’t understand how to deal with the changes that became urgent when this generation joined the workplace. I began speaking on this topic over five years ago when I saw HR leaders repeating generational stereotypes. In my work, I have given over 100 talks that have left attendees saying, “I will never use the words ‘lazy’ and ‘entitled’ again” — a big win.

But there is much more to do. Once we move beyond bias, we can turn our attention to dealing with the real problem lurking in the shadows: digital transformation. I don’t mean software implementations. What I mean is the challenge of transforming workplace culture, processes and systems to catch up to a digital world. That includes how we help employees learn.

It’s important to broaden our lens on this generation. Instead of complaining and seeing millennials as an issue, let’s see them in a new context: Millennials are merely a representation of a world we cannot un-invent — the world of digital. Their behavior holds clues for the future of work — both what to do and what not to do. According to the stereotypes, millennials are lazy, entitled and disloyal and have authority issues. Reframing these stereotypes by understanding the impact of the current generation’s globalization and digitalization makes it clear that millennials look at work and career differently than the previous generations.

What are the top transformations that emerge at the intersection of millennial behavior and modern learning? Here are a few:

L&D professionals should look at when, where and how people learn and how learning can be provided there. In a digital world, in our personal lives, we learn every day through a variety of methods, at a variety of times and a variety of places — opportunities L&D does not take advantage of in the workplace. LinkedIn’s 2017 Workplace Learning Report showed that almost one-third of employees learn on their commutes. Does your L&D organization have a presence there? Or are your employees left to find quality sources on their own, likely with a mixed rate of success?

We create false boundaries with our attachment to the walls of classrooms, unhelpful metrics in our LMS platforms and the ease of creating e-learning. Millennials have spent their entire lives learning in multiple ways. When you limit the path to methods of the past, you inherently limit productivity and engagement.

Millennials are also used to a world that constantly changes. As a result, ongoing learning is a basic expectation, a means for survival. It’s not enough to have new hire onboarding. Every step of a career should involve learning. Those employees who don’t want to learn are the ones to worry about. When you design with modern behavior and modern learning needs in mind, L&D makes a critical shift from organizing training events toward facilitating ongoing learning.

One of the biggest millennial myths is that they are unable to be anything but micro-learners, that their attention span dictates flashy, bite-sized training. While humans have experienced a reduction in our attention span due to technology, immersive learning experiences are far from dead. For deep learning needs or first-time foundational learning, immersion is a necessity. A simple example is learning a language, for which the most effective method is in-country experience. Technology is contextual, and L&D professionals need to become experts at choosing and providing the right technology for the learning moment.

Another reason to curate is that millennial behavior shows us that technology can create indecision and overwhelm. Modern talent needs help filtering through information and methods. L&D needs to build and use its expertise around the neuroscience of learning to choose between options, taking the burden off the employee.

Some platforms are right for certain situations, certain personas and certain performance gaps, while others may be better suited for other contexts. We need to stop relying on number of users for our success metrics. That’s why millennials rely heavily on crowdsourced rating systems, because a recommendation is only good when it has quality comments, not just a quantity of upvotes.

Millennial behavior is often highly purpose-driven (especially in developed nations, where basic needs are met). When something doesn’t have a clear purpose, it is obvious to millennials. Modern learners have insight into the kind of opportunities they should be exposed to, and if they don’t see them, they feel dissatisfied.

L&D professionals should be more strongly connected with their business and deeply understand its challenges. They have to show the impact of learning activities and teach leaders how to make learning happen as a part of the organizational culture. L&D managers’ role is often to teach leaders that it isn’t about training as a low priority but about a culture of learning as a competitive advantage.

We often talk about millennials as though they are the problem. If we start viewing them as part of the solution, a plethora of possibilities and a downright inspiring vision of L&D emerges.

Crystal is a two-time TEDx thought leader, international keynote speaker, and author of The Millennial Myth: Transforming Misunderstanding into Workplace Breakthroughs. Her practice, Invati Consulting, helps Fortune 500 companies navigate the intersection of two of today’s most vital trends, millennial behavior, and future of work, through strategy, training, and organizational design interventions. She is known for her work shifting mindsets of executive leaders and helping shape powerful organizational strategy that thrives in the face of industry disruption.

Grow Your Mindset

The Mindset book was on my virtual bookshelf for a while and, I finally finished reading it. I wanted to share some notes that spoke to me as a founder & CEO and might speak to you as well.

In going through this book, I pulled out takeaways across all the chapters that I plan to re-read periodically. I give those to you now and highly recommend that you get the book. However, if you’ve only 5 minutes, read this instead.

I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures… I divide the world into the learners and nonlearners — Benjamin Barber

There are two worlds in the world of mindsets.

A fixed mindset is a world of fixed traits. The success is about proving you’re smart and validating yourself. In this world, failure is a bad word. Getting a bad grade, getting rejected — it means you’re not good at something. An effort is a bad thing; it means you’re not talented. Otherwise, you wouldn’t need it.

A growth mindset is about stretching yourself to learn something new and developing yourself. In this world, failure is not growing. Failure is not reaching for things you value. In this world, the effort is what makes you talented and smarter.

Which mindset do you have? A Few common traits of fixed and growth mindset people

  1. For fixed mindset thinkers, their intelligence is something fundamental value that they can’t change much. In contrast, a growth mindset thinker believes no matter how intelligent they’re; they can always change quite a bit.
  2. Fixed mindset thinks they’re a certain kind of person, and there is not much they can do to change that. A growth mindset believes they can always change the basic things about who they’re.
  3. A fixed mindset person is generally worried about how he will be judged. A growth mindset person is usually concerned about how he could be improving.
  4. A fixed mindset person is only interested in fields while she is doing well in those fields. A growth mindset person continues to show high-level interest even when she is not doing well. It makes them more determined.
  5. It’s not enough for fixed mindsets to be smart or successful; they must be flawless. They want to succeed perfectly and immediately. Growth mindsets know it takes time for potential to flower.
  6. For fixed mindsets, there is no way to become an eagle. You’re either one already or not. Becoming is better than being for growth mindsets.
  7. For fixed mindsets, revenge is redemption. They will choose other’s misery over their happiness. Growth mindsets don’t believe in revenge. For them it’s about understanding, forgiving, accepting and moving on.