Creating collaborative communities and conversations with Padlet

Posted: November 26, 2017 in Digital Futures in Education, Ma Education: Technology Creativity Thinking
Tags: , ,
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Padlet: The Swiss Army Knife of apps – Digital Sketchnote by Nicki Hambleton

Learning is complex, but being part of a community helps it to be fun, collaborative and engaging. My own learning is greatly enhanced by the connections I make and the conversations that happen as a result. So how can we help students to create, connect and communicate effectively and how can technology help?

Conole and Dyke (2004) explain how collaborative spaces are most effective when the teacher has a clear vision for the use of and interaction with the space, so it is important that educators remain at the forefront of technology but with learning being the prime focus, not the app.

wallwisher 2008.png

Nearly 10 years ago Wallwisher was launched with the initial idea to wish your friends a message on their birthday wall. It was a carefree, simple space to post ideas much as you would stick Post Its on a poster to share thoughts. It was quick to connect and easy to use. You built a wall with a shareable link so others could add to it. Since 2012, rebranded as Padlet, it has much the same intention but with far more affordances. It is widely used in schools for sharing resources, generating ideas and feedback, for book reviews and as portfolios.

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What is Padlet?

Padlet is an online collaborative space to display ideas visually or to share information and communicate together. In its simplest terms, it is a digital pinboard on which to post thoughts and ideas on electronic sticky notes. It is a free app, accessible online or on mobile devices, making it an app of choice for many educators. It is easy to set up and versatile in its uses, and appropriate for all ages. You can find Padlets about using Padlet online to demonstrate the multitude of situations it can be used for. Setting up is simple and straightforward, connecting to your Google account, Facebook or email so that posts are personalised rather than anonymous. You can customise a wall (Padlet) to match your intentions, adding a specific URL for ease of sharing with your students and establish a format for the wall as a grid, stream, canvas or shelf. These can be changed at a later date should you wish although it is worth noting that shelves need a little bit more time to be set up and do not react well to change in format.

What are the affordances of Padlet?

Affordances, according to Gaver (1991), are “properties that are compatible with other’s actions” and specify “what it offers, good or ill”. In other words, what can a particular technology bring to education that works in conjunction with their existing environment, ideas or context? When choosing an app or tool we need to be aware of both its affordances and its constraints in order to make appropriate choices about its inclusion to enhance learning. With this in mind, here are some of the positive affordances of Padlet in my experience:

  • Quick to set up
  • Free, available on IOS, Android and through a web browser
  • Simple walkthrough to signup and login
  • Clear sidebar to set up a board
  • Unlimited wall space and boards
  • Themes and backgrounds available with options to add own
  • Easy for participants to engage and participate
  • Privacy and moderation settings
  • 5 formats to choose from: grid, wall, stream, shelves and canvas
  • Visual and personalised
  • Reaction choices – like, vote, star, grade
  • Dashboard for easy retrieval and tracking participation and activity
  • Uploads images, audio, video and text files to posts

What are the constraints?

Conversely, an app or digital tool may also have negative affordances or constraints. These, in turn, may require greater instruction to guide the learner or may take time to navigate. Here are some of the negative affordances of Padlet:

  • Requires internet connection
  • Can be overwhelming and cluttered if no structure used
  • Size of Padlet board may mean some posts go unnoticed
  • Takes time to set up, especially if using shelves for a whole class
  • If users haven’t logged on, posts are anonymous
  • Moderation can be time-consuming, no immediate response
  • Reactions need to be considered for their purpose and inclusion
  • Unwanted or unkind comments if board is not private

Clearly, Padlet has many positives and negatives to consider. When we select a tool to use in the classroom we should choose it because it will enhance the learning. So how can Padlet be used in education?

What makes Padlet such a popular app in schools?

Padlet’s beauty is in its flexibility and it is the educator’s (or author’s) imagination that determines the way a Padlet could be used. Many teachers use it as a space to discuss, debate book reviews, to post resources or to share ideas. Padlet allows users to upload and share images, files, links, videos and audio, using the webcam to take photos. Each attachment loads and views easily. Its simplicity and intuitive use make it immediately usable in the classroom; share a link to the board and the learning starts. There is no need to explain or instruct in most situations, as long as the teacher has a clear vision for the task created.

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screenshot from Grade 8 Padlet board for tracking development

How can it be used to enhance student learning?

I use Padlet in many contexts, but the most transformative has been using a class board to track individual progress during a unit of work. I set up a Padlet using the shelves format with student names at the top. Students can add posts as the unit progresses and see their peers’ work at the same time. I use the space to consider their organisation, offer feedback and track development and skills shown. It also serves as a space for students to reflect on their work. Padlet allows students to see other responses immediately and so they can interact with others’ posts, sharing feedback, ideas or comments. A new feature added recently is for participants to be able to react to posts. These reactions can be chosen before or during an activity and give the teacher the option for students to like, star, grade or vote up a post. This can be engaging for students, especially in today’s “like” society, but care needs to be taken when selecting this option and having a clear rationale for their use and timing.

Other ways Padlet is used in my school, are for book reviews and recommended reading, curating resources, visible thinking routines and sharing essays as podcasts for critical feedback. There are many ideas online on innovative ways to use Padlet. One of the most extensive by Anissa Labrador documents 100 ways to use Padlet.

Stephanie Thompson, an elementary teacher in Singapore, asked her Grade 4 students to share their artwork on the book they were reading and used Padlet to ask provocative questions like “Is it ever acceptable to lie?

Mt Ada drawings g3 Padlet

screenshot with kind permission from Stephanie Thompson

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screenshot with kind permission from Stephanie Thompson

In Middle School, Angie Erikson asks students to upload audio recordings of their personal essays to a private Padlet, much like a podcast, to connect the listener to the individual. In turn, they provide critical feedback to guide the writer in refining their work.

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screenshot with kind permission from Angie Erikson

Lipponen (2004), explains that collaboration is important for peer interactions and shared learning. Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) assists learning through social interaction. Encouraging students to engage with the technology, to interact and create new learning builds these necessary 21st-century skills including collaboration, problem-solving and communication. Through active participation, Lipponen states that it is not only knowledge that is constructed but skills that develop the identity and future actions of an individual. Knowledge and learning are distinct entities with learning denoted by a change or advance in understanding. How can Padlet assist with this?

Padlet IB Econ recording thoughts and whiteboards.png  Padlet HS Econ.png

Andrew McCarthy, in IB Economics, uses Padlet to help students to sort information and resources working collaboratively to construct new learning with the materials and information discussed in class, setting up columns to guide students. David White, an IB English teacher, shares a blank Padlet for students to build their interpretations and comments on literature chapter by chapter thus creating a wide resource of views and ideas across the participants, sharing quotes, thinking and learning collectively to broaden preconceptions and knowledge.

Padlet HS Eng.png

Web literacy is a basic skill required daily when reading, writing and participating on the internet. Students need to be taught how to navigate, participate and to synthesize information in order to make sense of it and apply it. It is no longer enough to be solely an acquirer of knowledge; one needs to participate to learn effectively in today’s connected society. (Sfard, 1998)

These skills can be seen on the interactive diagram by Mozilla on web literacy:

Web Literacy 21st c skills.png

 

By clicking the wheel you can see which skills are used in a particular activity.

Visible Thinking

In addition to assisting in knowledge creation, shared understanding and collaborative feedback, Padlet also affords us with the ability to see interactions, connections and visuals. The canvas format, as seen in the screenshot below, allows students to connect to others’ ideas in real time, expanding their thinking, much like a mind map but collaborative on a large scale. Of course, unless directed and set up appropriately this can be overwhelming and difficult to comprehend, as the example in the video below shows. A slight adjustment to the setup and organisation of both task and class channels thinking more clearly and understandable to participants. Harvard’s Visible Thinking encourages active participation to allow individual and group thoughts to be seen and accountable, debatable and therefore learning tangible. David Perkins (Project Zero, HGSE) asks whether students frequently ask questions, debate information and share ideas and understandings in our classrooms. Conversations and thoughts are lost and forgotten as time passes so how do we make this thinking visible? Padlet can document and visualise student thinking and become a space for learning to be revisited and reconstructed over time.

 

Padlet 8CHV comparisons mindmap

screenshot from Grade 8 collaborative board

Participatory learning

Padlet allows students to participate individually and collaborate as part of a group: activities crucial to learning and knowledge building. (Lipponen, CSCL). Similarly, Flipgrid allows students to build a thread of feedback and information depending on the task set. Through video, participants can respond to one another at different times and locations to connect and debate thinking and build understanding. Whilst Flipgrid engages individuals, not every student is comfortable seeing their face or hearing their voice publically, so Padlet allows the introvert or camera-shy individual the choice of a participatory method when interacting on a board. Over time students become creators of their learning not just consumers of knowledge, collecting and sorting information, ideas and resources on boards they set up. 

To survive and thrive in the 21st-century students need to develop their higher order thinking (Bloom, 1956) and in particular skills in analysis, evaluation and synthesis. CSCL helps students to connect and share their learning more visibly through spaces such as Padlet and in turn build these vital skills in a supportive and responsive environment.

How could you use Padlet in your classroom?

Please share your uses and ideas in the comments below.

You can watch my Padlet review below which includes many more examples and guidance in setting up and collaborating.

 

References

(n.d.). Retrieved from https://mozilla.github.io/content/web-lit-whitepaper/#web-literacy-skills

Boyle, T., & Cook, J. (2004, 09). Understanding and using technological affordances: A commentary on Conole and Dyke. Alt-J, 12(3), 295-299. doi:10.1080/0968776042000259591

Conole, G., & Dyke, M. (2004, 06). What are the affordances of information and communication technologies? Research in Learning Technology, 12(2). doi:10.3402/rlt.v12i2.11246

Conole, G. (2012). Affordances. Designing for Learning in an Open World, 85-100. doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-8517-0_6

Homepage | Project Zero. (2017, November 20). Retrieved from http://www.pz.harvard.edu/

Hopson, M. H., Simms, R. L., & Knezek, G. A. (2001, 12). Using a Technology-Enriched Environment to Improve Higher-Order Thinking Skills. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 34(2), 109-119. doi:10.1080/15391523.2001.10782338

Lipponen, L., Hakkarainen, K., & Paavola, S. (n.d.). Practices and Orientations of CSCL. What We Know About CSCL Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning Series, 31-50. doi:10.1007/1-4020-7921-4_2

Sfard, A. (1998, 03). On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One. Educational Researcher, 27(2), 4. doi:10.2307/1176193

Strijbos, J., Kirschner, P. A., & Martens, R. (2004). What we know about CSCL and implementing it in higher education. Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Tankersley, K. (2005). Literacy strategies for grades 4-12: Reinforcing the threads of reading. Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Visible Thinking. (2018, February 26). Retrieved from http://www.pz.harvard.edu/projects/visible-thinking

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Comments
  1. louiebarnett says:

    Thanks for this awesome post. I’m going to try your suggestion of setting up a padlet for the whole class using the shelves function for one of my upcoming classes! Will let you know how it goes!

  2. Judith says:

    Hi Nicki

    It seems my earlier comment disappeared – not sure what happened there, but my test comment is posted, so I am trying again…

    I really like your post on Padlet and thanks for posting it! Along with the vlog, it has really urged me to re-think using padlet for the course as I can now see real (pedagogic) affordances of Padlet. I think in terms of developing the blog for the assignment, you might want to pick out one aspect of Padlet as a technology (visual literacy, curation, affordances, etc) and discuss this aspect in more depth, as for the assignment, depth of discussion is probably better than touching upon lots if ideas but more superficially.

    In general, I do think your are touching upon a large number of really interesting ideas. I want to pick out two that stood out for me: the first being the idea of participation. For me, (I think I mentioned this in my comments on your vlog as well), Padlet links to notions of knowledge building. Using Padlet, students are not just participating, but also collaboratively creating new understanding. Using Padlet either as a personal curating tool or a collaboration tool helps to bring to the foreground multiple perspectives – either in the classroom from the various students, or for yourself as a way of curating ideas around a particular topic. This helps to open up the classrooms ‘dialogic space’ and I would argue that students not only participate in this, but also create. In this respect, you might want to consider Hakkarainen’s work on the creation metaphor (see paper on ELE) in relation to this.

    The other idea that I really liked was your comment on visible thinking. You mention that Padlet (along with other asynchronous tools) helps to make thinking-trajectories visible, which I think is a very nice way of explaining the importance of combining face to face dialogue with asynchronous online dialogue, which is usually more reflective. One element of this that you haven’t mentioned is that in online dialogues, there is a sense of ‘audience’ which really helps to become more reflective about texts and contributions.

    Again, great post! thanks for sharing!

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