Padlet (https://padlet.com) has become one of the most popular tools for teaching with technology. Designed as a whiteboard that allows multiple people to post content to the same web page, Padlet has been steadily adding features that have broadened its functionality to allow for a wide range of uses. Its simplicity makes it ideal for hosting group activities with students because it involves a very small learning curve.
Here are some good ways to use Padlet in teaching:
Posting course content
Although an LMS can host course content, the instructor is limited in how it is displayed. Content is displayed linearly in a format that requires students to go through it in order. Padlet, however, allows the instructor to post various pieces of content on one page in a grid or other pattern that presents all the content at once, more like a newspaper. This feature makes it ideal for posting repositories of content that students might want to search to help them in a course.
For instance, I can create a page, called a “Padlet,” in my medical ethics class of good resources on the topic of privacy in medicine. Students doing research or group projects can be directed to the best resources, which are presented in a tile format with a thumbnail preview of each piece of content that allows students to quickly scan and choose the resources they need. Another benefit of this approach to hosting content is that students can scan for videos from YouTube or other sources without the surrounding videos or advertising. See this tutorial from Richard Byrne on how to set this up: https://youtu.be/7SJUuYAYab0.
Although one person can post content to Padlet, the real power comes in collaboration. Faculty can turn a repository of course content into a living, growing thing by asking students to contribute to it when they find a good resource. The LMS is normally locked down so that only the instructor, working through the instructional designer, can add content to a course. Any resources students find are simply lost. But with Padlet, instructors can harness the collective work of students to add them to the course, providing students with the satisfaction and motivation of knowing their contributions matter and are helping future students.
Padlet is also good at hosting visual content posted by all students. For instance, the instructor can give the students a question prompt such as “Find images that illustrate the development of Roman art from 400 BC to the present.” The instructor can then put up a Padlet with a column theme, placing headings at the top of each column, such as “Roman Empire,” “Renaissance,” and so on. Each student would need to post an image of an example of each of the art forms within the columns, perhaps also adding commentary on how the piece represents the art form. The LMS discussion forum would not display the images together, only a thread of postings that would need to be opened and closed one after another.
Interaction with learning content is a key to retention in all educational environments. Padlet can be used to facilitate this interaction in both live and online environments. Returning to the art class example, instead of asking students to find and post images of different art styles, an instructor covering Renaissance art could post a wall with different examples of art and ask the students to vote on the one they think most closely matches the Renaissance style. This is done by activating the “Reactions” feature on a wall, which allows students to vote for a posting by liking it, with the system computing the number of likes for each comment. If the instructor finds that only half of the students got it right, he or she can go back and cover that part of the lesson again. The instructor can also note whether students were thrown by a particular feature in one piece, maybe even posting that knowing that it would trick many students, to use it as a teaching moment by saying, “This looks like Renaissance art because of the . . ., but it is really Baroque because of . . .”
Students frequently have questions about course content but will not raise their hands in class for fear they will look dumb. Anonymous commenting can come in handy here for gathering questions from students, which is another feature that can be activated for any Padlet. An instructor can create a Padlet for a lecture with a posting representing each concept covered. Students can then ask any questions they have by submitting a comment to the relevant post. An instructor in a face-to-face lecture can read and answer those questions in real time, whereas an online instructor can look at them at the end of the day and post his or her replies as comments. Not only will students get answers to their questions, but those answers will be preserved in case they need to go back to the comments later.
Managing group projects
Students often have trouble managing the tasks of a group project and faculty often do not have a way of identifying whether the project is going astray. Padlet features a Tasks wallpaper image that is ideal for having students plan out group projects, especially when they are working at a distance and not able to meet face-to-face. The first column can be used to post tasks that need to be done, along with the person to do them. Once the person assigned starts working on them, the posting moves to the second “in progress” column, where notes about where it stands can be added in the description. Once finished, the notes are moved to the “done” column. Now the instructor and students can see where things stand and where the holdups lie.
Students can gain valuable insights and direction from their peers as they develop their work, which the instructor often does not have time to provide. For instance, students assigned to do a short video as an assignment can post it to a class Padlet wall and get comments from other students on how to improve the work before the final version is submitted. Groups can also provide comments on each other's work if the group project is itself posted as a Padlet. A group can be asked to assemble a Padlet tracing the development of a literary genre using text, images, and videos while other students provide ideas or ask questions as comments within the posts.
Take a look at this tutorial on how to use Padlet in teaching and consider using it in your own courses: https://youtu.be/K5VMjmZFXQ4.
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