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Pondering Padlet

Posted on: June 14, 2016

I started using Padlet when it was the new kid on the block named WallWisher.

I have used it for several years for classes and workshops in a variety of ways. My favourite is exit tickets. This is where I get participants to share what they are taking away before they walk away.

However, I am wondering if I should continue this strategy with Padlet. Why? The experience is uneven when participants access a shared space simultaneously.

Some participants seem to be able to edit their sticky notes just fine. Others, typically those on Android mobile devices, seem to struggle. So far I have discovered that they 1) have problems creating a note, and 2) find it difficult to edit a note once they have created it.

For example, during a seminar I conducted for almost 50 participants recently, only 32 managed to leave notes. Two of the notes were empty except for the participants’ names or initials.

The issue seems to be the concurrent adding and editing of notes by other users in the shared space. As notes are added, the space scrolls or moves and this seems to take the control away from the user.

However, the benefits of using Padlets for those that manage to leave their reflections and takeaways are:

  • The learning is made more visible.
  • Shared thoughts might cross-fertilise.
  • The feedback and subsequent processing of their sharing is more immediate.
  • The process models an important practice that is not often done in most classrooms.

I also rely on their Padlet notes for post-session evaluation instead of the typical Kirkpartick Level 1 evaluation form.

One alternative I fall back on for exit tickets is using Google Forms and sharing the Google Sheet that collates their responses.

I do this if the participants are somewhat hesitant to see everyone’s thoughts projected immediately on screen. There is also no lag or interruption because there is just one Google Form on their own device.

With a bit of quick formatting and link sharing, I can show their collective thoughts in a Google Sheet. However, it still looks like a spreadsheet and the cells cannot be moved around as easily if I need to make contrasts or comparisons.

The Forms and Sheets process also starts like a private and closed process and then becomes more public and open. This might be jarring to the participant and is not as impactful as if the process was open to begin with.

So I still am in two minds about whether to make the switch. My only criteria for favouring one over the other is the type of participant. Most of the time Padlet is the default for the younger set. They are more adept and rarely have problems even with the tiny mobile phone screens and keyboards.

The older set run the gamut of struggling to create a sticky to completing the task in no time flat. As I deal with older adult learners most of the time, I constantly face this design decision.

By rising above these design decisions, I remind myself of the interplay of technical, social, and pedagogical affordances of a technology tool.

A tool may be strong technically and its use may be negotiated socially, but if it is not also designed from a pedagogical point of view, it use will falter.

Padlet has evolved strongly and its mindshare is good among educators. However, if it does not address where it falls short in the different affordances, it risks frustrating users who spread its name by ineffective use.

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