Posts Tagged ‘padlet’
Whenever I facilitate learning at workshops or course modules, I try something new or tweak a time-tested process.
Here is some context first.
Last year, I facilitated ICT-focused classes for special needs/inclusive education teachers. The sessions were conducted in the evening and I did not change the active learning design this year. However, I made the effort to jump at the deep end, tried a different swim stroke, and dealt with an unexpected current.
What was the deep end jump?
I opted not to bring my Chromebook or Macbook Pro to the first session, and used the ageing desktop at the venue instead.
I used Chrome in Incognito mode to sign into various accounts, and with two-factor authentication via the Google app on my iPhone, was able to verify the log-in. When I was done with the session, I cleared the browser cache.
In between, I rediscovered the bane of YouTube ads because the Chrome browser on the desktop was not protected like my extension-enabled ones on my laptops. I wanted to show a small segment of a video but had to click away layered ads and two video ads that played before the actual video.
On hindsight, I could have relied on one of the many online services that let me download offline versions of entire videos or video segments.
As I neared the end of the session, the browser crashed. Ordinarily, this would mean having to log in to various services all over again. Thankfully, we were almost done and I did not have to do this. I also had my iPad on standby, but did not have to use it.
The interruptions due to the ads and crash were a reminder why facilitators should always bring their own devices. If you prepare and practice on that device, it is best to bring it along unless you like living dangerously.
Google Forms to form groups
What did I do a bit differently with folks that I had not met before?
I usually ask participants to complete a Google Form questionnaire before we meet. In one question, I ask participants to choose a focus area or issue. Instead of trying to deliver a one-size-fits-all experience, I want to shape a custom one.
I normally follow this up by showing the results of the questionnaire at the start of our meeting to remind them of their selections. This time round, I predefined groups based on their responses and indicated what these were in a Google Site page.
About a quarter of the class did not respond by the deadline, so I met these learners during a break to sort them out before the group-based activities. This was a necessary step since it is rare for everyone to complete tasks beforehand. I also had two last-minute additions who probably did not get the instructions.
Such a preemptive design prevents groups from self-selecting. In this context, however, I wanted groups to be as diverse but as focused as possible. Knowing how people tend to stay in their comfort zones both social and cognitive, my decision to do this turned out to be a good one. The discussions were rich and there was a lot of productive noise in the room.
Jumping Padlet notes
I like getting participants to use Padlets for reflective pitstops and exit tickets.
However, a recent change to the platform seems to have made the online stickies refresh and rearrange themselves more often. This meant that some of my learners could not compose their thoughts because the notes kept “jumping away” from them.
This did not seem to affect all of them equally. Anecdotally, I have found that this happens to owners of small screens and slower devices with older Android builds.
One alternative might be to provide Google Forms and share the resulting Google Sheet with my learners. However, this limits my participants to text instead of other media like audio, photos, or video in Padlet.
I also like my participants to take ownership of their notes and to revisit them at different stages of learning. They could co-edit the Google Sheet resulting from Forms, but this is not as natural as the simulated writing or drawing on an online sticky note.
No space for Google Space
Last year I used the then brand new Google Spaces and reflected on the pros and cons of using it versus Google Sites  . This year, Spaces will be shut down on 17 April in a failed Google experiment, whiles Sites, a mainstay for about a decade, lives on.
This meant transferring many resources, instructions, and activities to Sites from Spaces. This was no mean task as the two are not interoperable.
I also had to restructure the Site and this meant URLs changed. This affected the shortened URLs and QR codes I had created, so I had to make new ones, print them out as cards, and laminate them myself.
I was about to end this reflection when I remembered another step I took.
I normally send participants instructions to download and install a QR code reader. This makes it easy for them to access online resources instead of having to type URLs.
This time round I left this instruction out to see how adept my participants would be.
I was pleased to notes how several were game to use the QR codes on their own. Those that did not still had the benefit of using my shortened bit.ly URLs.
It is easy to be complacent and to coast with strategies that seem to work over different contexts and content. I choose not to do this.
I tell my learners that one of the best ways to learn is by cognitive dissonance. Better to live by this mantra than to come across as a hypocrite. If the situation does not provide these challenges, I create my own.
I started using Padlet when it was the new kid on the block, Wallwisher. [Disclosure: I am not paid to share these thoughts nor do I have a stake in Padlet. I share to care and care to share.]
The screenshot above is a summary of the different ways I have analysed so far on how I rely on Padlet to facilitate learning during my workshops.
Primers are brieft and preliminary activities that I get my participants to complete before or at the beginning of my sessions.
KWLQ is short for know, want to know, leart, and questions I still have. I ask participants to complete K and W prior to attending my workshops so that I can gauge their prior knowledge and meet them where they are at.
Sometimes I use Padlet to link lessons and uncover gaps by prompting recall. I ask participants to state one their most important takeaway from the previous session. This invariably leads to a summary of the previous session, and if it is lacking, helps me identify gaps.
If I need to introduce myself and the topic of basic information literacy, I ask participants to Google Me.
If I meet the new group and the session is long, we play two truths and one lie as an ice breaker and to illustrate the importance of learning with and from others.
This is my only presentation-mode of Padlet. As I can zoom in on each online sticky or highlight one in basic show mode, I occasionally use the notes to state the aims and expectations of my sessions, or to provide reminders on areas to focus on.
It might help to think of this as operating like the table of contents and headers in a book.
Visible learning spaces
This is my favourite integration of Padlet and gets learners the most involved. I might get my participants to:
- Offer learner-defined outcomes
- Provide answers to guiding questions to extract concepts from videos
- Brainstorm ideas and issues related to a skill or content
- Scaffold a think-pair-share process
- Reflect at session pitstops
Of all the tools I have used for exit tickets, Padlet is my favourite for consolidating takeaways in one-minute papers.
The end of a session is often marked by an urgent need to finish. It is also the best time for participants to remind themselves and report what they learnt. After all, our minds tend to remember starts and ends, but very little of the middle.
All these ideas draw from a common principle: To make thinking visible. I cannot read the minds of my learners, so I get them to externalise their thoughts. As they do this, they will realise what they know, what they think they know, and what they do not. This is also an opportunity to give feedback, to get them to peer teach, or to do both.
Yesterday I responded to a query about how flipping drives discovery and student-directed learning.
Today I answer a question about how students might not discover the “right” content by discovering or Googling. I have a few responses.
The first is doing away with the notion that students “get it” only when a teacher delivers content. This is merely an illusion because there is no indication or confirmation that learning has happened.
My second response is that one way to be more certain about student learning is to get students to create content and to teach it. These processes help both students and teachers to see evidence of learning.
My third reply is that teaching wrong content happens anyway, not just in the flipped classroom or when you facilitate flipped learning. Both the student and teacher can be guilty of this. However, when the learning is visible the teacher can jump in and intervene.
This is why I include content creation and peer teaching in my model of flipped learning.
Peer teaching is something that instructors can do with strategies like think-pair-share, any variant of the jigsaw method, and class presentations. Content creation might be viewed as a prerequisite for this form of teaching. Without artefacts students have nothing to show during the tell.
However, content creation does not always have to be on the teacher scale or standard. The content that students create can also be externalisations or manifestations of what is in their minds. These can take the form of short reflections, practiced problems, recorded conversations, summary documents, etc.
My fourth response is to agree that simply copying and pasting Google search results may not be valuable learning. Most teachers tend to focus on content from an expert’s point of view. This is how they judge if content is good or not, and right or wrong. However, this is not how a learner processes information because s/he does not have structure.
The structure is put in place by thinking processes. So instead of just focusing on content (what artefacts students find and use), the teacher should also model processes of learning. For example:
- How do I look for information?
- How do I verify information or evaluate it?
- How do I incorporate it into my own work?
This response is not unique to flipping. But a focus on process over product is particularly important in flipped learning because one desired outcome is students who are more independent learners.
Yesterday I reflected on my long-running integration of Padlet in my courses and workshops. I intend to share screenshots of two sets of takeaways and questions from participants at the end of a workshop on flipped learning. I address one concern today and another tomorrow.
One concern was whether students uncover content in the way the teacher intended.
I am glad that the participant used the word “uncover” because that was something we practised during the workshop. Uncovering is based on discovery and not on the traditional notions of a fixed curriculum, recipe-like strategies, and narrow outcomes.
This does not mean that the process is haphazard. In the past, I have described the implementation as creating serendipity.
One way to design the learning experience is to envision a large plot of land in which you have buried opportunities for learners to unearth. They not only dig up treasures (content-based learning about), they also figure out how to problem seek and problem solve (skills-based learning to be).
My reply to the query is that a strategy like flipping is a means of transferring the ownership of learning to the students. While the teacher is concerned with curriculum, schemes of work, worksheets, and other standard practices, these are not always congruent with the overall design and ultimate goal of flipping.
To put it simply, the standard terms, practices, and tools that a teacher is comfortable with are not necessarily what learners understand and need. The teacher may be armed with a spoon to feed; the students need shovels and other more varied and complex tools.
The teacher may be prepared to deliver; the students need to discover. It is inevitable that the scope of what the teacher expects will be much narrower than what the students discover.
Returning to my analogy of the plot of land with buried treasure, what if students discover relevant and useful nuggets elsewhere? What if they go beyond just digging (e.g., clicking on links in web quests) to surveying with drones and satellites (e.g., Googling, YouTubing) or communicating with previous treasure hunters (e.g., tweeting content experts, consulting Facebook contacts)?
One concern that teachers might have is what if students unearth the “wrong” things? I address that concern tomorrow.
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.