I really love technology. I am always on the hunt for tools that will enhance my students’ learning experiences and my ability to be creative, organized, and innovative. Over the past few years, I have become dependent upon Evernote as an organizational device, infogr.am and pictochart to help students create infographics as a means of displaying information, and all of the Google apps that help me develop and share information with my students and vice versa. There are a myriad of other technological tools, like my new document camera!, that I also love, but a list of my favorite tech things is not the purpose of this blog post.
This is why I was so excited when I learned about the very user-friendly and adaptable tool, padlet. Some colleagues of mine began using padlet as a way to create discussion boards in their classroom last year, but I didn’t really start to dig into its possibilities until I was in a workshop in Santa Fe this past January where I was re-introduced to it by Kristin Ziemke, who uses padlet to compile a wealth of incredible tech resources, among other things.
Kristin’s presentation about digital literacy and the thoughtful use of technology in the classroom included this slide:
Kristin emphasizes the following six standards, based on when thinking about the PURPOSEFUL use of technology in the classroom. She says that students must:
- be self-directed learners
- use resources effectively
- comprehend and evaluate text across disciplines
- respond to reading and research
- adapt communication to audience
- employ flexible collaboration and communication
Even though she works with elementary students and my day is spent with 9th-12th graders, these exact same standards apply. And these exact same skills are REALLY hard for many of our high school students.
Here are three ways that we are using padlet to address these six standards.
Padlet as a Tool for Independence:
In working with a tenth grade class of struggling readers and writers, we wanted to help them with “quote bombs” in a research paper. We wanted to model for students how to:
- find just the best part of a quote to use as evidence
- use ellipses to show that a piece of the quote was taken out
- explain WHY they chose these elements of the quote as their evidence
In addition, we wanted students to be able to see the different ways that a writer can choose to use a quote, that there is not a “right” way to choose evidence. Through padlet, we were able to give students the opportunity to both collaborate, communicate, and be self-directed learners.
After a mini-lesson in which we showed how to cut a quote so that only the ideas most relevant to the topic sentence were left, we wanted students to try this on their own, but with the same quote so that we (and they) could compare their thinking. We chose a topic sentence from one of their research papers and a supporting quote bomb (keeping the identity of the author anonymous). :
Students were asked to cut the quote (a) to use only the evidence that best supported the topic sentence (1). Then they had to explain why they chose this specific evidence and how it helps to support the topic sentence. All students posted their responses on the same padlet wall so that they could see the variety of ways that their classmates were responding to this activity.
Here are two different responses for this activity. The first is simpler while the second is more comprehensive, but both employ the skills that we were looking for in the lesson.
We definitely saw students becoming more self-directed and collaborative through this process. The use of padlet served two purposes.
1. Students were able to be more self-directed because if a student said they didn’t know how to do it, we directed them to look at what their classmates were posting and seek help from their peers before coming to a teacher. Oftentimes, simply collaborating by reading a model from a classmate helped them to understand what they needed to do.
2. Students were able to see that there is not simply one “right” way to approach using a quote. It depends upon the author’s purpose and what they want to convey to the audience, so students could see a variety of ways to respond to this activity.
Padlet as a Means for Reading Resources
The research process is still a challenge for many of our high school students. They have learned how to use data bases, but still prefer to just try and Google the answer. We want them to find reading materials that expose them to multiple perspectives on an issue, but this is difficult because students don’t know what the perspectives are of various publications.
In this padlet, we posted a myriad of different websites for a Contemporary World Issues class to use. We wanted students to do the research for inquiry projects, but we also wanted them to be using a variety of sources.
Students used this padlet as an access point to do further research into their topics. The websites we chose represent multi-national perspectives as well as those of liberal and conservative publications. The students were not told what the viewpoint is of each site, as this is something they need to learn to uncover themselves through reading about the authors of the articles as well as the publication itself. We have taught lessons on how to evaluate the reliability and credibility of sources, as well as the perspective. We reminded students that these factors are still important to determine, even with the sites they were given.
The compilation of sources from multiple perspectives helps students to both read and research across disciplines as they have to critically think and evaluate the articles they are finding based upon their determination of a source.
Padlet as a Collaborative Tool
Our high school is a large one with close to 450 students per grade level. We have multiple sections of one class and are always looking for ways that students can share ideas across classes. Padlet allows them to do this.
Currently, our 9th grade global students are embarking on their first big inquiry project. They have self-selected countries to study (India, South Africa, and China) to learn more about imperialism. In groups they have read primary source documents, from both the imperialized country and the imperialists, about the history of imperialism in these countries. The students are now ready to find secondary sources as well as any current events that might still be an outcome of this history.
There are two groups for each country in a class, and each teacher has four sections of global studies. We wanted students to have a wealth of resources to choose from, so we created padlet boards that are shared across classes.
Students are responsible for posting their research findings on the shared padlet, which allows each group to have access to many more resources than if they were working on their own. They also have to follow this format for posting:
This will help both the researcher who found the source be able to evaluate the source for reliability, credibility, and perspective, as well as give the collaborators an idea of how they should or could use the source based on this information. The 1-2 sentence summary also helps other students determine if this source is worth reading for their research purpose.
Finally, when students recognize that their work is going to help their peers, they are more willing to put in time and effort to evaluate the sources. We always say that if students want to be able to rely upon the ideas of their classmates, they have to do their part as well.
Padlet as a Formative Assessment Tool
Since these boards are all shared with the teacher, we can get a really good idea as to how are students are doing overall with their work. Sometimes we have them put their names on their posts if we want to look at individuals, but usually, we use padlet as a snapshot for how the class is doing. It is so helpful to scan a screen and see if students are clearly evaluating sources for perspective, writing succinct summaries, writing summaries that show they understood the reading, and demonstrating that they are looking at sources through multiple lenses.
From all angles, we have found padlet to be a successful technological tool that serves to enhance our students’ ability to access our curriculum in rich and meaningful ways.