Padlet is a free, online, bulletin-board style collaboration tool that has multiple potential classroom applications.
I first started using Padlet to create virtual exit-slips, and it works very effectively for this purpose. I have recently started using Padlet in a more in-depth and individualised way with my research students and I am loving it.
My year 9 history students conducted an extended research task on Australia’s involvement in WW1, addressing the key inquiry question of whether ANZAC Day should continue to be a day of national significance, speaking from the perspective of someone involved in the war, voicing their opinion at a public gathering in 1920.
One issue I have always had with extended independent research tasks is keeping track of the progress of each student, given there are multiple steps involved, the task is independent, there are different topics and the working styles and learning issues of each student are so individual. I knew that this task would be no exception.
After finding my year 9 students highly engaged with creating ‘hashtags from the trenches’ via Padlet earlier in the term, I figured that using Padlet to track their research feedback was a logical next step.
Here is what I did:
Firstly, I created an individual Padlet page for each student. This was not as time-consuming as you would think. I then emailed each student an individual link to their personal Padlet. This enabled me to set up a confidential discussion space where students could share their progress and questions without fear of losing face with their classmates.
Next, I set a series of small check-ins for students to complete at various points during the research process. I set these up at the beginning of the unit so I could easily introduce them when the time was right. I set the paramaters for student usage of the padlet and I encouraged students to post their questions and concerns about the assignment on the page also.
I also set aside time for myself to read and respond to the padlets : some time during class time and some outside of class time.
I continued to provide the same face-to-face feedback and monitoring of students during their class time, with the added benefit that I was able to get to many more students and answer many more questions via this online format than I would traditionally be able to do just in the lesson time alone.
The evidence of the effectiveness of this strategy is qualitative at this stage. I was definitely able to communicate with my more reluctant learners and those who like to sail under the radar more frequently and in more depth using this method. I loved seeing #tooembarassedtotask from one student who would never raise her hand to share. This sparked some discussion where we were able to work together to clarify her understanding of the task. The padlet pages also enabled me to have a record of the things that my students were each finding really interesting or perplexing, which helped me with my face to face conferences. One recurring theme was trench foot and I was able to put three students in touch with each other so they could share their gross trench foot finds. The padlet also allowed me to see patterns emerging and address these to the entire class. For example, I learned via the padlet that despite my explanation of counter arguments in class, some students still didn’t completely understand why and in what circumstances they were appropriate, so I was able to address this with the group before they started writing their speeches.
Padlet proved to be an invaluable formative assessment and student engagement tool that really kept me in touch with how each of my students was progressing in their research. This is definitely a tool I will continue to use for future research tasks.