Meet my new BFF: Padlet!

This week I was excited to find and review an application or tool that I had not previously used. I liked a lot of the tools that we talked about but realized that my entire experience with Padlet was to post my intro picture for #eci831 and #eci834 but that I had never truly spent time discovering what the tool was capable of. I was also inspired by my former classmate Megan from #eci834 who retweeted another’s use of Padlet on Twitter. So…here goes.

Account

When signing up for Padlet there were a few different options: You can sign up for an account with your Google account, your Facebook account, or via email. I like this as I have enough different passwords and usernames to remember, linking this to my Google account is easy and I can (and have) created a Google account that I use primarily for my school-based work and bookmarks so this is very convenient. Add the self-esteem boosting mandatory “click this box” portion of signing up, and who could be upset???

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Screenshot of signup page for Padlet (and a great pick-me-up!)

Dashboard

The dashboard is simple and easy to follow. I like that there is a space for Recent activity for if you are sharing your Padlet with others so that you can see any updates that have occurred. Overall, it is exactly what I would expect from such a page to help organize your different pages.

Create

This is where I feel Padlet really shines. They have generic blank templates that you can use and they also have more stylized templates to help you come up with ideas. I right away started with the stylized templates to see what Padlet is capable of. Their premade templates include a Moodboard, Bookmarks, Q&A, Kanban Board, KWL Chart, Video Playlist, Storyboard, Organization chart and a space to request a specific type of template. Each of these has a Preview option to help create ideas of how the tool can be used. After reviewing each and playing with the different styles, I decided to create my own Padlet.

I decided to follow the lines of the example above and create a grid-style Padlet. We are moving to a new unit in my Social 9 class right this week and I thought this may be a great way to collect some resources. I started by choosing a background and coming up with column headings. For now, I chose to be the only one who can edit the Padlet, given my intention of its use. Then I started to collect some (rather random) resources. As soon as I started to input information, I knew that I liked this tool.

 

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Screenshot of my Egypt and Mesopotamia Padlet

 

I loved that you can provide links, you can watch videos right on the Padlet screen or move to the hosting website, you can drag and drop for reordering items on the board. The tool is very user-friendly and allows for a lot of personalization. I could easily see how I could plan activities and lessons on Padlet and share resources and links easily with my class. I invite you to check out my Padlet and play with the videos and see how easily you can navigate the board!

Strengths

In terms of strengths, I feel that Padlet is a great tool. In fact, I was very happily sharing it with my colleagues today after school and they were excited with how easy it was to use. The easy way to add (or subtract) items from the board, to move them around, and to share with others is great. If you were to collaborate with others, you can easily add to the board from Android and Apple apps on your phone or desktop versions including a Chrome extension and Chrome app. There are paid versions for relatively reasonable prices for educators and for businesses. “Backpack” (school) accounts allow for unlimited students under a teacher account.

The supports for schools are actually quite impressive: they integrate with Google apps and LMS, they have better privacy and security options, and they will even send you a hand-written love letter to thank you! They are also working on analytics and content filtering so it seems they are continuing to develop the platform.

Probably most impressive is their refund policy. I have never seen ANY refund policy that is as customer-centered as this one. You seriously need to check it out. They will do back-refunds and work with you to ensure you are happy if the tool does not meet your needs (or if you just stop using it)!

 

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Weaknesses

There is a bit of restriction on the free account in the limit of 4 Padlets and the limit in options but, as it is quite affordable if you are going to use it regularly, I feel that this can be avoided. I guess you could also create multiple accounts but then you would need to remember multiple usernames and passwords and I am not good at that on the best of days…..

Given that a paid teacher account allows for unlimited students, teachers that team teach content or students may be able to collaborate on one account if they wanted or needed to save on costs to the school or teacher wallet, I could not find Terms of Service that said this was not allowed but I may not be correct on this.

Potential

This is something that I think I would use for planning primarily. I can see myself using it much as my demo board is set up, to help guide an inquiry-based unit or project, or to collaborate with other teachers to share resources and links. In talking about sharing in previous posts, I feel that I may have solved my dilemma of how to organize, share, and collaborate with others, I really like the visual but organized flow of this tool. This is a tool that I will be using in the future.

Another fun fact is that there is a plugin for Padlet on WordPress (if you host your own site) where you can embed a Padlet in your post, something that I find very interesting! Now, I think I may be fully convinced: I may just have to get my own domain! (I need to figure out how first though…. anyone know how to go about that?)

Have you ever used Padlet? If so, how did you like it? Would you use it again? If you have a moment to pay around with it, do you agree with my assessment of it? I would love to hear from you!

I’m sorry, you don’t have access to this webpage….

This week I was able to get my students signed onto their blogs for the first time. After spending a fair amount of time setting up an account and blog address for each student last week, I was excited to get them online and choosing a theme and title for their blog. I handed out my Getting Started with Blogging worksheet, everyone logged into their computers, reached the Edublogs website, were given their usernames and passwords, and only about 2/3 of them were able to log in.

“Mrs. Taylor….I don’t see that…I get this message…it tells me I don’t have permission to access the page…I don’t have permission to edit this page…”

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Ugh. I went into my “teacher side” of Edublogs and tried to see what was different for those students than the others that were able to log on, I couldn’t figure it out. I started to get stressed, this is why teachers are afraid to do things online in class: what happens if it doesn’t work? Then what? After fiddling with the system for a few minutes (and luckily the rest of my class were busy picking a theme, a very important task) I gave up and decided to email the Edublogs support team for help.

“Okay, I sent an email for help from the company, hopefully, we will be able to get you online tomorrow or later this week, I just can’t seem to figure this out. If you can’t log in, please find someone who could and follow along so that you can see how the blog works. “

I am a big fan of letting students know that teachers are not perfect and that sometimes we struggle with content or in completing things just as they do. I find that it helps students relate to the teacher and know that it is okay to not be successful the first time, that is how we learn. I am a big fan of teaching and being aware of mindset in the classroom.

Now, I have emailed support for various things on various websites in the past. It is not always the most useful approach and I had the intent of calling after class to see if I could talk to someone who might “fix” my issue a little more immediately. I was happily surprised that Edublogs emailed me back in four minutes. FOUR MINUTES. That has to be an all-time record for me!

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Screenshot of email

As you can see, I had tried to delete and re-add the student accounts. That was not successful. I couldn’t believe how fast I received a response. I quickly sent back the usernames and, even though it was the end of class and 1/3 of my students hadn’t been able to log on, I felt it had been a definite win.

Later that day, I received the following email from Sue Waters:

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Screenshot of email

I was thrilled. Not only was I able to receive support, it took less than 12 hours to have my issue fixed for me along with the tools to fix it myself if it happened again. I must say, I am happy I chose Edublogs as my platform with this service!

My next class with my Grade 9’s, we were able to all log on (yay!!!), change our blog titles, add category and tag cloud widgets, and make our first post. I modeled the post on my SMARTBoard and all students wrote the same thing but they were excited to get out there and make a post. We even embedded a link to the Saskatchewan Grade 9 Social Studies curriculum page and my students thought it was amazing. (“You can do that? Wow! This is awesome!) This week, I hope to have them finish up the jigsaw activity they have been working on and post their student-made summaries on their blogs.

I also put out a challenge for my students. Each month we complete a current event. I find several new stories and have them answer some questions on the story as a way of interacting with the current headlines and world issues. I have challenged them to complete their Current Event on their blog this month. A few students looked excited so I hope to see some online events!

If you have a moment, check out their blogs, maybe welcome some of my students to the blogging world on their posts or mine, not only will it likely blow their minds someone outside of our classroom commented but I would very much appreciate it!

Mrs. Taylor’s Classroom (Student blogs are down the right sidebar.)

Setting the Stage

This week, I have been up to a few things for my digital learning project. I started with creating a few documents to help organize my students for their upcoming units, have been working on a “Getting Started with Blogging” cheat sheet (I will post this once I have it fully tweaked the way I would like it), and have made my first post on the classroom blog.

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Screen shot of my classroom blog

I have decided that I will model how to use a blog with my students for a unit before letting them go free and have them put basic, fairly common posts initially so that they can become comfortable with the platform. I am also waiting on permission forms to come in so I cannot get rolling too fast with having them posting away until I receive a form from each student.

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Screenshot of Edublogs form to add student blogs

Today, I sat down and created blogs for each of the students in my class. It was a little of a tedious task as I had to create a username and blog URL for each student. Thankfully Edublogs has a great support page on Choosing Student Usernames, Blog URLs and Blog Titles and, with a little planning and thought on how to maintain the privacy of my students but have unique usernames, I was off! For now, if you are looking at my page, you will see their usernames/URLs on the right side bar of the post but, as we log in this upcoming week and name our blogs, this should change to be [Student name]’s Blog or Learning, that I have not quite decided upon yet. What do you think? Should this be uniform or should I allow the students to choose?

We started a jigsaw activity last week on cultural aspects of various First Nations’ groups based on their geography and students are to create a handout on their region in our next class. Once these are complete, they will be posted on the classroom blog, I can’t wait to see how they do, they were already excited and talking about how their product will look!

I would love to hear your thoughts on the theme I chose, the layout, or anything else!

Third Time’s the Charm

This past week I have been thinking about my learning project. I had asked Alec about creating an open-source textbook and how that would work into the project and spent some time mulling over how I would like it to work. The more I thought about it, the more I wasn’t so sure that it was what I wanted to do. Trash can for Idea #1.

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I looked into different things I could learn. I asked my students, I asked my brother. Ideas of Spanish (we recently had three students who speak minimal English join our school, so it would be practical), sewing (similar to Shelby  and Ashley, I love Hallowe’en and enjoy make elaborate costumes so sewing could be a handy skill), and my brother was excited to suggest coding (being the electrical engineer that he is) and even offered me his Arduino to learn and practice with . And yet with all of these great ideas, my heart was just not into any of them. Trash can for Idea #2.

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AND THEN….our school became a little crazy. With newly added staffing of 0.5 FTE, new timetables for all grades 7-12 (and minor changes in PreK-6), and transitioning students to new teachers, my learning project took a rest in the back of my brain to simmer until the hectic was (mostly) over. After things had slowed down, I realized exactly what I wanted to do for my learning project, something I had wanted to do for a long time but had just never been able to get going properly: having my students blog as part of their course.

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Photo Credit: MarcelaPalma Flickr via Compfight cc

So social media and open education implementation it is! It may sound like this was a last resort, but to be honest, the more I think about it, the more I have been getting excited about it. I have decided that I will implement blogging with my Social 9 class. I have already decided that I would allow my students more choice in the societies we study this year, developing units as inquiry and independent learning tasks with various supported activities. Using blogs for students to share their learning and interact with the public world, seemed like an easy and authentic fit for blogging! Last step before starting down the planning stages: clear with my administration, which was received very well (and with some personal anecdotes of their experiences).

And so we begin! I am still looking for what platform I will use, I want to play around with a couple before starting, the biggest annoyance for me when integrating something new is not liking the platform or program I choose and finding one WAY better suited to my needs a couple days after I have rolled it out. This may still happen but I want to try to eliminate the majority of the disappointment of missing out on a great platform. I like using WordPress for my personal blog but I’m not sure if that is the best option to use with my students, I know some use Edublogs but I don’t have personal experience using that platform.

Goals for my project:

  • Set up individual student blogs
  • Teach my students about blogging, integrating images and videos, and commenting on others’ posts
  • Create a unit plan that requires blogging about their progress through the unit as well as reflection questions and requirements around embedding videos, linking to websites, and sharing their sources they use.
  • Encourage students to use Twitter to interact with experts. I’m not sure if this will be done through their personal Twitter accounts or if I will use my account to tweet on their behalf. If you have suggestions around this, please share!
  • Encourage parent interaction with their child’s blog so they can see what is going on in class.

My Idealistic Product

I would love for my students to Skype or instant message an expert in the field they are studying, or maybe even just someone who has been to one of the sites they will study but I am not positive that I will be able to make this happen. I am definitely going to try but don’t want to set the bar so high I will never attain it! (On a side note, the first societies we will look at are Egypt and Mesopotamia, if you know or are an expert, lets chat!)

On my way

The plotting…. I mean planning… begins. I have a bit of time as we have just started a unit that I would like to finish before implementing this project but the learning about blogging will likely start sooner than our actual unit of study.

Have you used blogs in your classroom? Where did you host them? Do you have any suggestions or know of any “experts”? Let me know in the comments!