I recently tried out Padlet (formerly Wallwisher) in a library instruction session for two sections of an English class as a lead-in to demonstrating the databases. I presented this as a brainstorming activity to think about their topics: what keywords they’d use, what related concepts/events they’d want to include and look up, etc.
- Customizable URL: padlet.com/wall/[yournamehere] kind of format. Easier to direct students towards than the default character mishmash. I set the walls to be accessible to anyone with the URL but not web-searchable.
- Apparently unlimited users have simultaneous access: good for having an entire class play with it.
- Real time updates: Students can see what their classmates have written on their own screens, and I had it called up on the projector as well.
- No accounts needed: This one is big. You can vary the accessibility of your walls to include editing abilities and whether accounts are needed. Students were able to add their own notes easily but would not be able to modify anything I put on the wall. Students also have the benefit of anonymity, enabling quieter students to participate easily as well.
- Images, text, links and event documents (PowerPoint, Excel, Word) can be embedded.
I initially tried to be cutesier with it, finding and embedding images relevant to topics the prof sent to me that had been approved, with the idea of having students find their topic and start their writing underneath the image. I decided against that at the last minute since not all the students had finalized their topics, and it seemed like it would make things a little confusing to tell some to start their own pictureless areas. I still demonstrated the ability to add multiple boxes (double-click the wall to get a new note space), which definitely confused some and led to some sloppiness on the wall.
As students came into the instruction lab, I had the URL prominently displayed (you can click on the boxes to enlarge them and use them like presentation slides) and told them to get signed in and go to that URL. I also had a bit.ly version of the URL.
The results of the 8 am class
Second class (about 2x larger than the first) went more smoothly. Students wrote their topic in the title section of the note and listed their brainstorming thoughts. I circulated among the computers talking to each student to help those who were getting stuck.
Results for the 10 am class
You can see that it got a little messy in laying out the blocks: they were trying to get things to fit into the main viewing area, though the workable area extends by dragging a note-block up against the edges. (It’d be nicer if that were made more obvious.) The students in this class seemed pretty positive about the experience (I forgot to ask the 8 am class for their opinions), and the prof especially was excited about it, already asking the students how they’d like it if she used Padlet for some other class postings (yay!).
I’m going to try making it a more collaborative experience when I next use Padlet: individual brainstorming like this was neat, but there wasn’t much more to be gained than if I just told them to open up Word docs, and the real-time updating & unlimited users were going to waste. I’m thinking of possibly putting up a single sample topic idea and telling the class to all brainstorm ideas related to it: less immediately useful to them as individuals, but gets them thinking of what they have to do for their own topics.
Alternately, and similarly to what I described above, explicitly encourage them to comment on their classmates’ topics if they have any ideas. Again, a real potential problem with messiness: this is where it’d be useful to have set areas for topics laid out for them so they know where to place comments. Might be better practice for an assignment with a limited number of topics that multiple students will write about. I suspect it wouldn’t work to try having 2 people editing the exact same note at a time, as well.