Friday, March 21, 2014

Class Collaboration > Class Discussion with Padlet

Class discussions are always valuable, but only for the students who participate in them. I suppose some shy students who would rather listen benefit from hearing the discourse, but the maximum learning experience occurs for those students who are part of the give and take. And neither of these roles is as valuable as being part of a collaboration.

Padlet has allowed me to assure 100% participation while giving students to time and space to think carefully about what they want to contribute before it is published to their classmates. It provides a space for them to collaborate, rather than just discuss.  Here are a few scenarios in which my students have benefited from pooling their ideas on Padlet before anyone speaks out loud.

Share What They've Learned from a Reading


My 9th graders were recently learning about Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, the famous tsars of Russia. Rather than assign long primary source readings that can feel overwhelming, Jessica Bailey, a colleague, put together excerpts from various sources that explained the leaders' backgrounds, ideas, and actions throughout their lives. Instead of going around the room and asking students to share what they'd learned one by one (an activity that typically results in a rather monotone anticlimactic discussion) Jessica's idea was to have them post a brief explanation of what they learned.  For fun, they were asked to add a clever hashtag as well. I had them make these posts on a Padlet instead of on the classroom wall.  Students knew what they posted would be seen publicly on the Smart Board at the front of the room, so they thought carefully about what they added. When all had posted we had a brief review discussion, sorted/organized their posts, and students took notes. Everyone participated because they had been given the time to think about their word choice.
In a completely different activity, my 10th graders designed and carried out their own scavenger hunt around our school last week. At each stop along the hunt they learned about a different major battle of the Civil War. The goal was for them to notice trends in who dominated in each theater of war and which strategies were most successful in battle.  Once everyone had completed the scavenger hunt and had all of the information, it was a big task for them to analyze all of the data they'd accumulated. Some students noticed certain trends that others missed. In this situation, a class discussion would help them learn from one another, but not everyone would raise a hand to speak up.  I asked them to post on Padlet. After everyone had posted something, we had a discussion in which students explained their posts and we sorted them into categories.  
Later at home, they referred back to the Padlet to help them write their own reflective blog posts.

  • Ellie went into great detail explaining how to make the scavenger hunt for mobile devices. She provided links to and screenshots of the Padlets that show her class collaboration and discussed what she learned.
  • Andrew explained the process of creating and executing the scavenger hunt, embedded the class Padlets right into his post, and then discussed what trends he discovered about the Civil War as a result of the activity.
  • Juliann also explained how the scavenger hunt was carried out, but what was most impressive were her historical conclusions and the way she used specific battles as evidence to back them up.

Creating a Class eQuilt


Caroline Allison, another fantastic colleague, put together some articles from the New York Times Disunion Series about both the traditional and non-traditional roles women took on during the Civil War. Her idea, which was inspired by the Civil War quilts exhibition at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA, was to have students read one of the articles and then create a quilt square on paper. They could be taped together on the board at the front of the classroom to create one larger class quilt and to help facilitate a discussion about how the Civil War was related to the women's rights movement in the 19th century. I wanted our quilt to be a bit more permanent and I wanted students to be able to refer back to it. I also teach three sections of this particular class and I don't have enough wall space for 3 quilts. Padlet was the obvious solution.


It was a great example of appsmashing and I posted the process on Twitter as we worked that day.
The results were a great way to get discussion going and ensure that every student had contributed an idea.

It All Starts With Professional Collaboration


By the way, you'll notice from what I mentioned in the post, that I am fortunate enough to work with other history teachers at Reading Memorial High School who share their ideas and are willing to let me use and adjust their resources and methods. Creative instructional design is much more difficult without this kind of professional collaboration. I count myself lucky to be working among competent and caring educators. We share, create, and work hard to bring what is best for our students to our classrooms every day. In fact, many of the lessons I've posted on this blog that integrate technology have their foundations in resources and ideas that my colleagues have so generously shared.  It is important for us to teach our students how collaboration can lead to great things in terms of their own learning and creativity in the classroom.  This post on new uses of Padlet is just one example of how this cooperation and lead to great things.