Wednesday, October 8, 2014


In this next installment of “really cool things I got to play with during EdTech” I will talk about Padlet. Essentially, Padlet is an online bulletin board. It lets you organize pictures, links, documents, videos, and nearly any other kind of file you want to post online. Like Google docs, you can invite others to view or edit your boards. You can also customize it in really snazzy ways so bonus point for visual interest.
In the classroom, this means you can have a survey you want your students to do, an article you want them to read, and a video you want them to want without sending them separate link. They can also collaborate and post stuff of their own if you give them the correct permissions. Apparently, my predecessor at my placement used it to organize a ton of lessons. However, this year my placement school is switching to Google Classroom, which serves many of the same purposes. I’m still exploring all of the differences between the two but here’s my current evaluation:
A lot of this comes down to style. For example, Padlet is its own thing. You can upload your own files of almost any kind. Google Classrooms is part of the Google Drive Family which can be good because it links to stuff like Google Sites. That being said, you can easily link a website on your Padlet. Google Classrooms is inherently structured while Padlet can be very relaxed in format.
Realistically, I will probably be using Google Classrooms later in the year to organize the content for my classes. It’s already part of the school system and it’s easily organized and more formal looking. On the other hand, for my own presentation on a tech program you can use in the classroom, in this case Audacity, we chose to use Padlet to make a group project. Why? Really, because it’s cooler. You can drag and drop even audio files and you can arrange the files in basically any order you want. It just feels more like a fun project than a formal school assignment.

Tech Survey Thoughts

After finishing a survey on the technology available at my teaching placement, I have come to the conclusion that I am really, really lucky. Firstly, the school I’m at has a lot of technological resources, my favorite being the Chromebooks we have in my classroom. However, all the tech in the world doesn’t help if you don’t have teachers and staff who know how to use it. I don’t necessarily mean knowing how to make a website or format a computer (although these skills are important), but knowing how tech can be a real tool rather than a gimmick used twice a year or for testing practice. From what I’ve seen, it takes a very flexible approach to teaching to really make full use of tech. Days we use the Chromebooks in class often don’t look like any other class I’ve been in. For example, Mr. Brater, my mentor, will have students pull up an online lesson plan on Google Classroom, then have each student work at their own pace, filling out surveys, reading articles or watching videos. Students can get a lot of information in a way which may suit them better than lecture. Of course, this is usually followed up the next day with a more traditional looking lecture/discussion session. He also lets students choose from a list of articles or videos and pick one to view and discuss later. This means that the “smart kids” can’t explain all of the reading and makes the students rely on each other (and do their own work).

Filling out the survey made me realize the physical resources we have, everything from video editing software to computer labs, but more than that, I realized the commitment to tech this school must have. My school is pretty middleclass, and not in the kind of school district which you expect to have a lot of tech (another thing that surprised me while filling out the survey). I know that Mr. Brater and Mr. Hughes had to start a campaign to get the Chromebooks. Before the school year started, we had a PD session which focused on using Google Apps. It was…. dry. However, it’s hard to argue its usefulness. I can really see the value in having the staff on the same page so that calendars, lesson plans, goals, surveys, etc. can all be shared easily. This is why I’m lucky, not just because of the physical resources available here, but also the human resources, people who make an effort to bring tech tools into the school in a meaningful way. And who are patient enough to explain to their peers, students teachers and students how to share that Google Doc about a hundred times. (Thanks Rory!)