@LearnMooreStuff and I had a history-textbook-worthy Twitter battle yesterday over who would blog first about this amazing resource from @TechChef4U. Laura Moore graciously conceded (although I think she is secretly afraid that my light saber is more powerful than hers).
I love to use Padlet (formerly known as Wallwisher), and I’ve recently started to make my own backgrounds to organize the notes added to the board. Yesterday, Lisa Johnson (@TechChef4U) tweeted out an awesome resource that she is offering for free – 13 Graphic Organizer backgrounds to add as your Padlet wallpaper. That is truly an awesome deal! She even gives instructions on how to insert them.
If you want to make your own Padlet backgrounds, one easy way is to make one in Powerpoint or Keynote and save the slide as a .jpg file. If you check out this post from Cari Young, there is a video from The Organized Classroom that gives a tutorial for using slides to make desktop backgrounds – which could easily apply to making Padlet backgrounds as well.
Recently, I’ve used backgrounds in Padlet for mini-EdCamp type PD. Teachers add notes about what they would like to learn about, and then the notes can be sorted into sessions.
Padlet is such a versatile tool – device neutral and user-friendly. And, there have been two recent upgrades – an option to have a grid layout, as well as a Chrome extension. Now, thanks to Lisa Johnson, it has even more potential!
If you are reading this post because the title excited you, I am sorry to say that I do not know of a simultaneous back channel/polling app. This post is to request your help in finding one! I recently got a great comment on my post about using Socrative as a Back Channel. The commenter, a professor named Lisa Halverson, asked if I knew of any way to allow students to use Socrative or any app as a back channel while also having the ability to answer polls so the teacher could get a feel for understanding. It appears that Socrative only allows for a teacher to have one room/quiz going at a time. I can certainly think of some roundabout ways to achieve this (see below), but does anyone know of a tool that does this with less preparation required? If so, both Lisa and I would love to hear about it! If not, then one of you smart developer-types needs to get right on that!
By the way, Richard Byrne just did a great post on 12 great student feedback tools that you should definitely read if you haven’t tried one or if you aren’t happy with one that you use. As far as I can tell, though, none of these do the specific job Lisa and I require.
My roundabout solution? (Bear with me because I am an Apple girl – not sure how Android devices would work other than that I’m pretty sure they have browsers!) I would have all students use the browser to access Socrative for real-time quick feedback questions from the teacher. I would also have them add a second tab that has a Padlet (or even a shared Google Doc) to use as a back channel for timid students to ask questions or make comments. If you want to get really fancy schmancy, there are several apps out there, such as this one, that will split your browser (but the free ones do have ads). Rumor has it that the next iOS might allow you to split your screen so you can use 2 different apps at the same time – but we’d still like to have it all in one!
Regular readers may have noticed a few blog posts I have done this summer regarding an online class that I offered my students through Edmodo. This is the second year that some colleagues and I have gotten together to do this, and I thought I should share a little bit more about the project in case any of you might consider doing it for your own students.
The group of teachers involved in this particular enterprise are all elementary Gifted and Talented teachers in my district. We chose to create this program for free for our students, and are not paid to participate. Last year, 9 teachers volunteered their time. This year, there are 6 of us.
Each of us chose our own topics and length of the courses. We created a catalog, and sent it out to our students (3rd-5th graders) in April, giving them plenty of time to choose a course. Because there were fewer classes this year, we decided we would only be able to offer the program to our own students, rather than all 3rd-5th grade gifted students in the district as we did last year. Fewer students than expected signed up, so we extended the deadline and allowed them to sign up for a 2nd course if they were interested. We used a Google Form for registration.
By far, the “Programming with Scratch” class was the most requested. If you have read any of my posts about teaching students to code, then you know I am a huge proponent of introducing programming to elementary students. My belief that there is a desire to learn this amongst our young people was certainly reinforced by the number of people who signed up for this course, taught by my colleague, Kacie Germadnik.
Last year, I also taught a programming course – using Tynker. But I decided to go a different direction this year. After jumping into the Maker Revolution during the past school year, I saw many students enjoyed the opportunity to create in a variety of ways. So, I came up with “Make a Theme Park” as my class.
The premise was that the students would create imaginary theme parks, and would focus on one portion per week for four weeks. To motivate them, and because I am probably one of the least creative people I know, I thought I would invite some other talented people to give them some ideas each week and “judge” their creations.
I debated the judging part, I must admit. Just to be clear, the only prize was an Edmodo badge and a mention on this blog. However, I still struggle with the idea of external vs. internal motivation. I’ve asked for feedback from the participants now that the class is over, and I’m still getting responses. So far, though, they seem to like the judging aspect.
From past experience with Science Fairs and other huge home projects, I thought I would have two categories for each week – Family and Individual. My daughter and I posted projects in the Family category each week. No one else did. So, I guess 2 categories was a bit much…
The students posted their entries on a Padlet each week. This worked fairly well. They could post pictures and/or video. One recommendation I would make for videos is a little trick I learned after the first week. If you are using an iPhone to make your video, record in landscape with the home button on the right. Then your video won’t post upside-down or sideways on the Padlet. We did have problems with longer videos being posted on the Padlet, so you might want give students other options such as uploading to Google Drive or Dropbox just in case. The advantage of the Padlet was that the judges were able to see all of the projects in the same place.
Things that Went Well:
amazing creative ideas and use of many types of materials and media (from using Scratch to compose a theme song to muffin pans and wrenches)
great input and feedback from our guest judges
a purpose and outlet for students that hopefully showed them ways to be producers rather than mindless consumers over the summer
I was able to monitor and post to the class even when I was, myself, away on vacation!
Things that Didn’t Go Well:
a lot less students ended up participating than who had signed up for the course
there were a few issues with the mentors/judges using Edmodo as 3 of them had never used it before
uploading large videos to Padlet caused a bit of stress to some of the students
having a Family category
The feedback I’ve received so far from students who participated has been excellent. Of course, the number who signed up compared to the number who actually completed the course is not very encouraging. Is this a result of disinterest – or students who found it too difficult to fit it in with summer camps and family vacations? Should I open the course up to even more students next year, or give it up all together? Should I offer more interaction between our guest judges/mentors – such as Google Hangout – or is that asking too much?
I would certainly welcome suggestions for improving the program. We will be getting feedback from the students and their parents as well. Knowing me, I won’t do the exact same thing next summer – but I think that I would definitely like to modify this course in a way that would encourage more participation. Please feel free to offer advice or ideas in the comments below!