Padlet: Premium Panic Put to Rest

Less than a month ago, I wrote a passionate ode to Padlet for my college pre-service teachers who really didn’t seem to “get” Padlet’s adaptable uses for the technology-infused classroom.  Over the past year, I have fallen in love with Padlet again and again as they have added so many great new features; it has morphed significantly since I began using it in 2012 when it was still called “Wallwisher”.padlet 2

So, you can imagine my dismay, when an email from #DitchThatTextbook, a blog that I follow, was advertising a podcast called, “What to do now that Padlet isn’t free”.  I went into panic mode, as I use Padlet quite frequently in a number of settings – with my high school students, college classes, PD sessions as an Instructional Coach, as well as many other general uses such as mini-travel blog!

When I finally logged into my Padlet account, I did heave a sigh of relief, as I read Padlet’s “Dear User” letter. They informed me that I had a limit of 53 free Padlets, and my current count was only 50. So, I could sign up for the Premium version at $8.25/month, or just keep my account under 53 Padlets.

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 10.24.16 PM.png

I’m sure you can guess which I chose! And honestly, it was pretty easy to delete a dozen ‘stale’ Padlets from courses that I haven’t taught in a few years, or class duplicates.

Check out the podcast by #Ditch That Textbook’s Matt Miller, as he explains some rationale behind Padlet’s move to Premium.

 In the end, I applaud the number of features that Padlet has maintained on their free side. Unlike recent pay increases from companies like Thinglink.com, who have made it nearly impossible to use with students without bucking up the cash, Padlet still has a giant “free” learning playground.

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Padlet reinvents itself…again

Every semester in my #EDtech class for pre-service teachers, I do a section called Interactive Systems. First they wear a “student hat” where we play with several easy access web tools that increase student engagement and student voice. The next step is creating a few questions in each program wearing a “teacher hat”. Poll Everywhere, Plickers, Kahoot!, Socrative, Wizer.me, Quizlet.live, Peardeck, SMART lab, Spiral.ac are among the sites we explore; into that mix I always add Padlet. padlet 2

Poor Padlet. Because it doesn’t have the ‘game’ feel of several other sites, most pre-service teachers are quick to dismiss it as the one they are least likely to use. Despite the low ranking it often receives, I always keep it on the list as it has capabilities that the others are lacking, AND it is constantly reinventing itself.

Padlet started out as Wallwisher. Its genesis was essentially an online bulletin board where different people at the same link could simultaneously post text and then read what others had written. Although many other platforms now offer the same capability, it was one of the first of its kind. If you have ever gone through the pain of 20, or even 10 different students physically writing a thesis statement on a whiteboard around the room, or even the Smartboard, you too would see Padlet as an astronomic improvement!

Polleverywhere, Socrative, Peardeck and Spiral all can mimic this “instant voice” capability, but the advantage that Padlet has long had, is that students can add images and Weblinks of their own. This means that participants can add research and data for all to access. Students can post a picture of their math solution, their drawing, or their favourite book, and then type an explanation defending their choice, or explaining their methodology.

Padlet is also extremely easy to access; all that is needed is the web link. Teachers can customize the URL to make it easier to type, and Padlet also auto generates QR codes to make getting to the link quick and painless. A few years ago, Padlet added the ability to create classes and have students “join”, just like most other sites. I have appreciated that they have kept the simple web link access available and I continue to have my classes access it without “joining”.

Now for the latest improvements.

  • Students can now add audio and video directly to a post. You could always upload a pre-recorded video, but now you just push the button and record, much like the fast-growing Flipgrid. No more struggling to type on a small phone screen! Great for young learners and ELL learners.
  • Padlet has added a drawing canvas. Students can draw a response, like Spiral, Nearpod or Peardeck. A super cool difference is that you can switch the canvas from a white to black background. Padlet adjusts the colours for great visibility as you switch back and forth.
  • A few months ago, Padlet added the capability to add comments to posts. This makes for a quick hack-blog platform, and is also great when students are using the Padlet board as a research gathering tool, as they can leave comments for one another.
  • You can now change the colour of the background of each post, similar to Google Keep. Think of the possibilities for sorting and ranking!
  • And to add more ranking, you can now ‘like’ or vote on posts. The moderator chooses the type of “reaction”that students will have access to: like, thumbs up/down, 1-5 stars, or a numeric grade

Constantly Changing Tech Tools – Part 2

CHANGE -headerAs I have been preparing for back to school in recent weeks, one of the things that I’ve noticed is that all of the trusty apps that I use in the classroom have been modified, updated and in many other ways reconfigured. Now, of course apps  always are being improved upon and modified as companies respond to user suggestions and requests. It does seem however that this year at back to school time, changes are everywhere and for a teacher who is busy getting ready for a new school year, learning or re-learning an app due to significant changes  can be somewhat overwhelming.  I almost dread opening an activity that I’ve previously prepared because I’m afraid I’m going to have to relearn the program before I can confidently use it with students!

So here are some of the changes I’ve noticed this fall to the ed tech tools I regularly:

#Edtech changes that have caused me great rejoicing!

  • Plickers has added folders! This is a HUGE improvement and just makes their tool easier to use. PlickerI used it with my 12th graders this week on an ideology survey and one student said, “We should just skip our other classes and keep doing this all day.”  This change addresses one of the challenges with Plickers that I previously wrote about: “The bursting of my Plickers bubble”
    • If you haven’t used Plickers before, my favourite feature is their real time graphs of student answers. You should check it out.
  • Remind is constantly making tweaks and improvements. Most recently,
    • they’ve again improved the clock system they use for scheduling
    • you can now add icons to help differentiate your classes
    • they now allow you to “edit” a participant’s name, but only once. Previously, when a student, despite being asked not to, entered your class as Donald Duck, the name change process was very cumbersome. This is a great improvement.
    • Remind has had their “chat” feature for a while now. It sure makes it convenient to connect with that student who has been absent for a few days.
    • Remind has also had stamps for quite a while.  As most  of my students use Remind via text message instead of using the app, I haven’t really put this feature to work, but I hope to give it a good work out with my college students this semester!
  • Socrative is much more useful that when I started using it years ago.
    Icon for Socrative Student app

    Icon for Socrative Student app

    I love the functionality of their “live results” feature. It was very powerful this week when we did an opening “Current Events Quiz” and students were asked to identify some continents.  When we looked at the live, (but anonymous) results, the students who had no clue where Asia was or couldn’t identify our provincial premier in a multiple choice question, quickly realized that they might need to start watching the news!

  • Padlet has added a feature that lets you follow “activity” from your teacher home page, as opposed to having to be in the open padlet to see what’s happening.  This would be especially useful if you use the link for people to add posts to over time, as opposed to using it with everyone at once.
  • Polleverywhere made lots of big changes last year…quite unexpectedly! I launched a poll that I had used several times before, but the access from iPads had changed! It was something I couldn’t work around on the fly, so I had to give up Polleverywhere for a while until I had time to sit down and “re-learn” and re-troubleshoot. I do love that multiple choice voting is now done by a single letter instead of random 6-number code, but getting students/teachers at PD to figure out how to “enter” is always surprisingly difficult!

#Edtech tool changes that cause my head to spin:

  • Kidblog has been working on a significant platform update since the spring. They’ve let users know it’s coming; users could eventually sign up to preview it, too. Now that it is a new school year,the roll over is complete, and all classes are now operating in the new mode.  Unfortunately, this is one of those big changes that turns your world upside down. I’m sure I’ll get used to the new configurations over time, but as I’ve been prepping for back to school over the past month or so I find that the changes are different, but not always an improvement.
    Trying kidblog.org to encourage peer review

    Trying kidblog.org to encourage peer review

    • I’m having recurring problems even logging in with a new class on the app on iPads, so when I introduced one of my classes to Kidblog this week, it was all through the browser.
    • Even though I had tested several student users in the class, when everyone tried to log in at once, only one of the pre-set passwords worked!  I had to go in while the students were waiting and recreate 30 passwords.
    • The invitation to use a header on student posts is a distraction, and the tag and category buttons are below the post, so many students posted without –out of sight, out of mind.
    • If students are finishing up a blog post on a home computer and forget the class url (and forget the 3 other places I’ve made it available!) they need their teacher email to access the class. There is even less of a chance they will know that!
  • Despite these frustrations, I am continuing forth with Kidblog. In fact, I’m even planning to use it as the blog platform in my college pre-service teacher course this semester (instead of having each student create their own blog on WordPress.)

Change is inevitable. Change is good. Too much at one time can be overwhelming.