App Spotlight: Padlet

padlet logo

Overview

Padlet is a digital canvas where you can create, create, and collaborate. It’s one of the most popular tools with my colleagues, and I’ve used it for years, since its previous incarnation as Wallwisher. It’s a freemium product, with a version for schools called Padlet Backpack.

Using Padlet

To use Padlet, it’s best to create an account. You can sign up with a username/password combo, or by connecting your Facebook or Google account. This gives you a personal profile, which includes a public feed of your padlets, as well as any biographical information that you’ve added to your account. If you don’t create an account, make sure you save the links for any padlets that you create, and to finish editing their settings within 24 hours.

When you create a new template, you can select one of five formats, or convert between formats:

  • Wall which uses a “brick-like layout”, when order doesn’t matter
  • Canvas which lets you arrange content and create connectors within them, for trees, mind-maps, flowcharts, brainstorming, etc.
  • Steam for a vertical organization of content, to make lists, reports, blog posts, etc.
  • Grid for rows of content, useful for storyboards, noticeboards, etc.
  • Shelf for columns of content, each independently scrollable, e.g. compass point activity, introductory padlet.

You can create a padlet from scratch, using a template, or by modifying an existing padlet which allows copy, and you can decided whether or not others can remake your work as a template. There are a variety of wallpapers to choose from. Themes are also available in the premium version. For each padlet, you can set a custom link address.

template choices

Template choices

 

There are options for visibility: Public, Secret, Password-Protected, Private or Organization Wide (premium feature). You also decide permissions for users: read-only, write, moderate, admin. Posts can show up instantly, or you can turn on moderation. You can manage posts by other users, and edit, transfer, copy, or delete them. Also, at any point, anyone can export a Padlet as a pdf, csv, image or Excel file. They can also share it on social media, or embed it elsewhere on the web.

post to padletPadlet lets you add posts to the board, using links, photos, video, documents, music, voice recordings, and other file types. You may also be able to comment on other posts, depending on the settings of the padlet.

Padlet has integrated search, which lets you find your own padlets, or to search for padlets on specific topics.

Padlet Backpack

I haven’t used the premium product, but according to the Padlet website, it offers the following features:

  • user management and access control
  • more privacy
  • extra security
  • branding
  • school-wide activity monitoring
  • bigger file uploads
  • controlled environment
  • support

Great Features

  • Support for multiple languages
  • Easy to collaborate in the space
  • No signup required to post
  • Upload files from your computer, or embed from the web
  • Attached links and files have previews right in Padlet
  • Links are automatically recognized and hyperlinked
  • Real time updates of the padlet, or focus mode which lets you decide when to refresh the content
  • Copy posts within one padlet or from one padlet to another
  • Automatically create a QR code for your padlet

Tips

  • Use an organizational tool like a Venn Diagram or T Chart as a background to help you organize posts
  • Install Extensions for Chrome, Firefox, or Safari to quickly add web content to your padlets, or install the Chrome App for easy access
  • If students are posting without an account, have them put their name in the title of the post

10 Ideas to use Padlet in the Classroom

  1. Make a list of resources for your students, color coded by topic, or reading level.
  2. Have students create a wall as a presentation on a topic
  3. Create a padlet for collaborative brainstorming
  4. Collaboratively create a question and answer board with students
  5. Create a video playlist for a course
  6. Create a booksmarks board for a class
  7. Have students post reviews of books that they are reading
  8. Post a daily message/question to students that they can respond to
  9. Create a weekly “newsletter” for parents, curated by students
  10. Have students create showcases/portfolios of their work

Devices Supported

Padlet works on iOS, Android, Kindle, and on the web.

Padlet with Kids

Padlet allows use by children under 13, provided that schools take the steps needed to comply with their local laws. In the US, this means respecting COPPA and FERPA, and either consenting on behalf of parents, or getting parental consent before sharing any personal information about children.

Resources

Using IT Integration Walls in the Classroom

IT Integration Walls

An IT Integration wall is a great way to support student use of technology for learning in the classroom. You can take many different approaches to creating the wall. One approach is to create a poster of Just Right resources for your grade/students. Here’s an example from a Grade 2 classroom.

IT integration poster

Just Right Resources

In elementary school, we use the concept of “Just Right” apps and websites to help children understand that some websites are appropriate for children, while others are not. Students use bookmarks and QR codes to get to websites appropriate for use in the classroom.

This Grade 2 teacher included instructions of how to use Dropbox, as well as QR codes to resources for the current unit. The space can be as big, or as small as you want it to be. Involve students in the creation process, especially at older grades. If you or your technology coordinator has created instructions for using technology resources, incorporate these resources into the integration wall.

Managing the Wall

Implement the wall at the beginning of the school year, so that students get in the habit of solving problems themselves, and with the help of their peers. Have sections of the wall that will be useful throughout the year, as well as more dynamic sections that change with the unit or term.  Here are some ideas of how to involve students:

  • Have students submit a few websites that can be added to the wall.
  • Model the process for deciding if a site or app is Just Right, and involve students in the decision.
  • Invite students to create instructions for common tasks, to post on the wall.
  • Provide space and opportunity for student to identify their expertise and offer assistance to peers.
  • Track how often different resources are used on the wall, to know what to leave and what to replace. It could be a student’s job to analyze the use of resources.

Read & Write Extension for Accessibility in the Classroom

rw gdocs

Overview

rw extensionRead & Write is a family of tools to improve accessibility of digital resources to all students. As part of this suite, there is a free Chrome extension for teachers. Otherwise, the premium tools are free to use for 30 days. Read aloud and Translation continue to work in Google Docs after premium access expires.

The features of Read and Write include text to voice, dictionary support for digital text, word prediction during writing exercises, and study skills tools to support students in their research. The features work in web pages, as well as in documents saved in Google Drive. There is a handy toolmatcher that determines the appropriate tools in Read and Write for the particular student situation. If you check all the possible accommodations, you get the results below. You can download the results in a Microsoft Word format, which could be useful for documentation in an Individual Education Plan, or Student Support Program.

read and write tools

While I have just highlighted the accommodations for students, the Read and Write extension is also useful for teachers. One of the features that I find the most useful is voice comments/feedback to students. You can insert a voice comment right into a Google document, instead of text. Each recording has a 60 seconds limit. The sound recording saves to Google Drive, and presents to students as a link that they can click to listen. To use the extension after the 30 days trial period, make sure to register as a teacher.

1 minute recording saved voice comment

Dashboard

There is no teacher dashboard to manage this tool with the Google Chrome extension. It is a tool that is meant to improve accessibility and provide support for creating and reading digital text.

Grade Levels

Read & Write in general, and the Chrome extension in particular, can be used at every grade level.

Why use Read & Write

Read & Write is great for supporting students learning a second language, and students with special rights in the classroom. It is also useful for teachers, due to its integration with Google Drive, for teachers to provide feedback to students.

Features of Read & Write in the Classroom

Not all the tools in this help page are available in the Chrome Extension. The link is useful for finding out more details about each of the tools labelled below.

rw tools screenshot

Top image from toolbar in Google Doc; Bottom image from toolbar on webpage

Main Uses

  • text to speech
  • speech to text
  • voice comments
  • read aloud
  • translation
  • dictionary and picture dictionary

Platforms

Note that you must be connected to the internet to use this resource. It is available for the platforms generally used in schools:

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Android
  • iOS
  • Google Chrome

Subject Area

All

Professional Learning

Login integrations

Users of the Chrome extension log in with their Google account.

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Better Search with Google

Google search box

Google is the most common search engine in the world. It’s likely that you used Google the last time that you wanted to look up something. How good are your search skills when using Google’s search engine?

9 Tips for Searching using Google Search

  • use the most accurate words possible in creating your query
  • ignore case and aim for correct spelling, but Google will suggest alternate spelling
  • put @ in front of a word to search social media
  • put # in front of a word to search hashtags
  • put in front of a word you’d like to exclude from the search e.g. -metal
  • use quotation marks to find an exact match e.g. “prague spring”
  • use OR to search for one of two or more things e.g. prague OR paris
  • use site: to search within a site e.g. site:.cz to find Czech websites
  • search for a file type e.g. filetype:pptx to find PowerPoint files

Quick Search Features in Google Search

Things that you can do in the Google search box (or the Chrome Omnibox):

  • define Omniboxtype define in front of  a word to get its definition
  • type weather and the name of a city to know the weather in that city e.g. weather prague
  • perform calculations by typing a formula
  • perform unit conversions e.g. 200 eur in usd

Bonus Search Tips

Make it all the way to the end for the rapid fire sharing!

Continue reading

Newsela in the Classroom

Overview

Welcome Back, Teachers. from Newsela on Vimeo.

Newsela is primarily an online news site that provides access to high-quality news articles, each of which is written at five different reading levels. The original article is presented as the highest Lexile level.

Newsela has integrated features that allow assessments by teachers. As users read a story, they can annotate the content for deeper engagement with the material to develop understanding. They can also take a four questions quiz after reading the article to check for understanding. Teachers may also assign a writing prompt to students. Students store their assessments into binders, where they can later review their work. Teachers can see class data in aggregate with the free features, and have to upgrade to Pro for individual student information.

Newsela organises news articles into different categories, including Science Law, Math, Arts. The news are curated from sources such as Associated Press, the Washington Post, The Guardian, Scientific American, Smithsonian, Atlas Obscura, AlJazeera and others. Many of the news stories have been translated into Spanish as well. Although news is the primary resource on Newsela, there is also a library that includes primary sources, biographies, famous speeches, myths and legends, etc. Newsela also organises content into text sets which curates material from the website around a particular central topic or theme. Teachers can use existing text sets or curate their own text sets. Teachers can also access and used “paired texts” which are made up of two articles on a theme or topic. The writing prompt for paired texts requires students to use evidence from both texts.

Dashboard

Teachers set up students into classes in Newsela and select a reading level for each student. The system is responsive and adjusts a student’s level after 8-10 quizzes.

Grade Levels

Newsela is meant for use in Grades 2 – 12. Newsela elementary mirrors the parts of the main site that are for elementary school students. The premium option is called Newsela Pro.

Why use Newsela

Use Newsela to help students build background knowledge and vocabulary around a topic, and knowledge of current events. Provide differentiation in the classroom by letting students high-quality documents at their individual reading level, so that they can access the same content at a level appropriate to their individual progress.

How to Use Newsela in the Classroom

  • use articles and texts for students to develop background information
  • provide examples of concepts from the real-world
  • expose students to the real-world vocabulary around an issue
  • access additional information or context on a subject
  • use the five w’s or other frameworks to help children learning about their world
  • find articles that spark iTime explorations
  • explore the pros and cons of a controversial issue through news and articles
  • read articles related to personal interest

Main Uses

  • debates
  • persuasive and opinion writing
  • discussions
  • comparing and contrasting
  • summarising
  • reading and comprehension

Platforms

Subject Area

All

Professional Development

 There is a built-in learning and support centre, which provides a variety of resources, including sample lesson plans and information about how to use various features and articles in Newsela.

Adoption

According to the About page, it is used by over one million educators. Customers include Chicago Public Schools, Newark Public Schools and KIPP Foundation.

Login integrations

Google account logins available

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