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

Searching Effectively with Google Search

Searching

We don’t need to memorize facts as we can search and find them online. We need to know how to access information that we want or need, how to evaluate the information that we find, use it as desired, and communicate it in ways that are useful and/or appropriate. This post is about step 1: finding information.

Creating a Google Search Query

I teach students about identifying keywords, because I think it’s useful for searching in directories and databases. Search engines tend to be a bit smarter, and are good at answering factual questions. So while it’s still important for children to be able to identify the keyword related to their question, it’s just as useful for them to phrase questions in such a way that the search algorithm returns useful results.

When starting a Google search, it’s as good a beginning as any to simply type in your question. Based on the results, you can refine your search using search operators.

Making Sense of Results

search results screen

1. Search Query
2. Featured Snippet
3. Search results
4. Knowledge Graph

You may notice featured snippets on some of your results pages. A featured snipped is a potential answer to your question, along with source information. There has been problems with the accuracy of featured snippets so it’s important to be a critical researcher, and not just trust the result in the box. Notice the feedback link at the bottom of the answer box; users can let Google know about their experience with the featured snippets.

Another element of Google Search results is the Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph a sidebar at the right side of the page which presents “information about objects in the real world” (Google). The Knowledge Graph is great for jump starting research, for learning more about a topic, and for finding new wonders/curiosities that you may not have known to ask.

Examples of Searches

Here are some of the searches that you can do with answers in an answer box. I’ve put the ones that I use the most frequently first. Try out the queries that interest you:

  • picture of public domain whale or picture of whale CC0 (or other animal)
  • thank you in finnish (try other words in other languages) or type translate to get a translation widget
  • weather in prague (or other location)
  • time in Ottawa (can also phrase as a question)
  • timer, 2 minutes timer or stopwatch
  • calories in an egg (replace for other food)
  • 3 euros in czk or 1 ft in cm (replace the number and the units; can also phrase as a question)
  • calculator (or enter in a calculation)
  • define data visualization
  • population of prague (or other public data)
  • BA853 (or other flight number)
  • PRG to YOW (or other airport codes)
  • prague to vienna
  • sunrise prague or sunset prague (or other location or zip code)
  • sweet potato nutrition or sweet potato facts (or other food)
  • where was einstein born (or other quick facts)
  • easter (or other public holiday)
  • how to bake beets
  • flip a coin
  • roll a die
  • attractions prague (or other location)
  • goog (or other stock symbol)
  • asthma (or other medical condition, works better at http://google.com rather than http://google.cz – try both)
  • fox origin (or other word)
  • my events or my reservations or my flights
  • show me my photos in march 2016 (if you use Google photos)
  • area of a circle (or other shape)
  • volume of a cube (or other solid)
  • y=x^2 (or other formula)
  • what does a cat say (works for 10 animals; no fox :()
  • metronome

And now for the fun queries:

  • askew
  • do a barrel roll
  • zerg rush
  • google in 1998
  • atari breakout (image search)

Note that I usually type my search query to be as short as possible.

search queries

Sources:

Spring Cleaning for your Mac

cleaning supplies

Sierra has included some new tools to manage storage on your Mac. However, if you have an earlier version of Mac OSX, these options are not available.  Cleaning your Mac is an important step in maintenance, and includes cleaning the hard drive, as well as the outside of your device.

Clean the Hardware

First off, turn off your computer and unplug it from power. Take your computer out of the case. Get a microfiber cloth, dampen it slightly, and wipe down your computer. You can also use the damp microfiber cloth on the screen. If you keyboard is extra dirty (I’ve seen some keyboards that I didn’t want to touch), use a soft toothbrush to get between the keys. Lifehacker explains that you can use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser if you computer is greasy. We also have some LCD cleaning foam in the Idea Lab. Here are the official cleaning instructions from Apple.

Update your Software

Now’s a good time to update your software as well. I usually recommend that people do security updates as soon as they come out. Update your apps in the App Store, as well as your operating system, if your hardware is compatible.

Also, clean up your login items, those are the applications that automatically open when you start your computer. Go to System Preferences | Users and Groups | Login items, and delete the items that you don’t want to automatically open when you start your computer.

Make Space on your Hard Drive

  1. It’s okay to delete apps that you never use on your laptop. You may have installed something for testing, or for a short time, and kept it installed. If you no longer need it, delete it. You can do that by dragging them to the trash can. For a cleaner uninstall, you could use an app like AppCleaner.
  2. Clean out your old photos and videos, remove duplicates, and empty your Photos’ trash.
    • export old photos to an external drive
    • save old photos to Google Photos or to iCloud with optimized storage turned on (only available in Mac OSX Sierra)
  3. Clean out your download folders. Either move files into Documents or delete them.
  4. Organize your desktop. Delete saved screenshots that you no longer need, and move files into folders in Documents. If you can’t see your desktop, it’s a good idea to clean it up. If you want to move a file but be able to quickly access it from the Desktop, make an alias to the file on the Desktop after you move the file.icon for alias
    • To make an alias, click on the file with two finders and select Make Alias.
    • Drag the alias (it’s not a real file, just a pointer to a file as seen by the arrow on it) to the Desktop
  5. Use an app like Disk Inventory X to see the size of folders, or use the Finder to find large files.

To use finder to find large files:

  1. Open Finder, 
  2. Go to File | Find (shortcut CMD – F)
  3. Change Kind to File Size.
  4. Set the minimum File Size requirement e.g. 100 MB

find large files gif

Back Up

Use Time Machine to back up your hard drive, or copy your necessary files over to a back up hard drive. It’s a good idea to schedule a weekly back-up time in your calendar. I encourage you do that now, if  you haven’t done it before.

Social Media, Apps and your Tween

tree of multimedia

child watching screenTechnology has been a wonderful addition to our world, with many great benefits. Those benefits have come bundled with dangers. In this series, I’ve outlined the benefits and dangers of several social media apps. I would like to encourage children to be safe in their use of technology.

When we use technology at school, we focus on educational uses, and give a lot of guidance and support to children. When they are using technology independently, it’s generally for short periods, and in close proximity to an adult. We hope that this document will highlight possible issues, and help parents and families implement strategies and practices to keep children safe when using technology.

The Benefits of Technology Use

Technology has brought some wonderful features that we all appreciate. We can keep in touch with family through Skype and Whatsapp, find childhood friends and catch up with them on Facebook, curate resources and share them with each other on Pinterest, create videos and share them on YouTube, keep in touch with family and friends through email, share photos on Instagram, create weblogs in Tumblr, and the list goes on.

For the tools that I’ve mentioned, there are thousands more with similar or extended functionality. As humans, we love to share, and we love to connect, both of which we can now do in many ways online. We understand that mobile devices, and computer technology have revolutionized communication, creation, and curation. This makes critical thinking extremely important.

The Dangers of Technology Use

When using new technology (computers, tablets, smart devices, etc.), we have to be careful to keep ourselves and other people safe. It is difficult to figure out how to do that, as the settings and options differ from app to app. New technology is confusing to many of us; we are not natives in that landscape.

We understand that there are dangers, but we have trouble pinpointing the exact dangers, and knowing how to keep ourselves and others safe. It is difficult because terms of use and privacy policies are long and difficult to understand, and we don’t use many of the tools that children use. We inhabit different spaces, and even when we inhabit the same space, we use the tools in very different ways.

Some of the online tools that are most popular with our children are Musical.ly, Instagram, Whatsapp, Skype, YouTube, and Snapchat. All these tools have great features, but what about the dangers?

Dangers comes from inappropriate content, contact, or conduct online. Are you aware of the attractions of each tool that your child uses, its benefits, and its dangers?

This list is made up of the most popular tools with children (under 13) at my school. Explore each of the tools that you or your children are interested in, from the list below.

General Advice for Making Online Use Safer

There are a variety of choices available to families around technology use. It is important for every family to think through the issues, and decide on the appropriate standards and agreements to guide the use of technology. Every family’s agreement and practices will be different, because families have their own individual dynamics and values. Here are some suggestions to make the use of technology, particularly the Internet, safer for children. The first five tips are important for all families. For the other tips, select the ones that are relevant to and appropriate for your family.

  • Know that it is impossible to make social media 100% safe.
  • Explore available privacy settings for online accounts and turn them on as appropriate.
  • Be aware of what your child is using and doing online, and offer support and guidance to help them make responsible choices. This could provide great opportunities for exploring technology together, and for conversations.
  • Create a set of agreements and standards for your family around the use of technology, social media, and the Internet.
  • Regularly review your family’s agreement, and revise as appropriate to the development of the child and the family’s context.
  • Agree on some simple responses to inappropriate content online, as appropriate for the age of your child, for example, escape out and tell an adult.
  • Have rules/agreements about where your child can use their device.
  • If you decide to allow your child to use social media apps that require users to be at least 13 years old, create a family account that your child can use, and actively manage the account.
  • Agree with your child on what apps they are allowed to use, and a process for discussing/selecting new apps that they may use.
  • Require that your child have permission before installing any apps, even free ones.
  • Make sure that you learn about an app before you give permission for your child to install it.
  • Turn on Parental Controls in iOS or Google Play.
  • Listen to your child’s point of view, and discuss the reasons for your decisions.
  • Charge devices in public/common areas overnight.
  • Do not give a smart, portable device to a child who is not up to the responsibility. For example, if your child needs lots of help being a good self-manager in the physical world, they will be greatly challenged to make safe and responsible choices online.
  • It is important to agree on what settings your child is allowed to independently change in social media, and other communication apps.
  • Safety first. Emphasize this with your child and encourage them to share challenges they encounter with technology, how they solve them, and what they need help with. Be calm, and don’t overreact in these situations.

Read previous posts in this series

Social Media Highlight: Snapchat

snapchat header

snapchat headerSnapchat Overview

Snapchat is a multimedia messaging app most popular with millenials and younger. While the site stared with individual users only, it has evolved to include companies and personalities. Users create an account, and follow other users. The unique feature of the app is that snaps are ephemeral in the app, of lengths up to 10s. Chat history is also deleted by default, and has to be saved if users want later access. Even the creator won’t be able to see the snaps in the future if they don’t save them to Memories. From memories, users can export snaps to their camera role, or move them to a My Eyes Only folder, where they are protected by a passcode. Snaps are photos or videos up to 10s in length. Each snap can have up to three geofilters added. In selfie mode, users can activate facial lenses that add features to the image, or modify the voice in a video. It is also possible to add captions and emoji to snaps. Once a snap is completed, the user can send it to a person, a group of people, or to Snapchat Stories. Snapchat Stories are like a newsfeed, where each of the snaps is viewable for 24 hours after it is added. Permissions for who can see the story is set in Settings. You can access snaps sent to you in Chat. In Stories, you can see all the stories of friends and people that you follow. You can also access Snapchat Discover to see other highlighted public stories, including those by external publishers. Some of these stories include articles as well.

Snapchat works on Android and iOS. The terms of use require users to be at least 13 years old to create an account. The app is rated 12+ in the iTunes app store, and Parental Guidance in the Google Play store.

Why Kids Like Snapchat

Snapchat’s is attractive to users because snaps self-destruct. This feels safer than uploading multimedia to spaces where they become part of the kid’s digital footprint. Geofilters and facial lenses make it fun to send snaps, and children feel like they can be more natural in that environment. Also, Snapchat is seen as an environment for the younger crowd, a place where there are few parents, with 85% of the users between 13 and 35.

Dangers of Snapchat

There is little danger of your child coming across unsafe digital content from people that they do not follow while using Snapchat. There are some publishers on Snapchat, and the content may be inappropriate for young children, but is unlikely to be porn. The danger of Snapchat is in how children use it, particularly in what they send and receive.

  • Children may share private information, or inappropriate snaps in Stories.
  • Kids feel safe using Snapchat because the multimedia disappears. They should know that it is possible for other people to capture the image or video before it disappears.
  • Although messages self-destruct, there are apps that let users replay or make copies of snaps, and screenshots are also possible.
  • Users can make calls, or video calls from the app.
  • Chat history is easy to delete.
  • The featured section shows stories from anyone, chosen by the app’s algorithm, and may have content that’s inappropriate for children.
  • Snap streaks may encourage users to be obsessed with the app.
  • Snapchat gets a bad rap for sexting.
  • Snapchat collects and uses your location for geofilters and other features.
  • Ads may feature content that is inappropriate for children.

Make Snapchat Safer

There are a number of possible settings in Snapchat to make it safer. Work with your child to explore those settings and enable them.

Read previous posts in this series