Another nagging feeling I often experience is, “what am I missing?” I teach the kinds of courses in which students have at least some experience with the content. At the doctoral level, they of course have considerable experience. I’ve written before here about the benefits of eliciting students’ contributions to course readings and topics. These kinds of contributions can also come up during a class session to extend or enhance the materials that students can access to further their learning.
I’ve found one very simple and flexible tool that I use to counter both of these challenges – Padlet. Padlet is a virtual cork board that can be accessed and added to very easily by any number of users on laptops, mobile phones and tablets. This free and easy to use tool offers many possibilities for the instructor. You can create and distribute the link to one or more “walls,” or virtual cork boards to use in your class. If you create a free account on the site, you can retain the ability to archive and update these walls as students work with them. The students do not have to create an account, they simply visit the link you provide via a Web browser and then click anywhere on the board to add a note. In their notes they can include text, links, images, and attach files. As the creator of the board, you can then rearrange the notes on the wall, delete them, or edit the content. There are a number of additional features, but this will help you to get a sense for what you can do with the tool.
For a helpful video overview of Padlet by Richard Byrne on his excellent blog, Free Tech for Teachers, click here. For a few quick ideas for capturing students questions and contributions, read on.
Capturing Students’ Questions and Contributions
- Encourage students to post questions from readings prior to class
As students encounter questions leading up to class from readings and other materials, you can encourage them to post a question on the class Padlet wall. If they see the same or similar question already posted to the wall, they can add their own note just below the original note indicating they have the same question using the word “second” or “ditto.” In this way, you will get a sense for the questions that most arise. You can then prepare for class by reviewing the wall and anticipating questions prior to class.
- Ask students to post questions during class
The best time for a student to ask a question is just when it occurs to them. It may be in the middle of a lecture, discussion, video, or student presentation. They may be hesitant to interrupt at just that point. Unfortunately, if they don’t ask it away, they are likely to forget. To counter this, you can encourage students to post their questions during class on the wall. You can then either review them as students are working in small groups, just before dismissing the class, or in preparation for the next class meeting. Whenever you review them, at least you will not have missed this opportunity.
- Capture resources and experience on the class wall
As you move through a class session, you can encourage students to post ideas, experiences, or links to resources. Padlet is uniquely suited to this, as students can post, link to, or attach a variety of types of resources. As you review these contributions, you can determine whether you want to incorporate them into the formal course resources for the rest of the class.
- Use the wall as an “exit pass”
In K-12 education, teachers often conclude a class with an “exit pass” activity. Prior to leaving, students are required to jot down a question, a new insight, a new resource, or a topic they’d like to explore further. They then submit these to the teacher as they exit the class. This can be similarly accomplished using Padlet. You can reserve the last 2-3 minutes in class to encourage students to access the class wall and post one of these kinds of responses. If you use a similar prompt to the one above, you can ask students to post their response to a corresponding quadrant of the wall. For example, questions should be posted to the upper left hand corner, etc. This quick activity helps you to capture both questions and contributions in a very efficient and effective manner.
Is there a different strategy or tool you use to capture students’ questions and contributions?
Please post your comments below.