Saturday, October 4, 2014

Technological Tools: Padlet

As a young grad student, many other teachers assume that I know everything there is to know about technology and how to use it in the classroom. This is far from the truth. There are many technological tools about which I know next to nothing, let alone how to best use them in the classroom. Recently I listened to a presentation on Padlet, a pinterest-like wall where teachers can post announcements, resources, and assignments for their students. We were then given the opportunity to create our own padlet. I loved this portion of the presentation (hands on learning is the best) and felt that though they were allowing us to explore on our own, they had sufficiently scaffolded our knowledge prior to setting us free.

As I developed one for my Economics class I learned through experimentation, becoming familiar with the new technological tool and how I could best utilize it. I liked a lot of its features - the colorful wallpaper designs, the privacy settings, the potential to add links to other sites, and the various ways in which to format the layout. However, as I created my own padlet I noticed that it lacked the ease of simple folders containing new information. Instead for every new page (assignments, comments/questions, resources, etc) you had to create a new padlet. Pretty soon I had a padlet within a padlet within a padlet. It was like inception with padlets. This structure frustrated me and despite the advantages of padlet, I don't think that I could organize it to my satisfaction.

However, after allowing us to play around with the padlet application, the group presentation continued on to show a few other ways to use padlet and I was struck by the use of padlet solely as a page for resources. In this way the padlet page functioned very much like a pinterest page, but it was colorful and would be easily accessible for students. By creating a padlet with simple links to various resources there would be no need to create a padlet within a padlet. I can definitely see myself creating a padlet full of information for students to use - everything from sites to help with creating a works cited, to finding resources for research papers, to interesting news articles.

As much as I love the idea of using technology in the classroom, I need to be careful to use it only when I think it will be convenient and purposeful. Otherwise what should have been a useful tool becomes a hindrance to organization and learning. Though I probably will not use padlet on a daily basis for my classroom, I think that using it as a resource page for students could be very helpful and I am excited to have learned about a new technological tool. I was impressed with the presentation and I look forward to learning about more new technological tools soon!

Be the Inspiration, Not the Information

"Why do we have to do this?" "What's the point?" "Do we have to?" These questions are all too familiar for teachers. Students protest new assignments and teachers use the old carrot and stick method to get them to do their work. The issue of student engagement with school assignments is constantly debated, particularly how to get students engaged with the material. I remember other students asking these questions in high school (and asked them myself). Now, as I stand in front of a class as a teaching intern I hear students asking me these questions and the issue of student engagement has suddenly become very real. 

Luckily, I am in an awesome program with some wonderful resources for me to utilize. Recently, a guest speaker, David Theune, gave a presentation during one of my classes. His experiences with motivating students to write showed me that there are various ways to engage students, but that perhaps the most important is purpose. When students ask "What's the point?" they are truly feeling the lack of purpose in their writing. David remedied this situation by introducing real audiences and purposes for his students' writing. He spoke of six new audiences for his students' writing: parents, the world, local non-profits, younger in-district students, peers, and allowing students to choose who their audience would be. 

The idea of allowing students to write for a real audience was a novelty for me. During my own high school career I wrote papers that were intended for specific audiences, but they were never shared. We were just told to write "as if" we were addressing a certain target audience. However, it makes logical sense that sharing your work with the intended audience would incite a sense of ownership in your work and thus a desire to do it well and take pride in it. It seems like such a simple change - have students actually share their work in order to get them engaged - and yet I am somewhat ashamed to admit that it hadn't occurred to me before David's talk. 

Though organizing these assignments and chances for students to share their work with audiences can be difficult, David understands that engagement is vital to students' success. In fact, he said "only engagement can produce mastery" and was willing to go to great lengths to insure that students had the opportunity to feel purposeful and thus engaged with their work. He invited parents to come into the classroom to read/hear students' work, set up live streaming in the classroom to share lessons with peers, and used writing for local non-profits as an opportunity for students to learn and get involved with the community. These types of experiences must be tough to organize, but incredibly rewarding for both students and teacher. He mentioned that, with his students doing more of the work in gauging their audience, perfecting tone and structure, he was no longer just a fountain of knowledge, pouring information into their brains. Rather, he was allowed to be "the inspiration" for students. I hope that I too will be able to use what I have learned to engage students and become "the inspiration, not the information."