Friday, August 28, 2015

Five Ideas for Using Padlet in the Classroom

Padlet is a web tool that works like a collaborative piece of virtual paper, and each paper is called a Padlet Wall. Users can add text, photos, videos, links, or even documents from their devices if they simply have the link to Padlet Wall. With the addition of an ios app this month, Padlet can be accessed on virtually any device.

By default, Padlet Walls are public, but the owner of a Padlet Wall can restrict access to invited collaborators only, add a password to a wall, or simply make it public yet hidden from public searches. For added security in the classroom, Padlet users can turn on the moderation option to require approval for posts before they are added.

With all of these security features and no login required, Padlet is a wonderful tool for the classroom with so many possibilities! Here are a few ways teachers and students might use it:

1. Exit Ticket or Bell Ringer
If you're trying to gather responses from all students quickly at the beginning or end of the class period and want to go paperless, Padlet can be a great option. Simply post the prompt or exercise to the Padlet Wall, share the link with students, and collect all the responses in one spot! If you don't want students to see all the responses already posted, simply turn on the moderation feature. You then can approve all the posts at once when students are done.

2. Virtual Bulletin Board
Even better than a traditional bulletin board, Padlet will allow you to add videos and links to the traditional text and pictures of bulletin boards. You can choose one of Padlet's fun backgrounds or even upload your own background image to make it visually appealing, and you also have options for adding your posts--grid, list, or free form style. For even more fun, you could post the virtual bulletin board to a class website to share with parents too!

3. Content Curation
Whether you're gathering a list of websites and resources for a paper or research project or looking for someplace to house completed student projects, Padlet is a great place to gather information. Teachers could post a list of approved resources for a given project, or students researching the same topic can add links, articles, videos to share with the group, saving time and allowing for true collaboration. Even better, when projects are completed, teachers could create Padlet Walls to showcase the student work, adding links or photos and descriptions of projects that aren't shareable in other ways.

4. Virtual Posterboard
Instead of finding someplace in the classrooms to display posterboards for each student project, combine the advantages of #2 and #3. A Padlet Wall could become the posterboard with great backgrounds and links and videos, plus another Wall could house all of the student projects! With the ability to upload your own background image and add free form posts, the background image could even become interactive and explained through the posts!

5. Seating Chart
This is one of my favorite activities for the first day of school! Our student management system does not allow us to create those fancy seating charts where we can re-arrange the student photos as needed; we're stuck with an alphabetical list of names and faces in pre-set rows. To make one anyway, I ask students to title the post with their names, take a selfie, and add two things about themselves on Day 1. This way I have their current photo with the name (they never look like the pictures from last year!), and the free form option allows me to rearrange the Wall into my crazy seating configuration when they're done!

How have you used Padlet in the classroom? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Make the Metamorphosis Happen!

I woke up this morning with a plan--I was taking my boys to preschool and spending the day working in my classroom. After all, school begins in just one week! I have lesson plans to make, Google classrooms to set up, and a bulletin board I intend to change before my students arrive! As I reached into my jewelry box and pulled out this butterfly necklace, I was overcome with emotion as I recalled the story of my husband giving me this gift!

We had been trying to conceive for over two years, complete with all the frustration, medical testing, and experimenting that goes with that territory. We were trying something new that month, hopeful we would be celebrating in a couple of weeks. I was also wrapping up my fourth year of teaching, and I had an amazing group of French 4 students. These students had grown in their language skills as I had grown as a teacher, and we had all made amazing progress on our journey together! Five years later, I still get Facebook messages and emails from them; we're that close! While my students did not know I was carrying this burden, they did know I had been more stressed than usual and had expressed concern. One student (who had spent ten days in France with us on a school trip) even approached my husband after a school event  to ask if I was ok!

Mother's Day happened to fall in this time frame of waiting, wondering, and stress as well. It would be just a few more days until we knew if this latest trial resulted in a pregnancy, and my husband surprised me with a present that Sunday. As I opened the little box to find this necklace, he explained that a butterfly was the perfect pendant for me. Whether we were pregnant at that moment or not, he continued, he knew I would be a great mom. I had chosen a career where I took on new "kids" each year, nurtured them, helped them, and taught them.  They made me laugh, cry, lose sleep, and feel proud of all they accomplished as they progressed. I was always worried about them and if I could do more to help them learn and grow. If I'm able to take my "caterpillars" and turn them into "butterflies" with just fifty minutes each weekday in a classroom, he finished, he knew I would do wonders for our children. Needless to say, I was a blubbering mess as he helped me fasten the chain around my neck (and I was pregnant!). The perfect necklace as I get back in the routine of school and the mindset of the new academic year!

So, if you're back in the classroom already or still preparing like I am, I challenge you to remember that we are planning, guiding, and aiding in a metamorphosis for each student who walks through our doors this year. They're all at different stages, and some of them are stubborn and would stay caterpillars if we allowed it. Some have more support for the transformation at home than others do. Some will already have their wings, and it's our job to help them fly farther, faster, and longer. As teachers, we have the gift of helping this metamorphosis for not only our own children but also all the "kids" we take on this journey each year. Remember that it IS a process and support it all you can as you watch them build their cocoons and unfurl their wings!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

We're All a Model to Someone

I took my sons, four-year-old Ryan and two-year-old Liam, shopping for new tennis shoes this week. We're fortunate to live near a shoe store that measures their feet and offers a 13 week guaranteed fit (which I have taken advantage of!). Ryan spoke up to be measured and try on shoes first when the salesman approached. Like a pro, he held still for the measurement, waited patiently as the salesman collected several pairs his size, and returned. After selecting two green pairs, he settled on his favorite.

And then it was Liam's turn. He wiggled around for the measurement, so it took twice as long as it should have. Worse, he then had to wait for the salesman to return while his brother was already wearing new shoes! As he began to tear up, his big brother put his arm around him and told him to be a big boy and not to worry; "that man will be right back with cool shoes!"

The salesman returned, and opened a box to reveal red tennis shoes. Liam squealed with delight and clutched them to his chest. The second box held a pair of blue shoes, which received oohs and aahs, but the red shoes remained clutched in his little hands. The third box contained a pair of green shoes (which looked a lot like big brother's!), and my little guy immediately cast the red shoes aside and had his mind made up, without ever putting them on his feet! Naturally, we left with two pairs of green tennis shoes on two pairs of little feet!

One of the final chapters of What Connected Educators Do Differently by Todd Whitaker, Jimmy Casas, and Jeffrey Zoul on modeling the way for other educators ends with "what we model is what we get," a sentiment that rings true for all ages and stages, as my sons reminded me this week. Ryan modeled appropriate behavior and reassured his younger brother at the shoe store; and, as he has his whole two years of life, Liam looked to his older brother as an example to match (hence the green shoes).

As I prepare to formally begin the new school year with my fellow teachers in one week and to greet my students in a week and a half, I'm reminded of the power of modeling. Often, we forget we have chosen a life as an example to others by choosing a career in education. Our fellow educators are looking to us to model new ideas, out-of-the-box thinking, connecting, risk-taking, and a positive attitude. We can be a major factor in the attitude of our fellow educators by modeling the behavior we wish to see in others. We often discuss the state of morale in a building or the school climate and culture, but what are we doing to change it? Are we modeling the way?

Likewise, we are always a model to our students, so we must be mindful of how we approach teaching and learning. Is it a job or a passion? Are the skills and standards we teach important enough to master, or do they exist solely for the test? Do we place our importance on students or on data? Are students going to sit in compliance on the first day of school or will they create and learn? Students know the difference between an educator "putting in her time" and an educator who puts her time into teaching! Which one will you be this year?

Will educators and students look to you as someone they want to be like this year? Will they want green shoes too? How will you model what you want to see?