Don’t make Assumptions about Learning Technology Awareness

There are so many available tools to assist learning and technology that it is important to remember that not everybody knows them all. This post features a brief report by a colleague who attended a workshop in the USA. She admits to being not the most technologically aware of lecturers but you can read her surprise and delight that her contribution had a beneficial impact on a particular session.

Some background: Sabine McKinnon is Senior Lecturer in GCULead with a special interest in internationalisation. She is an active participant in the COIL initiative and this contribution comes from her recent visit to their annual conference in New York

COIL logo 1Introducing Padlet to the COIL community

I recently attended a workshop called Pedagogies, Technologies and Digital Worlds at the 7th annual conference of the COIL (Collaborative On-line International Learning) Center at the State University New York (SUNY). The COIL approach connects students and staff in universities in different countries through using technology in the subject specific teaching.
Academic colleagues collaborate on module design and delivery to enable their students to work together with their peers on a project/ topic in their field. Students communicate entirely on-line throughout the collaboration.

The workshop presented 3 activities that can assist academics in delivering the COIL experience and introduced us to tools we can use for delivering joint workshops on-line. The themes were: driving initial student interaction, forming a functioning team, and collaborating internationally.

As an icebreaker for the second activity we were asked to find an image on-line which would represent a learning tool we used in our childhood but is considered ‘old fashioned’ nowadays. I chose an old fashioned radio. We were then asked to post that image to the participants of the workshop and invite comments. The instructor asked us to post it to a reconfigured Doodle poll which seemed very clunky to me and everybody else.

It was then that I realised that ‘padlet’ would be the ideal tool for this exercise. I had only recently been introduced to it myself but have found it particularly useful and easy to use. When I asked “why don’t we use padlet?” there was silence in the room. Nobody had ever heard of it. Given that the audience consisted of international specialists in using technology for learning I was surprised. Within minutes everybody started using padlet and it worked beautifully. We could see each others’ images and comment on them. We got comments like ‘padlet is neat’ and ‘why didn’t I know about this before?’ After the workshop people approached me to thank me for the tip and said that discovering padlet had been the best thing about the conference.

Padlet has been around for some time now and may be better known as Wallwisher. There are many uses for it but one we are looking at in GCU is for preparing students for using social media in their learning activities. The traditional padlet( wall) is called free form and is really an electronic version of putting the dreaded post-it notes on to a board to record ideas and questions at workshops. (How many times have you photographed or ‘written-up’ such activity boards at the end of an event?). Using padlet makes this kind of activity readily available and can be embedded within your VLE (Blackboard in our case). It was successfully used in last year’s GCUGameson running on Blackboard’s open education platform.

The ability to change layouts however to either a grid (similar to Pinterest) or in this case, the stream version has further benefits. Staff and students who are reluctant or unwilling to use twitter can use and participate the stream layout to replicate a twitter stream. padlet3In padlet you can add comments, images and files so it is not only text just like….Twitter!

So if you have reluctant users of social media, it is possible to see  padlet as a stage in the move towards using  Twitter in learning and teaching. Now there’s another topic to be considered.


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