Padlet is an extremely easy-to-use tool that allows learners to collaborate online and share images, links, documents, videos and voice recordings. And it’s free!
Padlet is an interactive noticeboard that you can set up at the click of a button. Log in, click on ‘Add’ and the page is ready to use. Simple! You can choose the background for your noticeboard from a wide selection or upload your own image. Students go to the address (in class or at home), double-click or tap on the page and post a message or file. The posts appear in real time as they’re added. And all this is free to use.
So, how exactly can you use Padlet? A simple activity is to get students to brainstorm vocabulary. Imagine you’re going to read an article on the topic of technology. You could ask students to go to the Padlet you’ve created and post three words or phrases they think will be in the text. The teacher can display the Padlet on the board in class while the students are adding ideas or when students have finished adding vocabulary, and elicit any corrections and check understanding of any higher level vocabulary. The students can use the vocabulary for discussion, e.g. Talk about your use of technology using as many words on the board as possible in 2 minutes. The students have now had vocabulary practice and are better prepared to read and understand the text.
There are many benefits to using Padlet for this task instead of brainstorming vocabulary to the board. Firstly, all of the students have to take part, rather than just the most confident or quickest learners. Secondly, the teacher can assess the students’ work much more easily because it’s all in one place. It doesn’t depend on the teacher having to see every word written down by every student while monitoring. Teachers can also see errors and take note of any interesting/useful/higher level vocabulary to highlight more easily. Another benefit is that you have a complete record of the vocabulary, which you can save and share in more than one format.
You could also ask students to share ideas before writing an essay, e.g. preparing a paragraph plan and commenting on other learners’ plans, or writing and sharing personal sentences using a particular grammar point, for example. Learners can use Padlet for homework activities, leaving more time for other activities in class.
Padlet allows users to share images, links, documents, audio and video files up to 25MB. One way a teacher can exploit this is to add links to a YouTube video or upload Word documents for the students to access and use in class or as a homework task. Students could also share their own files. Links and files appear with a preview to give learners an idea of what you’re showing them.
To work on speaking skills, the teacher can ask the students to record themselves, e.g. Talk about the best holiday you’ve ever had. This way, students can listen back and assess their speaking skills against criteria that you’ve agreed with them, e.g. I’ll use at least six superlative adjectives; I’ll use past simple irregular verbs correctly, etc. This kind of self-assessment can help students gain a greater understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Padlet allows the students to do this for homework and then share the recordings with the class. The teacher can then listen to the recordings or ask students to assess another student’s monologue against the agreed criteria. An alternative is to ask students to listen to three or four other monologues and say what they enjoyed about them for listening practice. The students can post their comments on Padlet or bring them to class for face-to-face feedback.
Practicalities and limitations
There are no login requirements for learners and teachers can register for free. This means the teacher can manage pages, delete pages, edit and delete posts. There is an option for the teacher to approve any post before it appears on the page. This moderation can ensure that no unsuitable material is added to the Padlet. If the teacher allows the learners to write on the Padlet, they can only edit and delete their own posts.
There are four privacy options: completely private; password protected, which means you need to set and share a password with your learners; secret, which means anyone with the link or QR code can access the Padlet, but it won’t appear in a Google search or public areas of Padlet; and public. It’s usually best to choose ‘password protected’. Teachers who upgrade to Backpack for schools can make pages accessible only to students at their school.
To sum up, Padlet is free, simple to set up and easy to use. It doesn’t provide learning material or feedback on the content created by learners, but it does allow students to share knowledge, ideas and work that they’ve created in class or outside class. For this reason, it’s one of my favourite edtech tools to date.