A stylised origami bird and the word Padlet

If you are coming to the end of your Emergency Remote Teaching and beginning to think about how to adapt more of your teaching for online environments, this post will cover a free (but unsupported) virtual pinboard tool, Padlet, to make your online space more interactive.

Blogs and Wikis in Blackboard and Microsoft ClassNotebooks provide a way to engage students through dialogue and creation of content. The underlying pedagogy moves away from more transmissive modes of delivery (e.g recorded lectures) and is aligned with theories of social constructivism, and collaborative learning. Padlet is another of these tools with which you can utilise these theories and Laurillard’s (2002) Conversational Framework, whereby student concepts and actions are mediated through dialogue with the teacher.

What is Padlet?

Padlet is a virtual pinboard or online post-it board with a unique URL. The interface is straightforward, with customisable layouts, and backgrounds, plus some nice features to increase student engagement. As well as students being able to upload a range of media (text, video, audio etc) they can also comment on other posts. There are customisable settings which mean participants can upvote, like, or even give a score for other posts. You can choose whether to moderate posts before they are published, allow participants to post anonymously, and there’s a profanity filter (if required). It is also possible to set privacy levels for boards and assign moderators if you think it’s necessary.

Two rows of icons showing different layouts of a virtual pinboard.
You can customise the layout of your Padlet wall.

What do you use it for?

In the Digital Learning Team, we’ve been using Padlet in our FutureLearn courses for the last 6 years (we were one of the first FL Partners to use this tool in our courses).

Posts on a virtual pinboard showing audio recordings and learner comments.

We use Padlet to engage with a global classroom of very varied learners, sometimes as an icebreaker task (What does the ocean mean to you? Share an image with us) and sometimes for more specific collaborative learning activities (Make an audio recording of you playing an instrument and upload it).

Posts on a virtual pinboard showing audio recordings and learner comments.

Within the team, we also use it for collecting feedback and short directed tasks in workshop settings. Explore Padlet’s gallery for ideas and inspiration.

Do we have a University-wide license for it?

We don’t have an institution license for Padlet. This makes it one of those ‘unsupported’ technologies you will hear us talk about. Supported technologies include Blackboard, Panopto, O365 and Vevox. There is a whole range of other edtech products out there, but we cannot fund or support them all. That doesn’t mean you can’t use them; but you do so at your own risk if it breaks, and there are some other important considerations (described later in this post). Having said that, we really like Padlet as a free tool – its features and reliability mean it’s a good addition to your toolbox… if used wisely.

With a free Padlet account, you can create up to 3 walls. You can download your walls in a variety of formats after using them with students, meaning that you could recycle the walls for different cohorts. Or you might want to create a cross-module/cross year group wall to enable a more holistic approach to learning.

Menu options for exporting a Padlet file.

Can I embed a Padlet wall in Blackboard?

Yes, you can! Start by clicking on the Sharing settings on your chosen Padlet wall. Look in the menu for Embed in your Blog or Website. Copy the code.

A text box containing html code.

Now open up your Blackboard course site, create an Item. Then look for the html button on the bottom right corner of the Item toolbar and click on it.

An HTML menu button.

It will look like this (with a yellow box) until you finish editing and hit Submit.

The Blackboard editing dashboard, showing a large yellow box in the text window.

Now your students can post to the wall and interact with other posts without having to leave Blackboard.

Any issues that I should consider?

  • As always, you should consider the security of an external system and GDPR. Don’t ask students to share personally identifiable data such as addresses, student ID numbers, or something that could leave them vulnerable (this goes for any unsupported 3rd party supplier). Padlet has its own Privacy Statement, but you are responsible for the contents of your walls.
  • You should only use Padlet for formative activities.
  • If you have any technical issues, iSolutions is unable to provide support. There are user forums available and Padlet has a bank of Help Guides.
  • Buddy up; it is useful to add a colleague to your walls and give them administrator rights.

What do you think? Tell us more…

If you are using Padlet, why not share your experiences and suggestions with our community of teaching staff in Digital Learning Connect? We’d love to hear about how you use this virtual pinboard, what your students think of it, what works well/not so well and so on.

If you want more ideas, read our older post 4 Padlet walls.

Padlet for student engagement online

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