Padlet has a few fans at Kalamazoo College

As the Fall Quarter began, I found that Week One was getting everything set up, and Week Two was fixing everything that was broken! Both of these necessary tasks will certainly continue indefinitely, but I’ve been working on adding collaboration and new ideas to my workload as I get deeper into some of the most compelling work I do here at Kalamazoo College.

During casual conversations with faculty, I’ve had a strong positive response to a particular tool I’ve been talking about.  Have you seen Padlet? If you’re familiar with Google Docs, Slack, Dropbox, etc., this is another tool in that family tree of applications. These applications serve as centralized, online locations for people to post information and work together in a commonly shared space. What I like about Padlet, and maybe its point of emphasis, is its loose, multimedia, visual orientation. The goal of Padlet is to let multiple users post text, audio, files, videos, etc., in a common digital whiteboard space relying on nothing more complicated than a web browser. It’s very user-friendly and efficient in what it can do.

Here is a 2-minute tutorial from their YouTube page.

Another advantage is that students/users don’t have register an account or download any special software. You only have to provide them with the web address to use the Padlet whiteboard.  The set up is virtually nil.  I showed this to one instructor and she was using it the next day in class.  The Padlet creator has lots of flexibility with access, from requiring a password just to view the page to expanding its availability to anyone. You can set posts up to be moderated as well, then resize and move content to add organization and emphasis. There is an App that makes interaction with the page easier, but it isn’t essential.  Nor is the $$ version; the freebie appears to work rather well.

What are the drawbacks? The visual display itself is unrefined. If you want an easy, dynamic collaborative workspace, Padlet works great. If you want a professional looking screen organization to share as a finished “product,” that’s not a strong suit.

To me, an ideal application would be individuals or groups working on a project who want to share comments, files, readings, and media. If everyone is watching a common display and working in real-time, the instructor can act as a moderator, board admin, and highlight salient content posted to the Padlet. I envision a busy, conversation-filled classroom problem solving and engaging in multiple streams of communication. The Padlet whiteboard is both an organizer of that dialogue and a tool to prompt thoughts in different directions.  In another scenario, students could use Padlet as an asynchronous work space to document material relevant to class or make decisions about class activities and projects.

Alexandra Briggs has some ideas on using Padlet in Higher Education which I am linking in part because it is itself a Padlet.

Of course, if you’re interested in using Padlet at K, I’d be happy to collaborate with you and help you get oriented to the tech.  There are already instructors who have tried it here so you’re far from alone!

Fall Quarter is Convened and Digital Pedagogy

It is an evolving challenge to take the minutes to write this blog as Fall Quarter begins! I was encouraged to check out Convocation to get an impression of what learning and community means here at K and that definitely came through during the event. The words of President Wilson-Oyelaran stuck with me in particular. She made it clear that the singular goal of our college is not a laser focus on professional marketability or even the other extreme of learning simply for learning’s sake. Kalamazoo College is about “becoming fully at home in the world” and building “a passion for life that will not allow you to keep silent when you should speak; that will not allow you to be inactive when your action is needed.” Well said!

In addition to getting ready for Fall and making sure faculty have access and support for the resources they need, I’ve been spending some time this week reading and engaging conversations around the topic “digital pedagogy.” One provocative resource is the online journal Hybrid Pedagogy. Before digging in, this phrase struck me as another buzzword conjured by young educators or instructional designers do dismiss all that came before in pedagogy and most of what is happening now in classrooms. However, despite the present iconoclasm (End the LMS!), there are themes in digital pedagogy that I appreciate greatly. The definition offered by Hybrid Pedagogy references the conscientious use of digital technology as a pedagogical tool to utilize in teaching, not an end in itself. That’s a great sentiment that is easy to lose track of in the pursuit of fancy, shiny new tech to impress parents and prospective students.

Another sentiment, more complex and nuanced embedded within the philosophy of digital pedagogy, appears to be that the webspaces, communication platforms, software, and devices we encourage students to learn through should be implemented in a way that reflects the open, intersectional, creative, and non-hierarchical digital world that exists outside the “traditional” confines of the academy. This idea is big and subtlety controversial. Some instructors’ conceptions of the campus and the class are as contained bubbles in which learning is facilitated via a carefully organized set of stimuli through well-planned structures. The idea of throwing our learning environments out to enmesh digital spaces that threaten to wrest away control and introduce variables can be frightening. It’s also worth pursuing with caution keeping students’ best interests in mind. However, I think the impulse is firmly with a pedagogy that encourages active learning, play and making as a path to understanding, and freedom, choice, and chance as instructional principles. That is something I can get behind in educational technology.

It is Friday and this blog is getting far too heavy and philosophical. Everyone in Information Services has elaborately styled and ornamented offices. There are roller coasters, Star Wars toys, sports memorabilia, stuffed animals, and more. My young office is meek in this regard. However, these four are keeping me company atop my filing cabinet. This is my start.

EGO Gang

A Quarter on the Horizon

You can deeply sense the gathering buzz around campus as faculty start to return, staff accelerate their attempts to finalize summer projects, and everyone hears the distant roar of students approaching campus for the start of Fall Quarter. For many grasping at final preparations, this is a moment of heightened anxiety. Anecdotally, I can say that the summer hires are largely excited about what it will feel like to be working and providing services to an active, dynamic campus in full session. It has been, on some days, too free of commotion.

I met many colleagues yesterday as Information Services welcomed new faculty and tried not to overwhelm them with the array of support options we offer for teaching, technology, media, research, and you name it. Paul Sotherland, our Coordinator of Educational Effectiveness, was kind enough to invite me to spend more time with the incoming group at lunch. When you’re new, building relationships is so important so I really valued the opportunity to talk with these educators about their backgrounds and learn what excites them about teaching. In conjunction with support from faculty members like Patrik Hultberg, Jan Solberg, and Charlene Boyer Lewis, I felt like an engaged member of the pedagogical community.

I was going to talk Moodle in this entry, but I’ll save my thoughts about ensuring students watch your online videos for later. There are presentations to finish, tech to research, and introductions to new colleagues to appreciate.