Promoting interactivity is key to the active learning classroom. In Dr. Rebecca Imes’ Communication courses, this has typically meant asking students to participate in hands-on activities that literally get them out of their seats to engage their peers’ ideas. Yet with the physical distancing required during the pandemic and the increase in students attending class remotely, Imes sought out an alternative space for this interaction. She settled on Padlet, an online pinboard app for sharing and commenting on multimedia content.
In her courses, Imes uses student-generated content as a means of working through course concepts. She also typically asks students to manipulate ideas in physical form – like moving around the room arranging post-it notes or even going outside to draw on the campus sidewalks with chalk. Such activities get everyone engaging course material by interacting with each other’s contributions. Thus Imes needed a virtual platform that could replicate this participation without requiring students to be in the same place together. Padlet proved to be a solution with long-term benefits.
For instance, in one class, Imes asks students to draw metaphors to represent communication theory, which they would previously do outside using sidewalk chalk during a class session. This year, Imes instead has all students – both those in class and those remote – post images of their own drawings to a shared Padlet board. Then another student comments on the post to identify what the metaphor appeared to be. By using Padlet, Imes can replicate the interactivity of her original activity while including her remote learners in the process. “Padlet worked really well for remote students,” Imes said about her fall courses, “because they were able to contribute not just questions but also content for the class sessions.”
In fact, she noticed that Padlet improved participation for all students – including those in the classroom. “It was one way that I could get a lot of participation without having to call on anyone or when I can’t call on all 30 people,” Imes said. She also stressed that the participation was often more on topic and focused than during previous versions of these same activities. For these reasons, Imes plan to keep using Padlet for some of her activities, even when her classes return to a more hands-on learning experience in the future.