2020-2021: Dr Graeme Nixon

2020-2021: Dr Graeme Nixon

Padlet: a tool for building class and cohort community, sharing humanity and ideas during lockdown

 Dr Graeme Nixon, School of Education

Provide a detailed description of a teaching or assessment challenge posed/opportunity for innovation offered by the impact of the Covid 19 Pandemic

Pre-lockdown I used a variety of tools to enhance interactivity within lectures and tutorials such as Padlet, Prezi and Slido; all of which allow for synchronous co-creation and response to teaching. In one exercise I had four groups contribute to a single Padlet canvas on the possible role of spirituality within education. 120 undergraduate students contributed, uploading various images and explanations for spirituality (both religious and naturalistic). Apart from demonstrating nuance and complexity this was a powerful experience of shared humanity, as the entire cohort simultaneously and visibly (in their separate classrooms) shared ideas and images about identity, meaning, community, contemplation and commemoration. These tools, particularly Padlet, came into their own during lockdown, as it became clear that the Collaborate platform has limited ability for community building, connecting students, collaboration and supporting learning. This application relates how I have used Padlet to achieve these aims across all my teaching.

Give a reasoned account of your solution/new initiative

Keen to provide more than asynchronous stimulus-response materials, I am always on the lookout for interactive tools (and associated literature), much of which argue for such an online ‘wall’ as a tool for generating creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication (e.g. Ramachandiran and Mahmud 2018, Ellis 2015 or Dewitt et al. 2018).

During lockdown I realised that Collaborate had a limited whiteboard and no capacity for community building (often a solipsistic experience). As ED101B co-ordinator I created Padlets for the six tutors. We used these for a pre-course task on the purpose(s) of education; ice-breaking activities whereby the class could share images, videos and text about themselves, and weekly responses to tasks where groups and individuals could post the same. At the end of every week I archived these Padlets as pdf files, uploaded them to MyAberdeen as a resource for all, and wiped the Padlets clean for the following week.

Provide details of how your solution/new venture has been/will be communicated to colleagues and students

I have disseminated my experiences in the following fora:

  • November 2020thBlended Learning Focus Groups – Education (initiated by the BLITFG) - 17
  • December 2020ndUniversity of Aberdeen Learning and Teaching Network event on blended learning - 2

I have also been invited to contribute to a staff development seminar on the uses of interactive tools for online learning. I have also applied to be a panellist at the 12th University of Aberdeen Annual Academic Development Symposium where I hope to contribute to the ‘Social Presence and Blended Learning’ panel.

Finally, given Padlet has provided rich data from students about multiple perspectives on a variety of issues I hope to utilise the archived Padlets in published research, the primary aim of which will be to discuss, for example, student teacher views on the purpose(s) of education, but also serve a secondary aim to surface the pedagogical merits of such a platform in higher education.

Key learning points from your experiences, including any lasting impact on teaching in the future

Seeing student responses appear on my screen as they go into breakout groups provides me, and the groups, with a synchronous overview of how the class are engaging. Padlet grants students editorial privilege and anonymity to respond candidly to my tasks. I have deployed it with my large PGT MSc Studies in Mindfulness cohort where students have shared and talked to their dissertation abstracts, effectively creating a pop-up research conference. Going forward I intend to roll out the use of these tools to all five courses that I co-ordinate, both in large group lectures as a means to harvest questions, and also in small groups as outlined above. This will be equally effective online and on campus. One of the benefits of this platform is that I have noticed enhanced coverage of groups in terms of contribution. Many who would otherwise be silent are contributing. It’s a great tool for inclusivity.

Explain how you plan to evaluate your teaching, learning or assessment solution/initiative

Course Review forms for ED101B in which the team used Padlet every week and Student-Staff Liaison Committees will provide feedback. I have also arranged for all six staff on ED101B to discuss this approach to working. My ideas for research will lead to publications ostensibly about the purpose(s) of education and whether spirituality has a place in schools but will also reflect my engagement with literature on online approaches to learning and deployment of Padlet. As such, in the fulness of time, the review process and readership of these papers will provide further feedback on this approach to learning at University. I also look forward to feedback from colleagues at the University’s Annual Academic Development Symposium.

I’ve accompanied this application with a pdf Padlet on spirituality. You can also access a padlet on the purpose(s) of education, from which I subsequently generated a word cloud for the first lecture.