Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Padlet in Year 10 English

The plan. Utilise Padlet - the web tool formerly known as Wallwisher - to engage year 10 students in a meaningful discussion about youth justice. Basically, with Padlet, you can create a 'wall' upon which you can post things.

At the end of the lesson, the teacher and her students will have created a number of discussion 'walls'. Students will have participated in on-line discussions on the causes of, and possible solutions to, youth homelessness. They will have shared their own opinions, as well as considering, and responding to, a variety of views from their fellow students.

Prior to the lesson, I'd played around on Padlet so I'd be confident with the tool. In class, we'd also discussed various issues concerning youth justice and had just watched the harrowing Oasis documentary. I'd prepared a few questions to promote discussion. (By the way, if you haven't yet seen it, the Oasis documentary is essential viewing.)

As a background to all this, I've done some school based professional development using Padlet. This involved participating in an educational on-line discussion with my school colleagues. We pasted a particular URL into our browsers then responded to a question. The 'wall' quickly filled with thoughtful, earnest remarks. It was the first day of the new year and the principal who facilitated looked pleased with the outcome. I think he mentioned something about aiming to be a paperless school somewhere down the track.

You see, we're in the 'one to one' age now. Every student from years 9 to 12 has been given, gratis, courtesy of the federal government, a netbook computer. What's more, we've been urged to use these computers, especially since the school is expecting years 7 and 8 students to buy their own. We don't want the older students telling the younger ones that the computers aren't being used, do we? That wasn't a question. It was a directive from an AP. Parents Will Complain.

So what happened in my classes today?

First, I had to send several students back to their lockers to get their computers. The government may have funded these computers to make our students the smartest in the world - whatever - but that doesn't mean the kids are going to charge them up overnight, or even bring them to school. (It's a discipline thing and we're working on it.)

Second, I recapped our previous lesson about youth homelessness to remind students of the gravity of the issue.

I gave them the URL for our first 'wall' and made a couple of rules. No anonymous comments. No profanity.

As if. (My favourite phrase.)

The wall was instantly and hilariously covered in totally inappropriate, often misspelled, sexually explicit posts. Students quickly discovered that they could also take photos of themselves and other students and tag them.

In nano-seconds I had a wall plastered in posts that had the students in hysterics. The comments were posted faster than I could delete them - it was my wall so I had some editing control for all the good that did me.

I suppose at least they were all engaged in the activity.

Seriously, I'd like to know what really happens in other teachers' classes when they do these activities.You know, teachers who work, like me, in western suburbs state secondary schools. During the PD session, this activity was presented as a highly effective teaching and learning tool and of course I can see its potential. But if kids can write anonymous comments - and get away with it because it's impossible to monitor - how does this occur?

Will it get better if I persist, once the novelty wears off?


Seriously, comment below. I really want to know.


JR said...

I've used it back when it was wallwisher; actually ran a pd on it too. Abandoned it after a while just because it seemed more effort than it was worth...I didn't really have a prob with kids posting random stuff - there were a few but I think I banned anonymous comments and that seemed to work.

Fraudster said...

Thanks, JR. I was coping with the anonymous comments for a while. Some were funny. With my second group they got nasty: racist, sexist, homophobic. Abusive. Hard to condone for some vague educative purpose. Will see. Cheers.

Stella said...

Have to admire you, Fraudy, there's another hoop and you've jumped.
I have no wisdom on this subject. I am just glad I don't have to implement all these brilliant educational initiatives. Sometimes I like to just go with what I know. . . .
Yeah, under "slack" in the dictionary there's a picture of me.. .