Padlet: Another Brilliant (and pretty) Backchannel


My last post was about TodaysMeet, a great backchannel tool for eliciting student responses and engaging kids in discussion.  Well, I couldn’t stop myself from immediately writing about another of my FAVORITE backchannel tools – PADLET!   Teachers, if you haven’t seen this in action, you’re about to get real, real excited!

In Padlet, you set up a virtual ‘wall’ and kids can add virtual ‘sticky notes’ to it.  Your question or topic appears at the top, and students do all the reflecting & ruminating & stuff!  Oooooh, but there’s fancy, decorat-y, bling-bling-ness to be found at Padlet!  First of all, you can choose a little avatar icon for yourself.  I use the smiley face a lot.  You can choose your wallpaper background, and let’s face it…that’s just plain fun!  You can have the students’ posts appear anywhere they double-click on the screen, or for you type-A folks, you can have it stream down the page or present as a grid in a neat & orderly fashion!

But get this…are you sitting down?  In Padlet, the students’ posts also have the ability to add links to websites, upload a file or image from their computer, or even take a web-cam shot of themselves to add to the post!  These make for some really pretty walls that can be veritable FONTS of information!  Students love using these features to go above & beyond to find even MORE information than you were asking for to add to your post or question!  We teachers LOVE above & beyond!

Padlet is free to use, and has even more cool features that I’ll just quick-share by bulleting for you:

  • EXPORTING: share to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites, embed in a blog or webpage, share as an email, print it out, create a PDF of it, even create a QR code to it right from the Padlet site!
  • NOTIFICATIONS; You can sign up to get a notification each time a new post is made
  • PRIVACY:  You can restrict viewers, writers, and levels of permission in a lot of ways.  You can opt to moderate posts before they go up on the wall…great option for teachers to turn on if the wall will be open AFTER school hours!

Educationally, there are probably INFINITY uses for Padlet!  I’m sharing two of mine as part of this post.  For the first, I asked all of my elementary computer students (grades 2-5) what they’d like to learn in my class this year.  I set this up in a grid-type fashion to maximize space and make viewing easier.  After I created the wall, I just had a quick hyperlink to it on my teacher webpage so that the kids could just click & start posting!  My second example was shown during a class video about Jamestown.  We were starting a Social Studies unit on the Jamestown settlement, and I wanted students to share their thoughts during the video.  Before I started the video, students all had netbooks on their desks and a link to the Padlet wall.  However, after the video, we kept contributing to this wall for several weeks as students gathered information for group projects they were doing.  They used it as a board to share resources with each other and even comment on each others’ findings.  We had some pretty lively discussions about the enriching things they were finding…again, it was that ‘above & beyond’ thing!  Click on the links below to check out those Padlet walls!

Padlet: What do you want to learn in computer class this year?

Padlet: Jamestown Video

I honestly can’t think of any subject area, teacher, or staff member who couldn’t use Padlet to enrich their lessons!  Here are just a few random thoughts about uses……

  • Formative Assessment – I’m lucky enough to teach in a lab, so all kids are already on computers.  I use Padlet as a “ticket out the door” or “exit ticket” to assess learning and feedback on the day’s objective.
  • Character Ed – guidance counselor or teacher pose, “What would you do?” questions,  students respond to bullying video by sharing thoughts, brainstorm random acts of kindness…
  • Math – ways to show a number (expanded notation, tally marks, Roman numerals, etc.), make a Math museum of ways Math is used in everyday life, post photos of careers that use Math, link to video tutorials that explain Math concepts, play “Name that Number” and let students create complex number sentences for a designated number…
  • Science – hypothesize & then go back after the experiment to evaluate and reflect, link to online research,
  • Reading – describe characters, share inferences, write new story endings, list favorite quotes, cite textual evidence, create book trailers & link to the Padlet, post a homework question that students have to read & find the answer to and then post it from home, have students create book reports on a Padlet (give a rubric with specifications) and present them on the SmartBoard…
  • Language Arts – brainstorm synonyms, write sentences using vocabulary words, find vivid verbs, post grammar or punctuation rules…
  • Got a student who is moving?  Make a Padlet about him/her and let students post comments!  A great take-away gift!
  • Foreign language – practice vocabulary in full sentences, hold mock conversations (stream down page) where students take turns responding to each previous post, post photos that match vocab words…
  • Social Studies – keep a Padlet open for the duration of a unit as a place for students to share thoughts, research, findings, ideas, videos, etc. about a given topic

You get the ideas…SOOOO many uses, and SOOOO much fun!  Padlet is a tool you will want to use frequently and share with all of your teacher friends.  As a matter of fact, why not share this post with them right now?


TodaysMeet: Safe & Controlled Chat Room Sessions With Your Students!


Today’s Meet is a pretty amazing web tool!  Officially, it’s called a backchannel, but think super-safe temporary chat room for your class.  Let me set up the scenario for you….First, get each student or pair of students on a computer.  Go to the lab or get some laptops, tablets…whatever you can do get them all connected.

In TodaysMeet, as the teacher, you create a ‘room’.  You can name it whatever you want.  I’m going to suggest “Winter Break” because it was one of my all-time favorite experiences with TodaysMeet.  Once you name the room, you can set how long you want that room to be “open”, or accepting posts.  Let’s choose “one hour” for this activity.  See how easy this is so far?

todays meet winter break

TodaysMeet home screen….free & super easy!

At the next screen, you just type your name and hit ‘join’.  Then, you can post a question for the class to answer. My little teacher tip for this is for you to be the only one who posts in all capital letters.  You’ll see why in a moment.  At this point, you’ll want to share the URL (or room’s address) with your students.  (The address will be  Post this on your whiteboard for students to copy & type, or put a quick hyperlink on your personal teacher webpage so kids can just click on it…whatever works for you!  Students will see your question in the chat room box.  Remember how you typed in all caps?  It makes it visually easy for kids to find the questions posted by the teacher!  To respond, the students do the same thing you did:  type their name, click ‘join’, and type an answer in the box.  Here’s a screenshot of a question I posted and the answers of three students:

todaysmeet2You can see how the newest answers appear at the top.  This chat room is ‘live’, so as each student adds a comment, all kids in the class can see the newest posts!  They LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this!  Also, note that each child’s name appears with their post.  This is critical for that accountability piece – let your students know that their comments should be serious and appropriate, and that you are able to keep and print a transcript of the entire chat room session!  If you ever want to do a TodaysMeet in which your students can feel free to post anonymously, I suggest that you still require them to join using a student ID number or some other private identifier by which you will would still know who posted.

Remember how I set my room for one hour?  Well, there’s an option to shut it down early when you’re done with the session.  I always do this.  I don’t want students going home, or even to another class, where they can continue to post to a thread that I’m not monitoring at the time.  Save or print the session transcript if you want, or you can even copy the embed code to embed the whole thread in your blog or webpage, but then go ahead & close the room.

Room Tools

Room Tools

As you can see, there are some other cool features in the “Room Tools” section.  You can set it for projector view (I always do, and have the live session projected on the SmartBoard or whiteboard).  You can show speaker colors, and you can even create a QR code of your TodaysMeet session!

One of the first times I ever used TodaysMeet was to pose that question about winter break.  You know that first day that they come back after the winter holiday, and how every student wants to tell you – and each other – about every gift he/she got and all of the exciting things their families did?  Well, this was an AMAZING way to handle that – in about 15 minutes of TodaysMeet time, every child got to ‘talk’ at once, see what all the other kids had to say, share their stories with me simultaneously, comment on each others’ posts (“I got an Xbox, too!”) and everyone had a great time!  As the posts rolled in, I read them on the whiteboard and did some verbal commenting (“I love that Santa brought you books to read, Jimmy.”) and threw in some new question posts in capital letters (“WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE GIFT THAT YOU GAVE TO SOMEONE ELSE?”)  Even the shiest of the shy kids was an active participant in this TodaysMeet discussion, and it always seems to work for me as a way to bring students ‘out of their shells’.

Soooo….besides a silly winter break question…let’s think of some other educational purposes!  What if every student had a laptop while you showed a documentary or educational film?  You post thoughtful questions throughout the movie, and students react or share their thoughts.  If students were to have read a Social Studies chapter for homework, start the day with recall questions based on that homework!  Even the children who might not have done the reading will now be exposed to the content by seeing the answers of their peers.  If the class finishes reading a section of a book, you can post really cleverly-designed tiered questions that focus on recall, sequencing, inference…whatever your focus skills are!   For Science or STEM class, have students share their hypotheses – save the transcript – and revisit it after the experiment!  There are just a ton of very cool things that you can do with TodaysMeet!  How will YOU use it with your class?

*Note:  You can use this straight from the web without signing up.  If you DO sign up for a free account, there are some bonus features such as the ability to manage several rooms at once, delete inappropriate or off-topic comments, etc.  Definitely worth it!

Message Generators! What Would You Do With These Sites?

I just found some links I’ve had saved for awhile and had forgotten.  I was cleaning out my files, and just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of these.  Surely, there is a reason for teachers to use these or have students use them.  They’re just fun – and creative – and random – and silly.  They’re called message generators.  I’ll share them here, and I would really LOVE to hear your thoughts on how these could be used!

Einstein Wrote It:  It’s just an image of Einstein writing on a chalkboard, and whatever text you type in the box appears to have been written by him.  That’s it.

einstein wrote it

Magic 8 Ball Says:  This works pretty much the same way as Einstein.  Less genius.  More mystical.  This one should be reserved for very short phrases.  Oh, and obviously even the Magic 8 Ball gets it wrong sometimes…

magic 8 ball

The Newspaper Clipping Generator:  I can see students using this one.  It’d be cute for teaching summarizing or even teaching opinion writing (editorials).  It’s probably useful for All About Me pieces.  How would you use it?

newspaper clipping generator

Fortune Cookie Generator:  Again, at some point I saved this link and I’m sure I had a reason.  Maybe it was for Chinese New Year.  Maybe I wanted to have kids write a new story ending in one sentence?

fortune cookie

Before I end this blog post, let me say that I spent some time on the internet just searching the terms “sign generators” and “message generators” there are gazillions of them!  (I’ve seen many apps for these, too!)  On this blog, I’m not posting the links to those sites I found because every list had some generators that would DEFINITELY not be primary-school friendly or appropriate!  Somehow, though, in all of these sign generators, I think that creative teachers can pair a good pre-selected message generator like the ones above to achieve clever educational results.

What do you think?

Who’s Teaching Fairy Tales?

Interactive Digital Storytelling.  Really cool stuff.  I’d kind of like to get together with a bunch of friends one Friday night and just play this and laugh and laugh…..   I’m a little bit geeky that way, but it really IS a fun site, and I’m recommending it for grades 4 and higher.

This site is called We Tell Stories and it’s a decision-making fairy tale in progress!  Like all good fairy tales, it starts with Once upon a time and presents the case of a poor peasant and his daughter.  You, the participant, get to name the daughter.  Then you get to name the king.  Then you get to choose all kinds of things like where things happen, the mood, the result of an action, character traits, and so forth ~ as the fairy tale evolves and is written before your eyes!  

I love We Tell Stories for so many reasons:  

  • It’s interactive and involves decision making
  • it requires NO training or explanation
  • it is language-rich
  • it allows for SO many mini-lessons based on Common Core Reading, Writing, Speaking/Listening, and Language!
  • it requires multiple re-readings
  • it can be rewritten with different choices over & over again
  • it promotes opportunity to practice visualization (drawing)
  • it can be used whole-group, small-group, partner, or individually
  • it would be really fun performed as a Readers’ Theater!
  • it allows the user to write/create his/her own epilogue!  How cool is that!
  • upon completion, it can be emailed (to up to 3 recipients)

*  Click on the blue hyperlinks to go the the site.  Here it is again:  We Tell Stories

* Feeling adventurous?  At the bottom of the screen, click on HOME and try the other 5 interactives.  I particularly like “The 21 Steps” because it incorporates Google Maps!  Who else is thinking this would be SOOOOO good to practice for PARCC testing? 

Monkey Around with Math Chimp! You’ll Be So Glad You Did!

Math Chimp home page screenshot

I’m so excited to share this site with you!  It’s a great website for Math and I think you’re going to love it!  Math Chimp has videos, games, and even free printable worksheets for primary and middle schools.  All of the resources are categorized nicely by grade level, and they have begun restructuring the site to be Common Core friendly.  Within each grade level, you can click on a specific common core domain that you’d like to target.  The Math Chimp website is attractive and really easy to navigate (Avoid the unfortunate ads, though.)  Many of the videos come from Khan Academy (another great Math video resource), and all of the printables and games are free.  If you haven’t ever visited Math Chimp, take a look and see if there’s something you might just want to put into next week’s lesson plans!

A description from their site:

Math Chimp was created by educators and is ideal for children, parents and teachers. is the home to the highest quality math games, videos & worksheets online. All of our activities are aligned to the Common Core Standards. Our mission is to provide engaging and helpful Common Core activities for 1st through 8th grade.

Note:  You can follow Math Chimp on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and Pinterest!

New Bookmarking Site Has Me Saying WOW (a lot!)

nkwiry home page

Okay, um….WOW!!!  I just, just, just found out about this new bookmarking site, and I am so very lovin’ it!  What a phenomenally marvelous fantastically brilliant idea!  Just look at that screenshot above….it explains everything and WOW!!!  Oh, yeah…the name of the site is nkwiry  (like inquiry…get it?)   It is another online bookmarking tool (see previous post about other online bookmarking sites), but this one allows your students to be part of the collection and compilation of sites!

I just created an nkwiry site.  It took me about 5 minutes to create an account, choose a class code, create categories that are relevant to me, to add my students and create unique passwords for them.  Then I spent a few minutes playing with the other cool features and, at the risk of being redundant, WOW!  There is a class message feature called “class feed’.  You and the students can post comments, questions, or topics to each other!  Bonus!  It would be fun to post bookmark collection challenges there (find sites for kids about rocks that have videos) or use it as a way for students to suggest new topic categories for the class nkwiry.  Oooh…are you into that ‘flipped class’ thing?  Why not post a topic and challenge students to add bookmarks about a topic you’ll be teaching NEXT WEEK!  They’ll start learning before you start teaching, and you’ll have a whole bunch of online materials for your lesson plans!

I also tried logging in as a student.  They don’t have the ability to add or delete categories, but they most certainly can add bookmarks (sites) to a category!  The student needs to type (paste) the URL, name the site whatever he/she wants, and add a simple description.  It immediately appears as an available link, and it  shows who posted it.  Another cool and unexpected feature is that there is a “like” button so that other students can indicate if they like it or find it useful.  The one caution I would advise is to have a serious heart-to-heart with your students about the appropriateness of their links…there is not a feature that allows teacher to pre-approve bookmarks/sites before they post.nkwiry isn’t all pretty and cutesy and primary school-ish, but it is an absolutely thrilling opportunity to engage your students in selecting the tools and sites that will guide their own learning.  It encourages student involvement and shows that their opinions are valued and welcomed.  It’s meaningful and purposeful collaboration!  With monitoring, of course, it can even decrease your workload and make your online bookmarking undeniably more extensive!  nkwiry…love this tool!

nkwiry simple direction screenshots

*  As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.  What grade levels could/would/should use this?  Will you use this?  If you do, share how it’s working for your class and let us share in your success!  You can comment here on the blog, @kerszi on Twitter, or ‘like’ My Primary Techspiration on Facebook.

Medieval Help Desk

If you haven’t seen this yet, you’re in for a real treat!  It’s a couple of monks and the confusion caused by that newfangled technology!

I’d like to dedicate this to the I.T. Team in my district, and especially my dear friend Nancy who is The I.T. Superhero at my school!   It has been an especially tough network/server/website/phone service/everything-with-a-plug week, and I just want to thank/hug/build a shrine for Nancy and for all of those in the I.T. Departments everywhere who work so hard to make teaching with tech awesome!