Using Padlet for Class Brainstorming

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This blog was originally posted on November 20th, 2013.

When I left the classroom for the world of educational software and web development in the mid-90s, classroom brainstorming was either done on the chalkboard or in Daedalus InterChange. Those two options were the only way to collect student ideas in one place that everyone could easily access. Both, of course, came with their limitations. Chalkboard notes were (and are) fleeting things that someone has to transcribe, and InterChange discussions scrolled quickly up the window, leaving students and me unable to see all the ideas on one screen.

Image link to Padlet homepage.

In the intervening years, I have recommended Padlet (which used to be named Wallwisher) to many teachers as a perfect tool for class brainstorming. Just last month I mentio
ned the site in my post on Blue Sky Thinking. Ironically, however, I hadn’t had the opportunity to try it out in my own classes.

This week, I decided to give Padlet a try. Students are beginning their fourth and final assignment, persuasive group oral presentations. Their job is to create a 5 to 7-minute oral presentation—much like a public service announcement (PSA) or a commercial—aimed at persuading college students at Virginia Tech to do something. Before they got into their groups to choose topics, I wanted them to brainstorm some possibilities as a class. I had them all visit a Padlet page I set up for the activity, and within five minutes we had a screen full of possibilities, as shown in the partial screenshot below:

Brainstorming phrases in white boxes on top of a grey background.

You can see the full screen of ideas from my 9 AM class and ideas from my 8 AM class on Flickr. Granted, there are some silly ideas listed. I’m personally entertained by the 8 AM class’s juxtaposition of the ideas “Give blood” and “Join the Rugby team.” They’ve been reading their bumper stickers. Alongside a few comic suggestions, there are a number of quite strong ideas.Encouraged by my success, I played around with Padlet and found the ability to post images and videos in addition to traditional words and phrases. As I think about incorporating Padlet in classes next semester, I have a vision for multimodal brainstorming that I want to try out. I haven’t figured out all the details, but I imagine students building a screen full of images rather than words to express their ideas. Thank goodness I finally got around to trying Padlet out!

About the Author
Traci Gardner, known as "tengrrl" on most networks, writes lesson plans, classroom resources, and professional development materials for English language arts and college composition teachers. She is the author of Designing Writing Assignments, a contributing editor to the NCTE INBOX Blog, and the editor of Engaging Media-Savvy Students Topical Resource Kit.