Collaborating in the Classroom: Padlet vs Pinterest

As a tertiary teacher, I’m always looking for ways to increase opportunities for participation and collaboration in my classes. One of my preferred methods of doing this is to create virtual pin boards organised around the topics we are investigating and ask students to find or make something and share it on our virtual board for comment and/or critique. Active learning strategies such as these are a great way to increase engagement beyond simple discussion, appeal to students who aren’t so comfortable with sharing their thoughts verbally and also gives me valuable insight into the learning that’s taking place in my class.

There are hundreds of educational technologies and social media tools that provide a way to do this, but with such a mind-boggling array of options available it’s easy to get overwhelmed and keep telling yourself ‘I’ll try something new next trimester.’ Popular social media platforms such as Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter and Storify have become essential to my teaching practice (you can read about how I use them in a previous post if you like). But a recent discovery reminded me that they may not necessarily be the best tools for the task. In this post, I explore Padlet as an alternative to Pinterest.

My pet peeve with Pinterest

Pinterest is one of my favourite curation apps has been my preferred platform for getting students to post content to collaborative boards. But increasingly I’m finding myself frustrated with the task of setting up these collaborative boards due to its rather clumsy handling of collaboration. Here’s the Pinterest process for pinning to a community board as I currently explain it to my students:

1. Click this link to view the Media and Cultural Studies Pinterest Profile.
2. If you have an account sing in. If you don’t have an account, sign up for one and then sign in.
3. Once you’re on our profile page you will have the option to click “FOLLOW”. This will push content from the profile to your Pinterest feed.
4. Now find the board on the profile page for your class and click on it.
5. In order to post to your class Pinterest board you must follow the board by clicking on the red “FOLLOW BOARD” button. You must do this even if you’ve already chosen to follow the profile in step three.
6. Once you’ve followed your class board you should then type “ADD ME” as comment on the sign up pin and we will make you a pinner.

I know it’s simple enough but each week this trimester someone has needed to be reminded of how to follow, share, post or pin. Some students simply don’t engage because they don’t want to manage yet another social media account or because they can’t remember the password or the email they signed up with, or because they have a particular impression of the platform that conflicts with their self-image. While apathy, laziness and data mismanagement are the overarching culprits in their flawed reasoning, the fact remains that for some students this is a road block to participation, which can be bypassed with Padlet.

Pain-free collaboration with Padlet

Padlet is a free web application which can be used to brainstorm, organise, curate, create and share ideas. After reading about Padlet on other education blogs I decided to road test Padlet as a possible substitute for some of the collaborative Pinterest boards.

So how does Padlet work? With Padlet, anyone you choose to share your board with may post on it. This makes it very easy for you to share a Padlet with other people so they can add content to it. Another advantage is that once you’ve created a virtual pin board for the class it can be easily embedded in a Moodle course page with the option of displaying pins in freeform, as a linear blog or in grid form (pictured below)  Depending on the layout options you choose in Padlet, the end result should look a little something like this or this.

Personally, I think Padlet’s embedded display is a much better option than what Pinterest currently provides. Another downside of Pinterest is that it only allows you to embed widgets on external sites, which look like this.

Visit Jodie Taylor’s profile on Pinterest.

Looking closely at the Pinterest widget you will see that comments aren’t displayed with a resource and the only action provides is to “Follow on Pinterest”, which automatically takes you to the corresponding profile or board on the Pinterest site. So if you want students to use the resource during a tutorial, they are forced to leave their Moodle course page to browse content and must then log in to share or comment on a resource. But with Padlet, many of these annoyances and barriers to collaboration and comment are removed.

Take a look at my embedded Padlet below and you will notice a pink  in the bottom right of the iframe. By clicking on this you, or anyone with a link to this Padlet can add a resource (audio, video, image PDF), post a link or type a comment, and best of all, you don’t even need to have an account with Padlet to do this. The ability to post and comment without logging means that sharing and commenting occurs in real time, making collaboration in the classroom both simple and immediate. Padlet also offers a variety of privacy and editing options which you as the owner can control. You can choose to keep your Padlets private, make them secret, share them selectively or make them visible to the world.  You can choose whether or not you want to allow anyone, everyone or only select people contribute and whether or not you want to moderate contributions.

But I think that’s probably enough from me on the topic for now. If you want to know more about Padlet and how to use it in your own teaching practice then you might want to check out this little resource I’ve put together below. Contributions to this resource are welcome so if you’ve got something to share or a comment to add then you should put Padlet’s collaborative functions to the test and hit the  button.