This weekend on Twitter, I was made aware of the fact that our beloved Padlet is going Freemuim. For those of you who are unaware, Padlet is a service that has been free for the entire 9 years that I have used it. They have continued to make updates and improvements and have a very quality product. To be completely honest, I’m quite surprised that it hasn’t gone to a paid option before now. (It’s nearly impossible to support video and audio file storage for free with no ads, and they have been doing it for years). Teacher Twitter has been in an uproar since the announcement was made, and I have largely stayed silent…that is until now.
If you know me, then you know I have been on my soapbox about shiny new tools for at least the past 3-4 years. Every time I attend a conference, it ends up being 95% free advertisement for shiny new tools and it drives me insane. It’s so bad that I literally won’t even go to most conferences anymore. And here’s why…
Education does NOT need another shiny new tool. Not that tools like Padlet and Flipgrid aren’t amazing; they are. I have never said that they were not. The problem is that for far too long, the Ed. Tech. community has spent much too much time focused on the tool(s) and not on the pedagogy behind their use. Transforming classrooms will never happen if we continue to focus on the what and not the why. Simon Sinek is widely famous for asking us to “Start With Why” and I’ll be the first to admit that I drank the Kool-Aid. If we don’t understand why we are doing this, what’s the point??
Giving students choice and leveraging technology to maximize all students’ learning must be our continuous goal. There is no single tool that will do that. It will take all of the tools, being made available all of the time, in order for all of our students to be able to choose the correct tool to enhance their learning experience. There is no magic formula, there are no magic beans, and there have never been any magic words that will make it easier.
At this point, you might be asking me “so what do you propose we do instead?” because that is exactly what I would be saying in my head if I were reading this. I offer you the same advice that I have been spouting for the past few years from the top of my soapbox: Group tools by what they can accomplish. Presentation, Organization, Movie Making, etc. The groups can be created depending on your instructional setting, as long as you create the groupings. And then…let the kids choose what they want to use.
And to all of the Ed. Tech leaders who may be reading this, I’d advise do the same for your teaching staff. Why buy a site license for one tool? Does everyone need to use the same tool? Do the kids all need exposure to the same tool? Of course not! Group your suggestions based on the instructional needs of your campus. One of my current projects at work involves doing just that. We are recommending digital resources & tools to use for presentations, organizing information, video production, participant feedback, formative assessment, graphic design, etc. Teachers and staff will be able to choose what tools work best for their needs from a list of tools that have already been vetted.
And believe it or not, we do not offer professional development for individual shiny new tools! It would be impossible to sustain. Instead, I am encouraging teachers to utilize Twitter, YouTube, and their PLNs to explore different tools and examples of how they can be used with students. In this way, teachers are choosing their tools and being empowered to take control of some of their professional learning. Imagine that – modeling for teachers what we want them to do with the students!! It’s a win-win for all parties involved.