Often when I blog about tools I put a new tool in the spotlight. However, online learning can be rendered more effective by smart use of 'old' tools. That's why this time the tool of the month is good old Padlet. You probably already know Padlet. Padlet ...
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"The new social learning blog" - 5 new articles

  1. Tool of the month: online brainstorm wall Padlet
  2. Happy learners with an attractive platform
  3. Experimenting with three network tools: Wonder Me, Spatialchat and Gather
  4. A new generation of tools for meeting and networking online
  5. Hybrid sessions: the new norm?
  6. More Recent Articles

Tool of the month: online brainstorm wall Padlet

Often when I blog about tools I put a new tool in the spotlight. However, online learning can be rendered more effective by smart use of 'old' tools. That's why this time the tool of the month is good old Padlet. You probably already know Padlet. Padlet is an online brainstorm wall on which you can stick post-its online. I've been using Padlet for quite a few years, from the time it was still called Wallwisher. In fact, I have a privileged position at Padlet. As an early user I am allowed to use the number of Padlets I created in the beginning (20+), while you can now only create three for free. The great thing about Padlet is that your participants don't have to create an account to brainstorm. I am also a big fan of the export function. You get a nice PDF that is also easy to read. Have a look at ehis result from a brainstorm about online humor.

You can use Padlet in many different ways. Below are a number of smart ways in which you can use our tool of the month. If you have one of your own, it would be nice if you add it in the comments to this blog post.

The basics of Padlet


If you are not familiar with Padlet, this video by Richard Byrne is a good way to familiarize yourself with Padlet.
 

You can find more instruction videos on Richard's website

You can use Padlet for all the same ways you would use post-its and a flipchart in a room. You can ask your participants a question and have them stick post-its on a wall or flip. You can do this in exactly the same way online. The twist online is that you can choose whether you want people to brainstorm together in a live online session, or invite people in advance to brainstorm on their own. Sending out a Padlet before the session is best when collecting questions or ideas. In the session you can then discuss or cluster on this. When you first want to explain something, and work on it later, it works to work on a Padlet during an online session.

On to more creative uses of Padlet!


The three step brainstorm



With a three-step brainstorm you build your storm in three steps. Brainstorm first, then ask people to read and like, and then discuss the ratings. Padlet can be set in such a way that participants can also give comments and likes to contributions (go to settings -comments and reactions). An example: I invited participants to post a good blend of online and face-to-face activities. Then I asked participants to read the contributions and give likes. During the discussion I zoomed in on the highest ranked contributions asked for reasons. Together you can thus make a list of the working elements of a good blend. Another example of a three-step brainstorm is to invite participants to post difficult situations, then make suggestions to each other via the comments and finally discuss a number of cases. 

The world map 



When you create a Padlet you choose a template. One of the template is 'map'. You can use the world map in Padlet to let participants introduce themselves by putting themselves on the map. This gives a nice overview of the group. You can also ask everyone to add specific information, such as their areas of expertise. You can also zoom in on one particular country - see the Netherlands in the image. You can also use the map in Padlet to present information linked to a geographical location. Suppose you want to offer information about climate change, you can add info and link that to the specific location.

Breakout groups



You can also use Padlet well as support for group work in breakouts. In Zoom it is always a struggle to clearly communicate the assignment to the groups, the groups can't take the slide to the chat. Sometimes I say 'just take a picture yourself'. One solution is to create a Padlet with columns (this template is called 'Shelf'. You can use a column for the assignment itself and give each group a column, where they take notes. This is a nice way for you as a facilitator to monitor the progress in the groups. If you see one group's column is still empty you may visit that group. 

The mini-course




Microlearning is hot. You can use Padlet as the basis for a short course, for example a ten-day course on 'staying fit in times of corona'. You can use a column per day with a short assignment. You can add a video, podcast or article. Another way is to link multiple Padlets. Start a 'Mother Padlet' and link to the other Padlets. Here you will find an explanation how to link them. Or make an escape room as a mini course. 

Padlet in your own platform 



There are several platforms where participants cannot interact easily. Or the comments are quite hidden  (like in Moodle). You can often 'embed' = insert other content in your platform, like a video. If you can embed a video, you can also embed a Padlet. For the users the experience is seamless, it is as if they are responding in the platform. 

Video and audio Padlets



A nice feature of Padlet is the option to record a short video via your webcam. Hence, you can use Padlet in the same way as the Flipgrid app. For example, ask the participants to record a pitch of no more than 1 or 2 minutes and ask the other participants to give feedback via the comments. During a series of digital working visits, we keep each other informed via short video messages. During a project, the presentations were shared via a Padlet and we gave feedback via the audio. That makes it more personal.

Ideas added by readers:
  • Use Padlet for evaluation: ask people to write down their ideas in different columns. One column per participant or per evaluation topic. 
  • You can add your own image as background. You may use for instance a graph and ask people to add ideas concerning the elements of the graph. You need to use the canvas template for this, otherwise the posts can not be placed on an exact place on the wall. 
    

Happy learners with an attractive platform

Do you facilitate an online or blended course? If it takes longer than let's say a day or week, you may be using an online platform. Maybe you are already content that you understand all feature or you may have  someone 'doing' the platform stuff. That is a shame because a well-designed and attractive platform is important. So you should be bothered about the style and content of the platform, even if you think there is not that much that you can tweak (what you can tweak depends indeed). In this blog I explain why the attractiveness of your platform is important and will give a number of tips that you can get started with right away.

 

In this video you see the 'Rapping Flight Attendant David Holmes'. He explains the safety instructions via a rap. Not only musical and fun, but it also turns out to be effective. "This is the first time I have listened to the instructions" a passenger told him. Making fun can help capture attention ... How can you use this with your online platform?

Happy or sad online? The importance of emotions


Donald Norman writes about the importance of emotion in design in an article called Emotion & Design, Attractive things work better. Two elements are important for a great platform supporting learning. First, the attrractiveness - the immediate atmosphere that you experience as a participant on a platform. And secondly, the convenience - the ease with which the participant can use the platform and move around and find their way. Most importantly, the first influences the second: appearance affects the ease of use. A study of ATMs in Japan and Israel shows that an attractive ATM with the same buttons is perceived as easier. Norman explains this on the basis of emotions: an attractive design makes you happier and hence you are more open to finding solutions, for example clicking a few times before you find what you are looking for. On the other hand, if you are in a bad mood, you can keep clicking on something and get annoyed. So you can get away with more problems if it looks nice. 

How to make your platform attractive? You can do something about the design, font, color photos. What atmosphere do you want to create in the platform? That probably depends on your target group. Business- like or informal? With hand-drawn images you get a different atmosphere than with photos of well-dressed employees. Blue gives a different feeling than orange. Also play with fonts. And test. Ask participants what they find attractive and what they don't.



Tips for an attractive platform


  • Make use of illustrations, photos and drawings. Illustrations contribute to the attractiveness and atmosphere. If you have or can hire a graphic designer in-house, he or she can help you develop the style. If not, you can also ensure that you add images such as photos or cartoons. You can use sites with photos such as Pixabay or Unsplash for this. Or use icons such as Nounproject or Iconduck. You may also search for images with use rights using Google images.
  • Provide a clear structure. A participant enters the platform and must be able to find his way. A good menu function helps with this. You may put a welcome message on the homepage in which you give people a brief explanation. Remember that not everything has to be visible from the start, maybe you can keep a few themes hidden for later? Or do you expand the platform based on the wishes of the participants?
  • Put the most important thing first. Online you work with lots of hyperlinks. How often does someone have to click to get to the information? This has a great influence on the number of responses to a question, for example. When a question and all answers are visible straight away, this produces many more responses than when you first have to click twice before entering a forum. 
  • Use multimedia. You can work with text online. Such as exchanging ideas and experiences or answers to an assignment in a forum. It can be refreshing to work with other media such as video and audio. When you can "embed" videos (this is placing the video on your platform in such a way that the video plays there too) it is more attractive than a link.
  • Use appealing language. Language has a decisive role: use recognizable language, but also be creative. Calling a space for group a "bungalow" does something to the atmosphere. Or create a "garden" as a place to exchange ideas, which sounds different from "forum". Using a word like bungalow with a simple image can give the feeling that you are really sitting in a house together. 
  • Make activity visible. Nothing is more annoying than going to an online environment and feeling that little is happening there. A main page that constantly looks the same does not make you curious. Make the activity visible on the main page: tweets, latest activities, a newly started discussion, a posted blog post, an added video, a new link to an article.
    

Experimenting with three network tools: Wonder Me, Spatialchat and Gather

In October I ran into Wonder at the online conference of facilitators and I got really excited about it. You can easily 'walk around' and talk to people. Then I discovered that there are many more such tools. Time for a meetup with my Dutch network (called Losmakers) to experiment with three different tools and brainstorm about ways to use them. 



We tried Wonder me with the whole group of around 40 people. It didn't take me long to set up the tool. I already had a room and put a new background behind it. I made 3 circles with topics. However, in my Wonder experiences people just walk around and don't seem to follow the topics of the circles. 'As in real life' somebody remarked. In the word cloud you can see how the LOSmakers experienced Wonder me. Especially striking: very positive, intuitive, handy and fun. A few had problems with sound or became a bit dizzy from zooming in and out. People appreciated that you can immediately walk around without long explanations. The tool is really user-friendly. Personally I had difficulties with my webcam, but apparently this is a result of the stricter privacy settings of chrome? 



People also found spatialchat equally easy and playful. The difference with Wonder is that you can set up and furnish different rooms here. In each room you can choose a background image and you can also, for example, prepare a video or other content. What is the difference between Wonder and Spatialchat? With Wonder you hear the people in your circle and not the others. With spatialchat you can hear people close by, but also people further away. This gives the real pub effect, but the question is whether this is desirable online. So we went with a group: 'up the mountain', to have a quiet space where we did not hear the mumbling of the others.



Gather has rooms, and you can even build a city. It reminds me of walking around in Habbo hotel (for those who still know Habbo). Hence, people thought it was old-fashioned. Also funny, playful and a possible substitute for breakouts, although some would use it mainly for friends and not for professional meetings.

What can we do with those tools? 

As a wrap up we discussed how to use it. They are all tools for informal meeting, so people are happy to meet informally or to chat after a session. A closing online drink, for example. But there are also other ideas:
  • Brainstorming. It is very suitable for brainstorming, because the tool automatically loosens you up through the freedom to walk around and mingle. 
  • Breakout sessions. You can use it as a replacement for breakout rooms. Instead of the breakout, you invite people to one of these tools. They will have to come back by themselves at an agreed upon time. In Wonder me you can stop all conversations and announce that you have to go back to eg your Zoom or Teams meeting. 
  • Teambuilding. Use it to strengthen informal contact in an online team. Walk around in Wonder me every Monday?
  • Innovation. You could shake up a consultation that goes the same way every time by doing it like this.
  • Information markets, poster presentations or 'Share fairs'. In Spatialchat you can give each organization its own corner, and people can walk around. Or make circles in Wonder.
  • Open space. It lends itself to open space. The 'law of two feet' means that you can walk around and leave if the conversation is less interesting to you. This is best possible with the help of these tools. 

Tip: If you want to start working with these networking tools: plan enough time to get to know the tool and set it up. Also good is testing on which devices and with which browsers it works well. Sometimes you have to give permission to your webcam or it only works with Chrome and Firefox. This is important to prevent some people from not being able to participate.

    

A new generation of tools for meeting and networking online

There is a new generation of tools that enriches the toolset of online facilitators. Wow. In this blog I will list a number of them and hope to make you enthusiastic to start experimenting. The first one I discovered was Wonder Me. The first time I used Wonder Me, I was amazed by the different way it made me feel and the freedom I experienced as compared to the normal webconferencing tools.  I felt I could "walk around" online by getting close to someone else and I could talk to him or her. A completely different online experience than a Zoom breakout room where you are 'put' in the breakout by the facilitator and hardly dare to leave (I did so today and it was not appreciated :).. If I had too compare it to a face-to-face experience I'd say it resembles the online version of a reception. Then I discovered that a number of nice new tools have been added. The common denominator seems to be that they are tools that change online networking: make it more visual and provide more freedom.

Wonder me

Wonder me is currently free and you can sign up to get your own Wonder room. However, it will come with paid plan at the end of next year. You can invite people to your own room, and customize the room by changing the background. Your photo is show in the room and can walk around by using your mouse. When you are close to a person or group your videos and audios will work. You can recognize a group of people already talking by a circle. So you can choose how long you stay in a group or walk further. The main facilitator can send a message to anyone, then all conversations will be silenced. You can also 'close' a circle to have a private conversation. The impressive thing is that it works for up to 1000 people, with a maximum of 15 in a circle.

Remo


Remo.co also gives a lot of control to the visitor to walk around. It is more structured than wonder.me due to its setup with tables with maximum 8 participants. You can choose which table you join, the people who sit at the table will hear a knock at the door. Full is full. You can also add a topic to the tables, so it lends itself well to a World Cafe format. You can try it for free for 14 days, after that it starts from 100 dollars per month.

Videofacilitator




Videofacilitator works in a slightly different way. You can actually organize speeddating in an easy way, by having people switch to the next person. It therefore gives less control for the participants to choose themselves. However, the feeling is different than in subgroups because you can also see the other groups. You can create a free account to try it out, after that it's $ 30 a month. It may be that there a more possibilities to use it since I only experienced the speeddating process. 

Spatial chat



Spatialchat can be used perfectly for an open space session. You can create different sub-spaces like rooms, and also prepare material for a room, such as a video. The maximum number of participants is 100. It is free up to 25 participants and 3 rooms. Then it starts from $ 49.95 per month

Topia


Another nice one is Topia. You can add a picture to your own space. Personally, I was not able to try Topia because I had to set a hardware configuration in my Chrome browser and Firefox is not supported. Maybe more for the future? Topia is free for up to 25 people, then $ 29 per month.. Anybody with experiences?


Gather

Gather is also making the videocall experience more visual. However, the design is somewhat reminiscent of the (old) world of the pacman. Free for 25 people. Nice that you can start a town, city or metropolis.

Getmibo

Getmibo is more for fun. As they phrase it on their website “for informal meetings, remote drinks, social mixers, networking events, or just hanging around”. You can walk around an island and your head is the webcam. Free up to 12 people, then 49 euros per month. Until recently, Getmibo was called Borrel. They have changed the name because it can also be used for more than just drinks, for example as a network option at an online conference.

These tools are a great asset to me. What they have in common is you have more freedom to "walk around" and meet each other online. They are more visual than Zoom, Webex or Microsoft Teams. You don't need a login and you can start a room. They are not going to replace the existing webconferencing tools, but they do provide opportunities to come together online in a different way and thus new possibilities for the online facilitator.

Added: hubhub

    

Hybrid sessions: the new norm?

In July we completed the Design and Facilitation of Blended Learning course. As teachers, we are proud of the beautiful designs for online lessons, online workshops, interactive videos and coaching programs, which were already already implemented in many cases. It was an intensive course: interrupted by corona. The second live meeting was canceled and we went online. Although we were quite comfortable doing the program online, we missed something. Since the course is already blended, it shows that we really get energy from working with the group. In the live session in Utrecht, the theme (design, tools or facilitation) is put into context and the online experiences fall into place. 

I notice that the course is already well balanced in its blend: each block has two weeks online and one morning in Utrecht. It gives a lot of energy to see each other. Without the live session you miss part of the group process. Fortunately, the last session could be a live session, although two people immediately wanted to participate online. At the last minute we received two more emails ... they prefered online too! We suddenly found ourselves in a real hybrid meeting: half online, half face-to-face.


Will hybrid sessions be the new norm?

Is hybrid the future? I would not know. Maybe we will have more online learning trajectories than blended. It is interesting that one participant did not bother to travel because it would save her time. The standard could also become to organize hybrid session. Firstly, because we can accommodate fewer people or students in a room (we had to cope with a maximum of 9). Secondly, it gives participants the freedom to decide for themselves whether they are willing to travel and meet others. In any case, we thought it gave a lot of energy to be together like this, even for the online participants!


How to organize a hybrid session

We have quite some experiences with one participant online. In this case we have her face embodied on the laptop via the webcam and carry her around. In this case we had four online participants. We asked in advance about the tool options (many are not allowed to zoom): the preferences were Skype and Zoom. We decided to put people on two laptops. Mainly, because having two laptops with each two people made the organization of the groupwork easier. In the session, it also proved to be fun to have two laptop groups, so that it is not 'us in the room' versus 'them online'. It is a challenge, however, to ensure that the online participant's experience runs smoothly. Some tips from our experience: 

  • It helps to experience it for yourself, so offer to join as an online participant at a live meeting or meeting.
  • Make sure the online participants are clearly visible. That can be on a big screen or as a 'laptop head'. This way you avoid to forget them. 
  • An external webcam can ensure that the room is clearly visible to the online participants. This is especially nice with an online speaker, as he / she also sees the reactions of the audience.
  • It can be more difficult to break into a discussion online, but this can also apply to the live participants. Therefore, agree how to ask for the word, eg by raising your hand. As a facilitator you may structure the important more by giving turns, so everyone gets their change.
  • Work regularly in subgroups, mixing online participants with face-to-face (better with headset). Or create a group of two online participants who may exchange online together.
  • The audio was not always optimal for the online participants. A speakerphone might improve that and is something I would like to try next time. 
  • Divide the care for the online participants. Who is watching who? You can divide the tasks between facilitators or apply a buddy system whereby everybody  who is present face-to-face is the buddy of an online person.
  • With large groups both face-to-face and online, it is good to have a face-to-face and online facilitator who work together and occasionally work with their own group.

The group dynamics in this blended session

The group dynamics were fine after all, because they want to stay in touch! One person never met the others face-to-face but clearly felt comfortable.  I felt there was no real difference between the online and life participants (except that we had our coffees together in the sun :).

A participant: "Never had such a steep learning curve. And today, I experienced firsthand how  hybrid learning works. It went really well: beyond expectations!"


More tips?

    

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