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Use digital bulletin board Padlet to map out your thoughts

It’s a simple canvas for adding, organizing, and sharing information, and can be used for almost any purpose, from gathering ideas in a meeting to mapping out elements of an upcoming project.

Use digital bulletin board Padlet to map out your thoughts

This article is republished with permission from Wonder Tools, a newsletter that helps you discover the most useful sites and appsSubscribe here.

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Padlet is a digital bulletin board. It’s a simple canvas for adding, organizing, and sharing information. It can be used flexibly for almost any purpose, from gathering ideas in a meeting to mapping out elements of an upcoming project.

Designed for teachers, Padlets work well for gathering thoughts in a visual way.

How to Create a Padlet

  • Step 1: At Padlet.com, choose a board type. This can be a shelf-style board with vertical columns. Or a grid of horizontal items. Or an open canvas, a timeline, or a map.
  • Step 2: Now that you have a blank board, hit the plus sign to add an item. Give it a title or header. Below that add a link, an image from the web, a Spotify song, a YouTube video, or a file from your computer.
  • Step 3: Continue adding as many items as you’d like. You can even click a button to record and add audio or video. Or keep it simple with plain text.
  • Step 4: Optionally, invite others to collaborate. I usually use Padlets for group brainstorming or idea sharing.
  • Step 5: Optionally, move items around, edit them, or add comments.
  • Step 6: Share, print, export, or embed the Padlet.

What I use Padlet for

I most often use Padlet when I’m teaching or leading workshops. Participants share input in response to questions I pose or share ideas on topics we’re exploring.

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It’s great for icebreakers. For example, in one recent workshop we broke the ice by posting some of our silly guilty pleasures. With an international group I used Padlet’s world map template to invite participants to share a highlight about their place of origin. It was fun clicking on all the map locations people added to see their videos, images, links, and comments.

It also works well for sharing project updates. In entrepreneurial journalism sessions, participants post project updates or value propositions on a shared board. Then everyone can read the collected posts and add comments.

5 ways to make the most of Padlets

  • Create a mood board: Gather sources of inspiration for something you’re working on, like great articles, videos, or podcasts on a topic of interest. Or inspiring images of something you’re designing. Or recipes. Invite a collaborator to add materials or comments. Or just use the Padlet for your own private inspiration.
  • Gather team ideas: Make a Padlet specifically for a project you’re working on. Invite others to use the audio or video or screen recording function to add their thoughts.
  • Map ideas over time: Padlet has multiple templates, including one for timelines. If you’re planning out the year ahead or reflecting back on the past year, either personally or professionally, you can use a timeline to neatly order things visually. Or create a timeline of someone’s life or of historical developments.
  • Map ideas geographically: One built-in template lets you drop pins in places around the globe, adding text, images, videos, or whatever else to spots on the map. I love using this to learn about places people are from. You can ask people to detail food they love from a particular place, or just an interesting fact or detail connected to their place of origin. There’s a Spotify integration, so people can even add a song.
  • Collect input about a project: For work purposes, Padlet can be helpful to center your team on a single visual page. Use the Canvas template to let people draw connections between items. Or the Stream one to put everything in a simple top-to-bottom format.

Platforms

You can use Padlet on any Web browser, or with a dedicated app for any device you have. It works on iOS, Android, Kindle, Mac, Chrome, and Windows. You can also add a browser extension that lets you click a bookmarklet to easily add something from the web to any Padlet board.

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More ideas for using Padlet

  • Draft an idea board for potential side projects in 2022.
  • Make a bucket list with 10 things to do once travel is more feasible.
  • Collaborate with a teammate on ways to improve your work.

Tips

  • Design for visual impact. Padlet has a range of backgrounds you can use, including some cheesy clip-art style options. Avoid those. Pick a simple gradient background or upload a favorite image. Add an icon to liven up a page.
  • Remake for efficiency. Rather than starting from scratch, I usually remake an existing board, selecting the option to strip out past posts. That saves me from having to adjust all the settings and design elements from scratch.
  • Give a 30-second demo. When using Padlet with a group for the first time, or when introducing a new template, I show people how it works by adding some text, a link, a visual, and a comment. Those are the most important features to know. I’ve found that seeing someone do that once is enough to get people up and running.
  • More tips from the Padlet team are presented, of course, in a Padlet.

Examples

The Padlet Gallery shows some cool use cases:

Here’s a collection of some of the best education Padlets and 15 ways teachers use Padlets.

Pricing

It’s free to create up to three Padlets, and $8 per month to create an unlimited number. The organization-oriented “backpack” account is awkwardly designed and more expensive. I find the $8 monthly premium setup is simplest and best.

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Limitations

  • Padlets use a fixed grid, so you can’t resize individual items, though you can move them around.
  • It doesn’t have robust text formatting, and it’s not designed for text editing, so if you’re working with big blocks of text, other tools might be preferable.
  • The organizational account setup has a clunky, awkward settings menu.

Alternatives

Milanote is a related tool that provides a visual bulletin board for ideas. It has a wider range of features, more design flexibility, and more complexity. It may be a better option for big multipart projects, or one where you want to refine the look of each board element.

EasyRetro is great for letting people add input to Kanban-style boards. Unlike Padlet and Milanote, it focuses on simple text, not visuals, but also allows for voting. Designed for team retrospectives.

Jamboard is Google’s free visual brainstorming tool. Where Padlet shines, though, is in enabling an infinite canvas that lets you keep adding things, whereas Jamboard pages can quickly get filled up.

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This article is republished with permission from Wonder Tools, a newsletter that helps you discover the most useful sites and appsSubscribe here.

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About the author

Jeremy Caplan is the director of teaching and learning at CUNY’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism and the creator of the Wonder Tools newsletter.

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