There are lots of brainstorming protocols out there that are designed to encourage free thinking and acceptance of ideas. Nonetheless, some participants are reluctant to ‘put themselves out there’ and share their ideas, partly out of the fear that their ideas will be judged or, worse yet, mocked by peers. This is where web-based brainstorming platforms can be really helpful. Not only do they offer anonymity (if that’s what you choose), they also offer a variety of features, and you have the option to revisit the archived version as needed. In this blog post, I will review my two favorite brainstorming apps, Padlet (formally called Wallwisher) and Dotstorming.
First of all, Padlet is much more than a brainstorming app. It’s a place where you can curate resources, summarize a topic, post questions, contribute to a book review, and so on. That being said, I still like Padlet (and Dotstorming) as a place where classes can brainstorm ideas. To access Padlet, go to padlet.com and click the ‘Sign up’ button. You will be presented with the option to sign in with Google or Facebook, or you can sign in with any email address and the password of your choosing. In the top right corner of the screen, click the red button the make a new padlet. Once your Padlet opens, you will be presented with options to change the title, modify the layout, and choose a wallpaper background. There are also some premium settings that may or may not be greyed out depending on your account type. After you configure these initial settings, click ‘Next’ to review and modify the privacy settings. By default, new Padlets are set to ‘Secret’, meaning the Padlet is only available to those with the link. The other three privacy options include Private, Password Protected, and Public.
The easiest way to share a Padlet is to copy the url of the page and email or link it for your students. Once they have access, they will have the ability to post to the Padlet by clicking the red plus button in the bottom right corner of the screen or by double-clicking anywhere on the wall. The image below on the left shows the options available for a new post, including a title, text, and the option to add an attachment. When adding an attachment, Padlet gives you the ability to link to a site such as YouTube, with the media being embedded right into the Padlet. Padlet supports all sorts of attachment types including audio, video, photo, webpages, and traditional files. The image on the right shows a completed post that includes text and an image.
As posts are added to your Padlet, they will be auto-arranged for optimal viewing. Completed Padlets can be shared via link, embedded on a blog or website, and posted to social media. You can also export a Padlet in a number of different file types including image or PDF. For more inspiration about uses of Padlet in the classroom, check out this blog post titled The Best Ways to Use Padlet – Examples from Teachers, courtesy of Richard Byrne.
Dotstorming is a relatively new brainstorming app that has a lot of similarities to Padlet with a couple notable differences. To access Dotstorming, go to dotstorming.com, click ‘Join’, and follow the prompts to make an account. Once your account is made, click ‘Add a Board’ to create a new Dotstorming board. In the next window, give your board a title, description (optional), select the number of votes per participant, and select the sharing options. Once the board has been created, the administrator has a number of control options, seen by clicking the hamburger menu at the top right corner of the screen.
After you are happy with the settings, click the ‘Share’ button and grab the link to share with students or use the embed code to embed the board on a website. Students can contribute to the board in two ways, by clicking ‘Add a Card’ or ‘Upload an Image’. Either option allows for adding text, which can be formatted a number of ways including bold, italics, numbered list and so on. You can also add a YouTube video by pasting in the URL.
As I mentioned earlier, Dotstorming has a couple unique features not available with Padlet. For example, you can enable/disable a chat window on the right side of the board. The feature I like most is the ability to enable/disable voting, a great way to determine which cards are most relevant to students. Students can be given anywhere between 1 and 10 votes and, as administrator, you can rank the board by votes as well as lock the board to prevent further edits. Voting is simple. Students just click the small circle located on the bottom left corner of the card as shown in the image below.
In the example above, 3 votes are available to each participant and they have the option to apply all their votes to one card (2 votes were given to the card above) or they can vote once per card. Votes can be toggled on and off, meaning you can ‘un-vote’ a card and then vote a different card.
Below, check out the 7-minute video from Free Technology for Teachers to learn more about this great brainstorming application.
I hope you enjoy these two great brainstorming applications. You really can’t go wrong with either one and you’ll love the way they foster engagement by all students.