Digital Tools to Encourage Student Voice and Choice

Student Reading Recommendations

I love having students discuss the books they’ve read and enjoyed. They are empowered by taking ownership of, and pride in, their reading. And their peers benefit from hearing about titles they could add to their “Want to Read” lists. (A few years ago, I started giving my students copies of a digital “Want to Read” list so they always have it handy at book selection time.) 

Plus, although I give a good book talk, students enjoyed hearing from their peers. They know their classmates pretty well, and have a strong sense of whose tastes most closely match their own. 

Peer-to-Peer Sharing Platforms

When we went digital, I took it as an opportunity to try out some new ideas for this activity I had, until that point, only done in person. Although not every attempt went as smoothly as I dreamed, there were a couple of stand-outs that I wanted to share. 

YouTube can be a decent option. Students can record their thoughts and links can be shared within the class. But our school blocks students from leaving comments on YouTube. This limited the feedback speakers could receive, which also limits the social aspect of book sharing. 

Fortunately, I found two tools that allow comments and feedback. This restores the give-and-take of live discussions, even though the interactions are asynchronous! 

FlipGrid – Videos with Feedback

Click the logo to go to Flipgrid!

I’ve previously written about Flipgrid for a different task, as have several other KQ bloggers. Here’s a quick overview: Flipgrid is a free video posting service aimed specifically at teachers and students. After the instructor sets up a recording space (“Group”) and posts an assignment (“Topic”), students can start recording their responses to the assignment. Within a Topic, the instructor can set the maximum length of recordings, provide links to support materials, and fiddle with many other settings. 

But the key feature for me is that Flipgrid is specifically designed for viewers to provide feedback to videos! Responses can be video recordings or typed text. I appreciate that students have the option to choose the mode they’re most comfortable using. 

The instructor can decide whether the response options are enabled, and which response features students can access. There’s also an option to review responses to posts before they are visible to students. This can be very handy with classes still working on their digital citizenship skills! 

Padlet – Video & More!

Click the logo to visit Padlet!

If you haven’t checked out Padlet, you’re missing out! Once you’ve set up an account, you can create a padlet, a space for posting and sharing. Padlet provides some basic templates to work from that make setting up a particular type of interaction space a breeze.

When creating a padlet, choose among pre-made templates.

So Many Posting Options!

New posts allow the creators to write text, but they can also add so much more!

  • Upload images
  • Add hyperlinks
  • Search for images, GIFs, YouTube videos, Spotify songs or playlists, or other web-based material to add to the post without leaving Padlet
  • Take a photo to include in the post
  • Record audio or video
  • Add maps with location pins

Adding a new post is incredibly easy!

Students can add text, images, and many other options.

The options for what post creators can add are quite extensive!

I love Padlet’s threaded replies. This creates an easy-to-follow ongoing discussion between any students who want to chime in. And Padlet offers the ability to review posts before they appear, as well as a “profanity checker”! 

Padlet offers lots of control via the padlet’s settings.

The Catch

Padlet does have a drawback: the free account limits you to 3 padlets and 10 MB file attachments. For $8 per month, you can have unlimited padlets and 250 MB file attachments. However, students can continually add to a padlet. You can also “clean out” and reuse a padlet. This makes the free option a bit more palatable–and useful! 

Free is for me! But paid offers greater flexibility.

The Tip of the Iceberg

These are two of my favorite digital arenas for student-to-student literacy engagement. Of course, there are lots of fish in the sea! Which tools have you successfully deployed with students to get them engaging with each other and with texts?

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Author: Steve Tetreault

Steve has been teaching for over 20 years, mostly middle school English Language Arts. He has earned an M.Ed. (2006) and an Ed.D. (2014) in Educational Administration and Supervision, and completed an M.I. degree in Library and Information Science (2019). He is certified as a teacher, school library media specialist, supervisor, and administrator. He is an old dog constantly learning new tricks!



Categories: Blog Topics, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models, Technology

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