Using Padlet to Create Community

By: Professor Heather Gram (Wake Forest)

Person Gather Hand and Foot in Center

Like many educators this past summer, I found my days consumed by webinars, conferences, and virtual meetings all designed to introduce me to new technology for the fall.  While most were helpful, I still felt overwhelmed at times.  Would I be able to figure out my third Learning Management System in five years? Could I learn how to effortlessly pop into pre-designated breakout rooms without accidentally ending the session for everyone?  And if I taught online, how could I build that same rapport with students that comes naturally with face-to-face classes?

Luckily, I stumbled onto a demonstration of Padlet™ and recognized that it might be what I was looking for. According to a 2018 article, “Padlet began as a free digital bulletin-board where teachers and students could exchange ideas, materials, and comments.”  It has “a simple interface that allow[s] users to drag and drop files from their desktop and add links from the web onto a web-based canvas (called a ‘padlet’).” While  Padlet™ originally offered the unlimited creation of padlets, two years ago it capped the number of free padlets per person to five.

Padlet™ immediately reminded me of the high school locker that I shared with my best friend.  That locker had been a place where I could post notes to her about assignments (“Do you understand the reading for tomorrow’s class?”), questions (“When is our AP History test?”), and articles about movies, music, and more.  Padlet™ seemed to provide a similarly creative way to reach my students in a less formal manner than just posting announcements on Canvas™. Continue reading “Using Padlet to Create Community”

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My Virtual Conversion

By: Abigail Perdue (Wake Forest)

Photo Of Woman Wearing Turtleneck Top

If you had asked me last August whether I would like to teach my fall Appellate Advocacy course fully online, I would have said, without hesitation, “Hard pass.” Jaded by my own scant experience with online education (primarily in the form of mind-numbing CLEs), which had always been vastly inferior to face-to-face learning, I had honestly never given distance learning a second thought. Although I rarely speak in absolutes, I was wholeheartedly convinced that online teaching could never be as effective or rewarding as an in-person experience. And then COVID happened.

Bracing ourselves for the great unknown, educators across America immediately took drastic, emergency measures to minimize COVID-related course interruption, hurriedly transitioning our classes online. Most of us entered this new frontier without the benefit of formal training, preparation, equipment, or intention like astronauts sent to the moon without spacesuits. And although I did my best under the extenuating, unforeseeable circumstances, I found myself eager and anxious to “get back to normal” this fall.

And then COVID continued. Looking back, I realize that I, like so many others, was probably working through the stages of grief in a way. Armed with the flexibility and power of a growth mindset (thank you Dr. Dweck!), over the weeks that followed, I moved from denial that COVID would prevent face-to-face teaching in the fall all the way to acceptance of the “new normal” (that I needed to plan a virtual course).

Over the summer, my law school, like many others, provided countless workshops on virtual teaching and launched small learning communities about best practices in online education. I participated in a fabulous conference about remote teaching held by William & Mary. On my own initiative, I underwent other training as well. Applying the principles of positive psychology, I framed each training as an opportunity to learn something new, to innovate, and to reexamine longstanding notions about how and what I should be teaching.

Then something remarkable happened. Continue reading “My Virtual Conversion”

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Let’s Listen to the Quiet Ones: How Quiet Students Thrive in Remote Learning

By: Professor Heidi K. Brown (Brooklyn Law School)

A new book for introverted shy and socially anxious lawyers

Midway through pandemic lockdown in New York City, my television was tuned to CNN one Saturday morning while I exercised in my kitchen. My ears perked up at hearing an elementary school principal in Washington, D.C.—Dr. Sundai Riggins—relay in an interview how students who were not talkative in in-person classes were expressing themselves more frequently in distance learning. I thought, Wow, I wish every educator (and politician) could hear that message!

 When the law school where I teach switched to “emergency remote learning” in March, I too noticed students who rarely raised their hand in our live classroom quickly embracing online communication tools such as the “hand-raise” and “chat” features in Zoom. These electronic functions enable quiet students to signal a desire to contribute without having to interrupt their more voluble classmates or teacher to be heard. (Introverts resist interruption—to themselves and others.) This got me thinking, Are other educators across the country noticing an uptick in participation by quiet students during the pandemic? Continue reading “Let’s Listen to the Quiet Ones: How Quiet Students Thrive in Remote Learning”

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Self-Made: Introducing Avatars in the Online Law Classroom (Part Two)

By: Joy Kanwar and Kim D. Ricardo

Image Credit: Lunalavandula                      Student-Created Avatar

In Part I, we introduced the idea of an avatar and described how Joy has used avatars to help students prepare for oral argument in the physical classroom as well as an online one.

In Part II of this three-part series, we re-envision the avatar as a tool to enhance law student engagement in the online classroom, as well as how it can be useful to build professional    identity.  First, we focus on how avatars can be used right at the start of the semester for community-building purposes.  The local culture that we create in the (online) classroom matters.  The social norms that we establish can assist students in identifying and addressing inequities in the law.  Here, we encourage faculty to build classroom norms that challenge the notion of objectivity and that value subjective perspectives.  Second, we present reasons that avatars can also help enhance professional identity building during the semester as well, a purpose that is enhanced further if community has already been built in the classroom. Continue reading “Self-Made: Introducing Avatars in the Online Law Classroom (Part Two)”

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Self-Made: Introducing Avatars in the Online Law Classroom

By: Joy Kanwar (Brooklyn Law School) and Kim D. Ricardo, (UIC Law) (JMLS Chicago)

This article is the first in a three-part series.

Photo Credit: Lunalavandula

Law school in Fall 2020 will be different.  Many law teachers will meet their students for the first time through an online platform because of COVID-19.  And following the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Elijah McClain and the reinvigorated social movement led by Black Lives Matter, our society is also reckoning with systemic racism more profoundly than ever in the past.

This historic moment presents challenges for both law teachers and their students.  How can you genuinely get to know your students at a distance?  Are there ways to facilitate student interactions to replicate the social networks of support that otherwise would have happened organically in the physical law school?  What is the best way to create a classroom culture online?  In what ways do the norms established in the online classroom either reify or help dismantle oppressive power structures?

Drawing on Joy Kanwar’s 2018 article, and in this series of three blog posts on Teach Law Better, we use the avatar framework to address these questions about online course development.  The avatar framework offers research-backed and field-tested strategies to foster law student socialization and community building in the online classroom.

In Part I, we define “avatar” and describe how Joy has used avatars as scaffolding for professional identity development in her classroom.  We then propose extending the use of avatars to frame all community-building efforts in an online class.

In Part II, we will contextualize our proposal to introduce law school avatars early in the year by diving into the relevant literature on distance education.  We specifically consider how the local social norms that faculty establish in the online classroom can help address inequities in the legal system and in law school.  In Part III, we will provide model avatar design guidelines with step-by-step instructions. 

Part One

What is an Avatar?

Joy’s Avatar

Avatar (pronounced “Ah-vuh-Thar”) originates from the Sanskrit language and Hindu Mythology and is defined as “the descent of a deity to the earth in an incarnate form or some manifest shape; the incarnation of a god.”  In the non-Hindu context, an avatar is “an embodiment or personification, as of a principle, attitude, or view of life.”  A third definition, and the one that may resonate the most for our students, is that of an avatar in the digital space: “a graphical image that represents a person, as on the Internet.”  In this last context, the avatar is a character that “stands in” for the real person and may or may not resemble the actual physical person. Continue reading “Self-Made: Introducing Avatars in the Online Law Classroom”

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