Notes? Active Algorithms – Jeremy Knox

Click here to see my padlet

On using padlet…

My first reaction of padlet was nauseated rage at its cloying, overly cutesy automated instructions. It was also annoyingly instrumentalist. This deserves a post of its own, so click here for more details.

Anyway. My reflections on actually USING padlet. It was…OK. I went in with the idea that I was making notes for myself. This resulted in me getting annoyed at how much more laborious it was than just typing. I felt obliged to add video and images otherwise what would be the point of this functionality? Now, instead of reading the Knox text I was spending ages looking for suitable pictures, pictures that I knew wouldn’t be much use to me when I read it later. I was happy enough with blocks of text.

Gradually though I came round to the idea that the point was to share this work with others. I was certainly prompted to do so several times by the padlet instructions. If I was going to do that I would have a different audience (my classmates) and that meant I needed to make sure it could be understood by them. I also wanted them to find it visually attractive and maybe even amusing (I probably got carried away with some of the gags within the notes). All of a sudden I was producing an entirely different type of knowledge prompted by the technological and social conditions of both the app and my course. Given that this was one of themes of the Knox paper I began to feel a bit better about how long this was all taking.

Other ways that padlet evinces the themes of the Knox paper began to emerge. One of the primary features of padlet is the ability to place and re-arrange the content that you upload. I found myself spending a lot of time thinking about how the content boxes I was making related to each other both conceptually and within the context of the padlet board, which in itself is an imaginary “space”. This reflects Knox’s point that space is created through practice. I was literally making the space on the padlet board through my note writing practice.

Another point Knox made was that algorithms should be considered to be active entities within educational practice, entities that act in symbiosis with social, human and material factors to create unpredictable results. This struck me as particularly apt description of how the google search algorithms influenced my padlet writing. There were numerous occasions where I altered what I wrote to fit with the pictures and videos I was able to find. The search algorithms were an invisible co-author/editor for my writing.

So in summary, padlet was interesting but somewhat exhausting. It certainly was not “the easiest way to create and collaborate in the world”, as claimed on its homepage. I could imagine using it for web based groupwork or creating teaching materials. I would not make notes for myself with it.