Padlet (www. padlet.com) is a free, interactive website that basically serves as a digital message board. There are many types of message boards that can be picked from the site’s template gallery but the two that I am suggesting for use here are the timeline and map Padlets.
We will be using the map Padlet to plot important locations in music history such as birthplaces of composers or points of origin with regards to genre. Setting up the Padlet is simple and intuitive. Additionally, you can use the platform for any existing lessons as it’s a very flexible resource. The links to two sample Padlets that I have already made (a map Padlet 8and a timeline Padlet 9) are found in the notes section. When the map Padlet is initially opened, the viewer sees a world map with all of the details one would expect when accessing a world map. The next step for the teacher is to select a location of interest on the map. Options for detailing this location are made available to the teacher at this point in a pop-up window. Using Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (named for the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge) as an example, his birthplace of London, England would be selected as a first step. In the pop-up window the teacher uploads a picture of Coleridge-Taylor, a short biography, hyperlinks to YouTube videos of performances and any other information the teacher considers pertinent. When this pop-up window is closed, all that appears over the location of London, England on the Padlet map is a pink pin. When this pin is clicked, the uploaded picture of Coleridge-Taylor appears and the student can further explore by clicking “expand post” to find the any information the teacher has inputted in the entry. Taking this a step further, the teacher can then choose to select a second location on the map that is connected to Coleridge-Taylor in an effort to open dialog about what it is to be Afro-British. Coleridge-Taylor’s mother was a white English woman and father was a doctor from Sierra Leone. Now there are two points on the Padlet map for this one composer. One can continue with this approach by marking other places associated with Coleridge-Taylor. Additionally, a dialog can be opened from this point about Sierra Leone and its role in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade industry. Using the map Padlet can open these discussions organically if the proper care is taken in introducing and navigating the dialog.
I suggest that the teacher use this map template on Padlet as a way to assure that composers and musicians from all over the world, who also have their roots and connections to yet secondary places in the world, are represented. As more composers are added, the map obviously becomes more populated. If this is platform is made part of a weekly class or rehearsal by year’s end the map should be densely populated. A secondary function of the visual aspect of this platform is that the teacher and students can observe when an area of the world has fewer or no pins marking any of its specific locations. This can be seen as a special challenge to find composers or genres to fill those gaps. Pairing this map Padlet with a regular listening activity would be ideal and should be visited and added to throughout the year.
The timeline Padlet allows the teacher to arrange entries on a timeline using the same method as described in the map Padlet. When the timeline is opened for the first time, it is a blank screen save for a dotted horizontal line marked with intermittent dots. By clicking the + sign on the site, the teacher is prompted to enter images, text and hyperlinks in the same manner as described in the map Padlet section above. Again, using this platform, many theoretical and abstract points can be made visual, but in a different manner. When teaching middle school-aged children, visual demonstrations are often much more effective that more abstract ones. As Dr. Ayesha Ramachandran said in her lecture entitled “Mapping the Intangible: Faith, Fiction and Feelings”, different maps or tools give us different information depending on the focus of the map. In the case of the map Padlet, we visually focused on where different important composers and musicians are from in the world. Using the timeline template, we can focus more on who these people were, how their faces (when displayed side-by-side) reflect the changing landscape of our world and how including counter-narratives changes what a line-up of what these important figures looks like. Both templates (map and timeline) serve as maps of sorts, providing different pieces of knowledge about the same figures but with the same aim for shifting the narrative from the dominant white, Eurocentric one that has been upheld by the discipline of music education to the counter-narrative.
A brief example can be given as such: To the left end of the timeline, the teacher might place a Baroque era composer like Vivaldi (who is fair skinned and wearing a powered wig) whose entry would include a portrait, biographical data and links to examples of his music. To the far right of the timeline, a living composer like living African-American composer Jessie Montgomery might be added with similar details pertaining to her life and music. Now the opposite ends of the timeline span the chronological distance from Vivaldi born in Venice in 1678 to Montgomery born in the United States in 1981. Filling the gulf between these two entries with the ones that came between them (J.S. Bach, Joseph Bologne, Gustav Mahler, Scott Joplin, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Florence Price, George Walker, Margaret Bonds, Adolphus Hailstork, Caroline Shaw etc.) would demonstrate on a visual level what it looks like to include all narratives in the story of humanity’s musical developments in chronological order. As the student scrolls to the right, they would see more women and more ethnic diversity in the portraits of these giants as time moves on. To help get the teacher started, consult my timeline Padlet 9.
Again, these tools would ideally be used as part of a regular listening activity where the composer of the piece introduced to students is entered on both the map and timeline Padlets. Each Padlet will make the same and different points using similar information but both with the aim of broadening the narrative. Using these sites, the students can see where the composer is from, what they looked like and where they fit in the continuum of composers. An added benefit to this platform is that students can access them whenever they like. As long as they have the link, they can go to either Padlet and access the biographical information and the links to the recordings of the music they were introduced to in class. This encourages students to revisit the information outside of class, perhaps having a private listen to the music of William Grant Still. Both of these Padlets should grow over the course of the year as new music is introduced to the students. The links to two sample Padlets: map Padlet 8 and timeline Padlet 9 are found in the notes section.