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Pros: Teachers can embed anything into customizable online spaces while users move freely through the spaces, engaging with content and each other at their own pace.
Cons: Quirky visual style might be too busy for some settings; limited collaborative and accessibility features might limit usefulness in the classroom.
Bottom Line: This virtual meeting platform is a novel alternative for making online gatherings quirky, engaging, and fun.
How Can I Teach with This Tool?
Bramble is a browser-based platform for virtual meetings. Users move cartoon avatars through cartoon spaces where they can video-chat with other users and explore embedded content such as links, images, whiteboards, and videos. As with Zoom, Teams, and other videoconferencing software, users can see and hear other users on-screen; the difference here is that you can use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move your avatar through the space to listen to a speaker, chat with other users, or simply explore the space at your own pace. As you move toward or away from someone, their audio and video amplifies or fades with proximity, unless they're spotlighted (as a teacher or presenter might be). Users can create their own spaces using several built-in template themes, or they can work with the developer to create a custom space that looks like somewhere real. You can subscribe (Bramble provides discounted memberships for educators) or just pay once to use it as a novelty. There are also games and activities you can embed.
You can set up your own virtual world as an introduction to a new unit, embedding content in different spaces and letting students move between them at their own pace, or you might include links out to an assessment that tests for understanding or invites students to submit written reflections. Bramble's developers have said they plan to add more features for multiple collaborators in the future, which could be a great way to have students create a gallery walk of posters, artwork, or presentations at the end of a unit.
Bramble's quirky themes (laser beams! flying whales!) feel like a nice change in the world of virtual gatherings: We're all in on the joke that we're only imagining that we're all in the same place, so why not make that imaginary space a little more fun? Used well, that whimsical visual style could make this an appealing tool for the classroom. It's especially nice that there are pricing options available both for a single event and for months-long use; an explorable world like this might be great once or twice during the school year, especially at the start or end of a unit.