Dynamic, collaborative tool for mind-mapping, brainstorming, and visual representations of content
Overall, Popplet is an engaging and dynamic tool for mind-maps and brainstorming. I love the ability to not only add text, but also videos, images, and websites. Students who are visual learners, who struggle with large amounts of reading/writing, and students who are still learning English are able to grasp concepts because of the visual aspects. Really, it's a great way for students to form relationships among content topics and find ways to think critically about the organization of information.
I also like the collaborative options for this site. If students are working in groups, they are easily able to share their content knowledge, examples, websites, and ideas. When students are finished with their Popplet, there are numerous options for sharing. Users can provide a web link (if it's made public), embed the Popplet in a website or blog, and it can also be downloaded as a PDF of .jpg. That makes submitting the finished product rather simple.
One aspect I do wish was different was the number of free Popplets students can create. In the free version, students can only create 5 different Popplets before they have to pay or delete some of their work.
Overall, Popplet is a great site for changing up how notes, brainstorming, and content-learning can be done in the classroom. My students are engaged and find that using this site, they have a more hands-on way of visualizing and manipulating what they are learning about.
How I Use It
I have used Popplet in class in many different ways. One way I use this tool is for brainstorming and/or planning of writing or project ideas. Students can work on this mind-map as an individual or as a group once they share the map with each other through email. I've also used Popplet as a note-taking device; students use the mind-map bubbles to add new sections of information for content-specific lessons. The best part is they can add videos, images, and websites to support their content knowledge and provide a visual representation and examples of what they are learning about. Lastly, I've had students use this as a presentation tool in which they have formed arguments and supported it with evidence as a subgroup of information. By adding websites, images, and videos along with their typed text, students were able to support their ideas and opinions in a more visual way. While I have not done this in class, I do know some teachers who have used this website to help students organize resources during research projects and longer written reports.
The great thing about Popplet is it's easy to get started with, however users need to have an email address to create an account. Because I teach middle school, not all students have their own personal email accounts, and that makes it difficult if students are sharing the mind-map as a group. Some images and videos do not always display correctly inside the Popplet bubbles, but for the most part, website links and text additions are never an issue. Additionally, once an image/drawing is inserted into the Popplet, there is little to no editing that can be done to the image. If it needs to be changed or moved, the user has to delete the image and start over again.
While this is a wonderful site once students get the hang of it, it does take some modeling and direct instruction time to get students going in the right direction. Once they learn the tools though, they are engaged and excited about the visual way to represent their learning.