A Popplet Has popped Up

Popplet is a tool designed for the web and for iPads to organize ideas efficiently with the use of virtual mind maps. People who want to work with Popplet can access it via every computer because it does not require any installation and does not cause any delay. The only requirement is to create an account, which gives the user a free use of 5 Popplets, with the possibility to delete and recreate any Popplet that was made within the maximum range of 5. There is even a short tutorial that guides new users if they feel that they need help to start working with that tool. Teachers have found it interesting for the purpose of a classroom because ‘‘ it works as a unique brainstorming or organizing tool when students write papers. With the ability to add links and upload videos, students can organize notes for a research paper or present their research findings’’ (http://teachamazing.com/popplet-visual-thinking-tool/). Individual brainstorming on a sheet of paper often lowers students’ motivation because of the lack of interaction and because they prefer to work with web tools. Popplet meets their expectations in the sense that students can capture their ideas in a personalized and interesting way. More precisely, they can modify the colors of their mind maps as well as their background, and add any link or video that is relevant to their task. Popplet is also very easy to use. In order to create a box (bubble), users only have to double click on the screen and it appears automatically. In addition to that, Popplet enables a cooperative feature that individual brainstorming has never succeeded to achieve before. In fact, students are given the opportunity to share their document with specific people or with the whole class with the ‘‘add user option’’. This permits a collaborative sharing of ideas and strategies for a project or written assignment.

‘‘Finished popplets can be exported as JPG and PDF files, as well as saved and printed. A new feature is a desktop application that can be downloaded and allows popplets to be saved for offline presentations.’’ (http://teachinghistory.org/digital-classroom/tech-for-teachers/25107). What is great with this tool is the simplicity to convert a finished or unfinished Popplet into a PDF file. Thus, teachers can ask their students to print the final version of their Popplet and to hand it in. In order to save as a PDF, users must click on the option ‘‘export as’’ and choose the ‘‘as a PDF’’ icon. However, it is not always a good idea for bigger Popplets, because when they are printed, their bubbles are too small to be able to read what is written inside. As long as the Popplet is not too long or too extended, it can be printed fairly well. Otherwise, the content is lost by the inability of this tool to print specific zoomed bubbles.

Another interactive feature of this tool is that ‘‘Popplets can be created in the classroom with the aid of your students, live on the interactive whiteboard.’’ (http://www.boxoftricks.net/2011/03/classroom-magic-with-popplet/). It represents a source of motivation for students who are usually passive recipients of information in a classroom. The fact that students come up front and write their answers on the interactive board is beneficial for everybody in the class. For instance, the person who is writing practices her cognitive language skills at the same time of her classmates who want to confirm or refute her answer. Teachers can take advantage of this situation to ask to the rest of the class if the answer is correct or not first, in order to promote collective peer-tutoring. Strategically speaking, if the other students are asked to correct the utterance, they become the teacher in a sense and they feel that their feedback is relevant. For this reason, learning becomes interactive and meaningful because the teacher only provides correction after students have debated and arrived to a consensus.

‘‘Popplet can be used in your classroom to ensure that visual learners can access the information. It is very common for teachers to forget to differentiate the curriculum in a way that students with a variety of learning styles can understand the information’’(http://msuportfolio2.weebly.com/popplet-in-the-classroom.html).  Obviously, Popplet represents an effective visual support for students who can follow the teacher’s concepts with the key words written on the interactive board. However, Popplet should not be treated as an effective tool for lecturing, because the only attracting feature in this case is to be able to move a bubble somewhere else on the board, which is quite boring. The primary goal of this tool is to organize efficiently ideas and brainstorms, so relying on this tool to build a whole lecture would only create an overload of bubbles on the screen. In fact, it will encourage students’ passivity because after having used this tool once, they will expect to be overwhelmed by keywords attached to other concepts. The strategy is to present short, precise and effective ideas with Popplet, not to teach long university lectures, since Powerpoint already exercises this function.

Moreover, Popplet is a great tool for student projects. Interestingly enough, ‘‘Popplet also has the ability to be embedded into blogs or websites. It is relatively quick and easy to do as long as it is supported by the website (WordPress.com does not support it). If you have a class wiki or blog, students can post their Popplets for their classmates, teachers, parents, and other viewers to learn from as well.’’ (http://cis220spring12.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/popplet-a-multi-dimensional-tool/).  This way, parents can keep track of the work done by their children by accessing their blog directly (if the teacher uses the blog as a strategy for sharing pertinent information regarding class context and other academic fields). The only constraint is that Popplet cannot be embedded into WordPress, but otherwise every other blog should work. In addition, not only classmates can learn from the Popplet of their peers, but the teacher can use his own as a source of reference that will help for homework. Finally, this tool can be easily shared and permits people to keep in touch with school material done in class, either by the teacher or by students.

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