The unofficial count for mind mapping tools available for free can be placed conservatively at a googol. They range in varying degrees of ease of use to complexity and from drab to fab. For the purposes of today though, we will be scoping out Popplet.
As with every tool at our disposal, Popplet has its positives (affordances) and a few need some work (constraints). As we evaluate any tool, we need to keep in mind that it isn’t the tool that takes priority. It is what the students are supposed to learn and how we want them to learn it.
With the preamble done, let’s look at the perks of Popplet. It is easy. Really, really easy. It is so easy in fact I would guess that early elementary kids with minimal practice will be able to make mind maps and a variety of other products with ease.
It is also pretty colorful and deceptively feature rich. For instance, you can choose from an array of colors for the boxes and the text in the boxes. It also allows a couple of really easy ways to connect boxes.You can also connect boxes to multiple other boxes.
You can also easily add videos from Vimeo and YouTube, as well as add pictures from your computer. Resizing the boxes is a simple matter of clicking on one of the circles on the outside of the box and dragging.
You can also use the program without signing up, which makes the ever ubiquitous debate about how to get students under 12 years old to be able to use tools that require sign in. In this case, they don’t sign in so they can freely use it.
While that is definitely an affordance, it leads to a pretty major constraint. If you choose to “Use It Now” instead of sign up, you can’t save it. If you make it in “Use It Now” and then decide to sign up, you lose it. That is a pretty big constraint. I got around this by taking a screenshot, but I only did that because I was afraid something weird would happen.
Overall, it is a great program. How could we use this in our classes to allow students to show their thinking or knowledge about something?
All pictures are screenshots from http://www.popplet.com.