Playing with Popplet

What is Popplet?

Popplet is an online mind mapping tool.  Students can insert “popples” onto a blank canvas, link them, add images and work collaboratively on the same piece of work.

The Problem

I have taught the European Industrial Revolution in my current school for two years and have consistently had a major problem trying to get students to organise and collaborate over finding relevant examples.  I have already tried the Wiki feature on Blackboard, discussion boards and the old fashioned “email it to me and I’ll put it on a Word document” approach.  Each has presented several problems and none have really worked.  Popplet has been recommended by several sources so I thought I would give it a go!

The Task

I split the class into small groups and asked each to create a Popplet on an different essay questions.  The idea was to gather as many examples as possible from their textbooks, other books and the web.  Students could then share their findings through the embed or link features.  I asked students to invite me as a “collaborator” so that I could monitor progress and offer advice.  Students could then feedback their thoughts after the lesson thorough a survey.

5 Reasons Popplet is a “Good Thing”

  • Students were engaged. There is no doubt that students were engaged using Popplet.  They were each actively contributing and this is helped by the fact that teachers can monitor who is and isn’t contributing.
  • Building a body of knowledge.  The ability to share notes between people and groups was of huge benefit and will be of use in revision.
  • Students had to think.  Serious thought was needed to organise structures and then to restructure if students needed to adapt their appoach.  They were able to produce different levels of ideas – topic headings, sub-points and examples.  This helped them to plan their subsequent essays.
  • Monitoring.  By being invited to collaborate on each of the Popplets, I was able to monitor usage and redirect students if necessary.  I spent the lesson flicking between different Popplets and then intervening with students.
  • Excellent work.  Students produced valuable work that can be returned to repeatedly.

I have included a brief video of three students working on their popplet to give you an idea of how students can collaborate.

Are there any issues with using Popplet?

  • Internet Explorer.  Internet Explorer seemed to have some issues (as outlined on the Popplet blog).  It is a recognised problem and is being dealt with but it made life a little difficult in class.  Our students are unable to use different web browsers at the moment.  I had no problems when using Chrome.
  • Disappearing lines.  There were a few oddities in terms of students linking “popples” and the lines disappearing.  This caused some frustration with students.
  • Paying for it?  There is a suggestion that Popplet are looking into the idea for charging a fee.  This may make it a less attractive option.
  • Embedding.  When embedding the popplet, the viewer must log into popplet in order to view it – this makes it a little less smooth when using it on VLEs.

What did the Students say?

I regularly try to sample student opinion about work that we do in class.  I use it as a gauge = to work out whether it is worth using new ideas again.  Here are some of the findings.  It is taken from 12 respondents.

  • 67% said they agreed that Popplet was easy to use and the same proportion said they would use Popplet themselves again.
  • 67% stated that they disagreed or strongly disagreed that there were no technical issues with using Popplet.
  • 75% agreed or strongly agreed with the idea of using Popplet in lessons again.

Positive things students said about Popplet include:

  • “Very easy to use, and being able to have several people editing a file at once has a lot of potential as a learning tool.”
  • “Fun, interactive activity that is great for group work.”
  • “Popplet is great for gathering together info and is well suited for this application. It can be used to effect with the ability to change colours, size, etc”
  • “Easy synthesis of information and a great resource to store info for future reference.”

And what students weren’t so keen on:

  • “Annoying unusual changes that caused problems when making it.”
  • “The stupid boxes which kept moving and the lines that disappeared.”
  • “The bubbles disappeared.  The links disappeared.  The bubbles moved.  The bubbled deleted my text.”
  • “Technical issues and spasms. I think it get’s overwhelmed by the amount of people using it and malfunctions regularly. But it’s tolerable. As long as it doesn’t crash and i don’t lose all the work.”
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  1. Popplet: A Multi-Dimensional Tool | Cool Tech Ideas in Teaching & Learning

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