Blog 9 – Popplet, an easy and fun tool to discover

“Some 56% of respondents use Popplet to enhance English class activities with their students.” There are many programs available for the creation of mind-maps, and Popplet is one of them. I found its visual very simple but attractive, and its applications very easy to use and good enough for language learners’ uses of every school grade level. I would use Popplet principally for brainstorming before beginning a new activity or writing a text. The website proposes eight popplets examples with very different designs. It gives us a good idea of what it is possible to create when organizing our mind-map. So, after I would have given a topic, students can use the program to write down all their ideas about a topic. They can do it one by one or in team. There are a few options for text: three different font sizes, and three alignment choices. It is always the same color, which is black, and always the same font. So, no student can loose a long time changing the appearance of their writing and energy is all put on the brainstorming. 

I see two principal ways of using Popplet in language learning classroom. They can be alone, and create the popplet for themselves, or in team. I would certainly create teams so they can have the advantages of cooperative learning. By doing the first part of the work individually, they will develop their capacity to use the program, they will explore and acquire knowledge and self-confidence, and by sharing their discoveries with teammates, they will learn even more on the topic, the program and develop their cooperation behavior.

In team, I see two ways to create make them in team. All teammates could be around a single computer to complete the brainstorming orally. But that way, only one student would be writing the information. Even if they take turn, it will be very annoying and stressful for the student who writes every idea that other teammates tell him at the same time. But, an option that could be interesting too and that I would prefer is making all participants participate to the mind map using their own computer with their individual connection. This give you a much more quiet classroom. Also, if they create the Popplet document in team, working from different computers, they can use a different color to distinguish ideas from one student to the other. For the teacher, it gives a good idea of the participation of every student. Primarily to any in-team task using Popplet, I would give some rules to follow. For example, I won’t do very big teams. I think that teams of 2 or 3 students will be big enough to avoid fighting on priority of ideas because students could all have at the same idea while thinking on the topic. Also, if they are only 2, no student will get discouraged seeing the other teammate writing down all their new ideas.

To make it fair for everyone, I would introduce the activity by making them talk a little on a topic before the activity of mind-mapping in team. So they can discuss and individually choose one specific direction for their thinking. They could have 2 minutes to put ideas on the popplet mind-map, each of them having one subdivision of the topic. I would ask them to use only one color of poppies.  Following that, they could have 2 more minutes to add popples on their teammate’s subdivision. That way, they have time to see what their teammate have written and can add personal and non-mentioned ideas. If I want to know their level of participation, students will be asked to use their personal color through all the activity. If it is not the case, and that I want them to make it more comprehensible for a following class sharing activity, I would ask them to keep the color of the mind-map’s subdivisions. The lines between the poppies also create a real connection between all ideas of the same division. 

In Popplet, it is also possible to add images or videos. The program offers you to take them on Flickr, Facebook, Youtube, or to download them from your computer. As a following exercise to the mind-map with words, I would ask students to do researches online using the key words used in the mind-map. So, for each idea, they could try to find an illustration or a video related to each idea. They can also use the drawing option, but the pencil is really hard to use, and only seven colors are offered. I would use it for easy images like a sun, a happy face, a cloud, or a stick figure.

The last thing I want to mention about Popplet, it the zoom option. I find it interesting because, when I would like to project students’ popplets on the smart board and keep students’ attention on what I am talking about, I can zoom and only show the popple that I need, and I can move to another popple only by dragging with my computer mouse. This technique could also be used by students during oral presentations in team at a higher school grade. 

With Popplet utilization in ESL classroom, all students will develop some personal skills and behavior by working in interaction with others. They will learn how to use the program and develop their capacity researching pictures and information online. Also, they will have the option of using the mind-map for a further text or an oral presentation.

OTHER PROGRAMS

Another mind-map software like Popplet is XMind, which is more professional with more options. It could be used with students who have a strong knowledge about mind-mapping. 

There is also MindNote Pro , which is a good intermediate level of difficulty for mind-map creation, but it is available only on Mackintosh for 20$. “Brainstorming is vital for any student, whether it’s for a research project, an essay or your final year thesis.”

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