Concept maps, or mind maps, have been utilized in the classroom for years. They are a type of graphic organizer that allows a student to manipulate information in a visual way (THWT, 2012). Mind maps encourage creativity, improve memory retention and can be easier to understand than simple outlining (Web 2.0 Teaching Tools). Although it is generally up to the student how to visually represent their learning of a topic, all concept maps have similar features. The main topic is highlighted with branches of subtopics and details, all linked together to form a whole. Creating concept maps in the classroom is very popular and it is little wonder they have gone Web 2.0.
I checked out a number of mind mapping sites listed on the Teaching History with Technology (THWT) website. Unlike creating a concept map on paper where the student has control over the form their map will take, many of the online tools seem to have specific formats for creating mind maps. The problem I had using these tools was trying to decide which one had the best format for the information I wanted to map.
I wanted to create a mind map on the topic of Galaxies. I started with bubbl.us, as it is a good site for beginners (THWT, 2012). Bubbl.us is a very simple tool to use and I liked it because there is no set format. The user can create as many linked topics and subtopics as he/she would like. The “bubbles” can be moved around easily and the font size and colour of each can be changed. Bubbl.us doesn’t require an account unless you want to save your work. A free account only lets you create 3 mind maps, but to work around this the user can delete maps as they finish using them (Web 2.0 Teaching Tools).
Mindomo is another mind mapping tool I tried. With mindomo, users can choose images (or video) from the Internet (Google images, flickr etc.) to use in their mind map. As well, the user can add notes to any topic or subtopic they want. The notes are hidden and show up as an icon with the topic. However, the format wasn’t as flexible as with bubbl.us and I wasn’t happy with the result. I have included it here as part of the process I went through in trying to find a tool I really liked.
Both these tools were easy to use but I liked bubbl.us better except for the fact you can’t add images. What I really wanted was a tool that combined the characteristics of both, and as I continued to search the Internet, I found one.
I found the mind mapping tool Popplet, on the Web 2.0 in Education (UK) website. It looked like a tool that had all the things I was looking for: flexible format, ease of use, the ability to add pictures and videos, and being able to add as much or as little information as I wanted. After watching a tutorial on Youtube, I decided to try it out. Popplet is easy to use and very flexible in terms of style and format. Pictures and videos can be added with text to go along with it. The user can create as many “popples” as necessary to cover all the information to be mapped. Text size and colour of popples can be changed and it is easy to add and link popples. Popplet also allows for collaboration so a group or entire class can work on a mindmap together. As well, there is a presentation feature allowing the creator to scroll through the popples similar to a PowerPoint presentation. Popplet’s purpose is to provide a blank canvas with the tools to fill it, and offers an appealing option to support visual learners (Tomaszewski, 2012). The free plan allows 5 popplets to be created or users can sign up for the monthly ($3/month) or yearly ($30/yr) plans for an unlimited number of popplets. Teachers can sign up for Popplet Groups to purchase accounts for students. Prices range from $2 for up to 50 subscriptions to $0.50 for over 1000 (Popplet, 2012).
There are so many mind mapping tools available online, that the choice really depends on what the teacher decides is the purpose for the mind maps to be created by his/her students. Bubbl.us is very simple, with a simple, flexible format. Teachers can use bubbl.us to create mind maps to brainstorm a topic, as a pre- and post- topic assessment tool, to have students visually represent their work during the writing process, organize a story by theme, characters and setting plus many more (Web 2.0 Teaching Tools). I can see using it to show links between main ideas, without a lot of detail being added. Also it could be used to help illustrate cycles and pathways in chemistry and biology or even create timelines. Popplet can be used for all of these ideas as well, however, because it allows the user to add much more detail (text and multimedia), I think it is best used as a presentation tool. Students can create eye-catching mind maps with as much information as they want, which would be great for a large project or collaborative effort. Because it is so flexible there is a chance students would spend more time than necessary creating something “pretty” to justify its use as a simple study aid, essay outline or chapter summary.
For creating a mind map, the best Web 2.0 tool to use depends on its purpose. I think bubbl.us is an excellent tool to create traditional mind maps for students to organize information they have learned or are learning. Popplet has a number of extra features that allows students to not only organize their ideas, but also create a visual presentation to showcase their learning. Searching through the variety of mind mapping tools available on the Internet has made me realize that before choosing a tool a teacher needs to first decide the purpose of the product he/she wants the students to create. This will determine the best tool for the job and ensure time is not wasted using one that doesn’t meet the needs of the students. I think both bubble.us and popplet are both excellent tools for different purposes. That is why I decided to include two tools for mind mapping for this assignment.
Bubbl.us (2013). Brainstorming made simple. Retrieved from https://bubbl.us
Mindomo (2013). Mindmapping made easy. Retrieved from http://www.mindomo.com
Popplet (2012). What is Popplet? Popplet is a place for your ideas. Retrieved from http://popplet.com
THWT (Teaching History with Technology). (2012). Organizing with mindmaps. EdTechTeacher Inc. Retrieved from http://thwt.org/index.php/research/mindmapping
Tomaszewski J. (2012). Site review: Popplet. Education World. Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/site-reviews/popplet.shtml
Web 2.0 in Education (UK). (2013) Mindmaps. Retrieved from http://web2educationuk.wetpaint.com/page/Mindmaps
Web 2.0 Teaching Tools (n.d.) Bubble.us: Brainstorming, Critical Thinking, Creativity. Retrieved from http://www.web2teachingtools.com/bubbl_us.html
Youtube (March 2012). Popplet Tutorial. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D624wGdcH14