a site for serious play


The power of popplet!

Popplet is a graphic organising tool that can be used to create mind maps, discussion boards, timelines, and storyboards. It can be used at various stages in the research process to plan projects, curate resources (text, image, weblinks, and video), organise resources and deliver presentations. For the latter purpose, it’s a simple, clean alternative to PowerPoint and Prezi that puts the focus back onto content creation rather than on the  “bells and whistles” of delivery. Here’s a quick overview:

Registration with Popplet requires a username, password and email (although no email confirmation of account is required). It’s free (with a limit of 5 popplets per account at any one time), very easy to use, and can be shared for online viewing (via URL, Twitter or Facebook), or editing. A Popplet app is available for iPad and iPhone.

Popplet is a great tool for the classroom. Teachers might post stimulus material to a popplet and then invite students to post their answers or comments by creating popples (individual content boxes). The teacher can then provide feedback via a popple comment function. Teachers might also use popplets to post class notes/resources, subject overviews, or create galleries of student work.

Students can create individual or collaborative popplets, and are able to present their completed projects online as a slideshow, or export them as a jpg or pdf. Popplets can also be embedded into websites. These export options are a useful means to back-up popplets.

As with any online tool, issues of privacy must be considered when Popplet is used for teaching and learning. An advantage of popplet is that, unlike tools such as Facebook, the default privacy setting for Popplet is private, so teachers or students need to take deliberate action to make the popplet “semi-public” to collaborators(by sharing the URL) or “public” for all the world to see.

As well as being very user friendly, Popplet offers support to users via a popplet blog and Facebook. Both offer tips on using popplet, along with technical support. There are also some great examples on the blog of how popplet is being used in classrooms across all grades.

On the home page of the Popplet website there are links to ‘Terms of Service’ and ‘Privacy Policy.’ As can be expected when signing up for a free online service, Popplet users give site owners everything bar the shirts on their backs. That said, at least the ‘Terms of Use’ clearly state how user information will be used. Should a user want to terminate their popplet registration they must make an email request to popplet admin. Popplet is at least up front in saying that such requests will remove the user from future Popplet activity, but will not necessarily remove user information from the site archives.

I particularly like the guidelines provided by popplet that: emphasise the implications for users of making a popplet public; caution users about breaching copyright; advise users to behave ethically; and suggest that users question the authenticity of information provided in popplets.

Whilst Popplet seems such a wonderful tool for classroom use, the Terms of Use stipulate that Popplet administrators are committed to protect the privacy of children, and for that reason, site users must be at least 13 years old. Whilst this would seem to restrict Popplet use to secondary school students, Popplet offers ways around this restriction for teachers wanting to use popplet with younger students.  One such way includes upgrading to a paid “edu” plan.

If you haven’t looked at Popplet, certainly give it a go. I think it has great potential to be used in the classroom in so many different ways by teachers and students.  I’m particularly fond of its presentation mode, which makes a welcome change from Death by PowerPoint and the nausea-inducing nature of Prezi.