As of late, I have been introduced to a new tool. This tool is called Popplet. It is both a website and an application for the Ipad. For a reason I was not quite sure of, it seemed to be gaining more and more popularity. Curious as I am, I could not resist taking a look at the reasons behind such a general interest. What exactly made Popplet so interesting? And, more importantly, was it viable as a teaching and learning tool? The answer all of internet seems to be giving me is yes. But why? What makes Popplet such an amazing tool for teaching-learning situations?

First off, Popplet is free: completely and absolutely free. They ask for no inscription fee, and provide anyone who decides to use their services with the possibility to keep five Popplets at a time on their personal server, still for no more than $0. On those, they let you use all the features they have, without any backdrop. Also, they give the option to increase the amount of Popplets one person’s servers can hold from five to… well an infinite amount. They ask 3$ for one month, or 30$ for a year. It might seem like a lot to some, but when you compare it to other things that we pay without having an absolute need of it – an Xbox Live one-year membership for 60$, a 35$ book every month… – it’s not that much. It becomes even more interesting, however, if we think about all it can do.

Talking about it, what can Popplet do, exactly? Many things. Basically, Popplet is a software used to make mind maps. That’s all it does, ever. However, this is not what makes it popular, and it does not explain why I said it could do “many things”… See, the applications of Popplet are actually numerous. Think about it for second. What can a teacher, or a student, do with a mind map? Some people thought about this. The ideas they came up with are rather interesting.

For instance, the idea was proposed to preparing, and present, an oral through the use of Popplet. In there, the student can throw text, images, drawings, videos, links… No matter what he presents on, the student can illustrate, explain and present with ease, no matter the subject. If they present a movie genre, they can add clips from YouTube or Vimeo, or add the pictures from a good movie representation of the genre, or one of their favorite actor. If they present themselves (which is an activity the teacher can take part in, too), they can describe their childhood, present videos of their hobbies, or even present pictures of themselves when they were younger. Even for written assignments, Popplet seems ready to help, as it can give the writer a much more through view of what is good and what is wrong, what is complete and what is incomplete in his or her ideas.

Best of all, even if those projects can be done alone, another nice feature of Popplet is that it allows teams to work on the Popplet project. To make a team work on it, one of the members has to create the Popplet, then send invitations to the other team members through e-mail. Once they’ve accepted the invitation, they can access the Popplet at any time. And since each popple (Popplet bubble) has its creator’s name written on the top left of it, there is no cheating the teacher. The latter can make sure all students in the team worked on the Popplet, and give participation points accordingly.

No matter how good it is in general however, Popplet still has flaws. One of the biggest issues with it is the connection to internet. As I experienced myself, the website keeps crashing, or , in the case of the Ipad application, plain not connecting to internet. It still tells you right away when the connection is lost, but it’s still highly frustrating. Another bad point is that, in the case of the app (I do not know if it also applies in the case of the website), the Popplets from the free version do not follow when the account is upgraded to the paying version. It can be incredibly frustrating, even more if the Popplet is a big one and/or one that took a long time to be made. If you add this to the fact that a Popplet’s title cannot be changed after creation, it can make the experience highly negative for the new user…

No matter if you go for it or not, you can always try Popplet out by running the interactive demo. This will give you an idea whether you find the good sides attractive, or the bad sides discouraging. Or maybe you’ll decide for a slight use, based on both the goods and the bads…