This is a reflection post as part of a Professional Development course our school is undertaking.
In this module, participants were introduced to brainstorming and mind mapping tools. These included Bubbl.us, Prezi, and Glogster:
http://bubbl.us/ – I have been using this for several years, and its functionality and user friendliness has improved over time. They really seem to have smoothed out a lot of the bugs which tended to turn me off Bubbl.us sometimes. If you haven’t used it, it’s essentially a straight forward mind mapping tool with a blank canvas. Ideas can be drawn and connected to each other with relative ease, and there are some options to customise aesthetics in changing the colour of the boxes. It’s useful that users can start mind mapping straight away without the need for an account; but if you want students to retrieve work then it’s best to set up accounts. Simple, no-fuss brainstorming.
http://prezi.com – Now this I have really been enjoying. Unlike Bubbl.us, you can include a wide range of media including images, video, and documents. You can also draw shapes or free hand objects. In a nut shell, it’s a truly creative digital platform! As well as a great way to brainstorm ideas, it is also a powerful presentation tool. One of the drawbacks is that you do need to signup to start using it. Disappointingly, it has been without Android support for some time as well. However, it has a really useful desktop editor that can be used when making larger presentations with richer content (this way it isn’t so picky about having a solid connection to the web).
Below are two presentations that I have given to staff on the Prezi platform:
The first is about Twitter and it’s usefulness for educators
The second is a report into 1:1 computing (this was at the stage where we were conducting our research before implementation).
http://www.glogster.com – I haven’t spent a great deal of time with Glogster, and I have my doubts about using it with a large number of students. On occasions where I have used Glogs as introductions to topics, a lot of time is spent waiting for all of the content to load. Like Prezi, Glogs can also support a wide range of media. However, I feel that Prezi does a better job at compressing and syndicating the content for viewing. In exploring Glogster, I stumbled upon a fantastic article on Read Write Think about teaching with glogster, and is well worth a look.
As well as the 3 above mentioned tools, there are a few other goodies in the toolbox when it comes to creating and communicating online:
http://www.exploratree.org.uk/ – As well as a blank canvas, exploratree offers templates such as PMI and SWOT organisers.
http://sketchboard.me – A recent favourite of mine, think Google Docs but for sketching! It allows users to simultaneously draw away on a blank canvas. Or you can select from flowchart and schematic symbols from the menu and build diagrams that way. Very cool.
http://www.gliffy.com – Is another powerful platform for drawing diagrams, and has a lot of functions under the hood. Loving the integration with Google Apps.
So there you have it, 6 awesome tools for creating and communicating online.
And while they are awesome online tools, I don’t think we should give up on paper and pen just yet! You need not look any further than Paul Foreman’s work:
He has a really useful guide to mindmapping which I use with my students all the time. I await the day where an online tool can match the creativity and originality of a hand drawn mind map. Sometimes it’s worth putting the computer away!
Which tools do you find most useful for creating and communicating in your classroom?