Saturday, August 8, 2015

Do You Popplet?

Hi Friends,
    As promised, I'm back with a review of a new tech tool that I was introduced to at the Summer Institute of Digital Literacy in late July.

Popplet is a free online web tool that allows the user to create mind maps and brainstorming diagrams.  The free version enables the user to save up to five popplets at a time.
Benefits of using Popplet:
  1. It has a very easy to use interface.
  2. You can add content from Vimeo, YouTube, or simply by uploading from your computer.
  3. Popplets can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, or by emailing a link.
  4. Collaborators can be added to a Popplet which makes this extremely versatile for teaching.
  5. Popplets can be embedded into your website, blog, wiki, etc.
  6. There is also an easy to use presentation mode.
Constraints of Popplet:
  1. You can not customize text (other than size).
  2. You can not edit images once inside a popple.

As an elementary technology coach, I feel that this tool is an invaluable addition to any teacher’s or administrator’s toolbox.  Besides Popplet’s obvious uses of mind mapping and brainstorming, Popplet can be used in a multitude of ways, making this tool one of the fastest growing in popularity. In addition to Popplet’s wide range of use, there are several more reasons to check it out.  First, Popplet takes only a couple of minutes  to get registered.  Registration is clear and concise.  Next, Popplet has a very small learning curve.  It’s ease of use alone (for any novice) is enticing to today’s very busy educators.  Finally, this tool is appealing to a variety of learners.  The visual learner is the most obvious but because one can insert video, audio, and text, it is appealing to these learning styles as well. 

Popplet has many valuable uses some of which are listed below:
  1. Teacher/Student Uses -
    1. Create a graphic organizer for prewriting purposes during a writers workshop mini lesson.
      1. The popplet can be shared with students so that they can complete the graphic organizer with their own ideas.
      2. The popplet can be displayed while students refer to it to complete their own graphic organizer.
    2. Create a blank timeline for a Social Studies lesson.
    3. Create a popplet that will demonstrate the system in town administration for a rules and laws lesson.
  2. Administrative Uses:
    1. Make a visual plan of the school’s upcoming year.
    2. Map out the goal’s for the year.
    3. Introduce the staff (with images) to everyone.

This is just a small sampling of how Popplet can be used in a classroom or school. Click on the video below to see just how easy it is to create a popplet.

Now check it out for yourself and let me know how you used Popplet in your classroom.

Have a great school year!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Summer Institute in Digital Literacy

"You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  There is no other like you." ~ Angela Cooke-Jackson

     Wow!  What a week!  A team of teachers from my district just spent an entire week at URI's Digital Literacy Institute.  It was absolutely amazing. I am inspired but overwhelmed, encouraged but fearful.  I have learned so much at one of the best conferences I have ever attended.  The quote above was my favorite quote from the week.  It really hit home with me as I embark on a new journey in my district.  At the time it was spoken, I was feeling much anxiety about expectations - from admins, from colleagues, even from myself.  These words caused me to step back and take a breath.  I truly believe that everything in life happens for a reason.  I believe there's a plan that was created for me but not by me.  These words reminded me of just that and just when I needed to hear them.  Funny how that always seems to happen...

   Getting back to the conference ~ Like most teachers (if not all) I had goals for this week.  After all, I was spending nine hours a day with these people.  It was going to be worth my time if it killed me.  So here's what I was looking for:

  1. To learn some new tech tools that I could bring back to my colleagues.
  2. To begin thinking deeply about my new position and how I could be my very best at it.
    That was it.  Not too lofty, right?  After the first day, it was clear that I did not shoot high enough.  I knew right away that I was going to meet and surpass my goals.  I even participated in an unconference as a presenter! There were only five participants but I didn't know that when I threw my name in the hat.  I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and I did.  It was great! 

I'm sure you've heard of the SAMR Model.  It's illustrated below.

   Fluency in digital literacy will move teachers and students through this model until proficiency is reached.  It is critical that digital literacy become a natural part of the classroom - just like literacy itself.  

   In order to accomplish this, we need to move beyond the cool tool excitement and into a mindset that understands that the tool of choice is considered last in planning.  It was such a relief to hear this and at a TECH conference, no less!  The learner, the standards, the outcomes all need to be considered first.  Only then should we be deciding which tool will best meet our needs as educators of the digital natives.

    I'll be back later to highlight some of the 'cool tools' we learned about this week.  In the meantime, consider will you encourage digital literacy among your students?