Sunday, January 31, 2016

Cool Tool 1:

For my first Cool Tools Review I decided to try out This tool caught my attention because it was also mentioned in an article I read this week in my ILA magazine. is a brainstorming tool that allows you to create mind maps (concept maps/graphic organizers). It offers endless opportunities and you can design it to have as many bubbles as you'd like. It is very simple to use which is great for younger students. Another cool feature is that the bubbles all have colors and you can change the bubble colors, font colors, and size. I searched "" in Google to get some more information and came across this short blog about It gives a basic overview of, but I really liked it because it gave some ideas for use with the tool, such as: family trees, plot lines, life cycles, and so much more. Check out the blog here:

TeachersFirst Review -

When trying out the tool, I decided to create a mind map on the pros and cons of homework because this week I am going to be sharing with my students a Newsela article discussing how some schools and parents are saying "no" to homework.

I also used the following two articles to help create my concept map.

After reading the Newsela article, students will be working in groups to come up with pros and cons of homework. After, the students will share their ideas and we'll create a class concept map. Finally, students are going to choose a side and write reasons to support their belief (we should or should not have homework). Their reasons can be reasons from the articles shared in class or from personal experience with homework. This lesson incorporates the following second grade writing standards from Ohio's New Learning Standards:

1. Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reasons that support the opinion, use linking words (e.g., because, and, also) to connect opinion and reasons, and provide a concluding statement or section 
7. Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., read a number of books on a single topic to produce a report; record science observations). 
8. Recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.

Below is the concept map I created as an example of what we will be creating as a class during this lesson.

If I had access to a class set of iPads or tablets or was able to do this lesson during our computer lab time, I would have students create their own for this lesson with their group. However, this lesson will be done in the classroom and will be used as an introductory to since my students have no prior experience using this tool. The goal will be that my students will use in small groups or independently in future lessons.

The following reasons show how this tool can be used in many ways, not limited to the ones I listed and linked above, and are also the ways I could use it in my classroom. I think that this tool will help students create organizers efficiently and organize material in an easy, effective way. The concept maps, compared to ones created by a teacher or downloaded and printed for students to fill in, can be more visually appealing and easy to follow due to the use of colors. Students can show different categories by giving each category a color. For example, on the concept map I created, I could have made all of the pros blue and all of the cons red. I also like how you can make each bubble a different size, i.e.: they aren't all limited to the same size. Students could show the most important information by using larger text than the others. can also be faster than writing if students have decent typing skills. This tool offers students more options than if a teacher passes out a generic organizer because it lets them be free and creative with the way they organize their information. The bubbles are easy to move around, change/edit, make new connections (versus writing--you have to erase or may run out of room).

Screenshot of the options you will see when you are creating a map in the tool.
Plus, what you will see if you place your mouse over a bubble. works with TPACK because students are using technology to meet the needs of the lesson content they are working on mastering. Using graphic organizers is a great teaching (pedagogy) technique to help students organize their thoughts or information from sources, wether they are writing a story/report or illustrating/describing a concept they read about in any subject area. This tool is also gives teacher a great way to differentiate. For example, if a graphic organizer is passed out in class, all students have the same boxes, outline, and format to use and they are probably all required to fill out the complete organizer. If a teacher used, he/she can give students different guidelines/directions to follow (ex: different number of categories/elements/bubbles to include). If a teacher wanted to do that with a paper concept map, it'd take much more planning time to make several different graphic organizers for the students to use. With students can create the map to illustrate the information in a way that makes sense to them.

Students could very easily use this tool to create their own media artifacts. I like that it does not have an overwhelming amount of features, which makes it easy to use for even my little second graders. Any thing students want to change about a bubble is editable right at that bubble. They don't have to use a tool bar or tabs at the top of the screen to find what they are looking for. When using this tool the only frustrating thing I found was when I went to change the layout of the bubble (colors, font, etc.) because you have to hold the mouse over the bubbles and wait for the options to pop up. My first instinct was to click the box, which makes the text box editable. However, as I worked with the tool it became easier and I'm sure kids would get the hang of it, too.

I love this tool and can't wait to use it with my second graders. I definitely recommend trying this tool out! I think it gives students endless ways to display their thoughts or learning about a topic and doesn't constrain them to the same map every other student is using. I can't wait to see the variety of mind maps my students come up with. It will truly let their creativity and uniqueness flourish!

I'm interested to know if anyone has used this tool before? If so, how have you used it? Can it do anything else that I didn't mention above? Even if you haven't used it, I'd love some other ideas for its use in the classroom!

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