Using Popplet in the Foreign Language Classroom

6th graders are studying Health and Illness related vocabulary in Ms. Piragene’s Portuguese class.

How do we learn vocabulary of a second, third or fourth language best?  As a class, we discussed different methods including  mnemonic devices and how they help us remember, organize and make connections in our brain. Some of us prefer:

  • visual connections
  • rhyming words
  • acronyms
  • a sentence in context
  • humorous connections
  • etc.

In order to embed modern skills and literacies and connect to our school’s  Core Values and mission, students created Popplets.

The tool (Popplet) allowed students to create a web based mind map. Each  bubble/ “popplet”represented a vocabulary word related to medicine/illness/symptoms.


SAMR CONNECTION (SAMR Model based on Ruben Puentedura‘s Work)
At this point, using the tool merely served as a SUBSTITUTION
 of the original task. The mind map could have been drawn on a piece of paper  with colored pencils or markers.


It became clear quickly how each of the students’ minds worked. Some were linear, some arranged the vocabulary words circular, some connected them by content, etc.

Students color coded the popplet, moved them around the canvas, resized, organized, arranged and connected popplets with each other. In addition to text, they could embedded an image or a video into the popplet.


SAMR CONNECTION (SAMR Model based on Ruben Puentedura‘s Work)
At his point, we entered the AUGMENTATION stage. “The tool acts as a direct tool substitute with functional improvement”. The ability to easily move the popplets around, change colors at a whim and create or delete connections improve the task.  



Popplet has different options to insert media. One can either choose to upload and use your own image file, find an image on Flickr or insert a video via Vimeo or YouTube.


SAMR CONNECTION (SAMR Model based on Ruben Puentedura‘s Work)
At his point, we entered the MODIFICATION stage. “Technology allows for a significant task redesign” We have moved from a “flat”, “linear” and “2-dimensional” written down list on a piece of paper to a transmedia representation of vocabulary words (including text, images and videos).


First, I thought “Great”, Popplet provides an easy way for students to access images for their projects. As I was looking closer at this “insert images from Flickr”  function, I wondered WHAT copyright license these images actually had? I chose to throw out the questions to Popplet directly via Twitter (see below). Unfortunately, the answer that I received did not satisfy me completely. I tried to probe a little further, but did not receive any further response.


I wonder what exactly does Popplet mean by “It is up to individual creators and depends on whether it is for public or personal use…”?

  • Do they mean that using a possibly copyrighted image from Flickr is ok to use if it is for personal use only? (Not really)
  • Do they mean that using a possibly Creative Commons licensed image WITHOUT giving attribution (there is no way to find the URL of the original image on Flickr) will be up to each user  (not really)
  • Do they mean that when the Popplet is intended for Public use (as in embedding them in a student blog) they should not be using their provided image search function?

Most students wanted to add images to their popplets. In discussing LARK guidelines (Digital Citizenship), it suddenly was unclear and difficult in finding images and how to cite them properly.


So, for now, I advised our students to upload their own photos/illustrations or search for Public Domain and Creative Commons  images on other sites. Here are a few links to help them search and find images suitable to be re-used on their blogs or other work.

Once the Popplet was created, students were to embed the popplet on their blogfolios using the provided embed code. Next step will be to write a reflection on how the process of using a mind map helped them learn. Students will read each other’s examples, look at the different organization variations and comment on each others blog posts.


SAMR CONNECTION (SAMR Model based on Ruben Puentedura‘s Work)
Once students share their mindmap on their blogs, opening them up for a global audience to see and give feedback on, we will have moved into the REDEFINITION stage. “Technology allows for the creation of a new task, previously inconceivable”. Students will be able to share and learn from others.