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Advanced Instructional Practice Analysis

Project Overview

Project Description

Analyze advanced instructional technologies in practice in a learning context. It’s quite possible, or even likely, that an ensemble of technologies may be used in a certain educational practice. This could be a description of a practice in which you are or have been involved, or plans you have to implement a practice using instructional technologies, or a case study of an interesting practice someone else has applied and that you would find beneficial to research and analyze. Use as many of the theory concepts defined by members of the group in their published Work 1 as you can, with references and links to the published works of the other course participants.

Icon for Teaching and Learning with Popplet Concept Maps

Teaching and Learning with Popplet Concept Maps


Handwritten example of a concept map about trees. (Image from

Two major tasks in elementary school are learning how to organize ideas and how to make learning new concepts meaningful. When I was in high school, I remember my teachers helping us organize our ideas on a piece of scratch paper in a concept map. While this method helped me, I was sure there was more to be done with them, especially with technology. I recently discovered how valuable concept maps can be in the K-5 classroom as well as how to utilize a 21st century tool, Popplet.

Concept maps are a graphical representation of knowledge that shows relationships between ideas. In my previous work “Analysis of Concept Mapping” I wrote:

The idea of concept mapping was based on the cognitive theories of David Ausubel. One educational challenge is how to make learning new concepts meaningful. Ausubel’s theories stressed the important role prior knowledge plays in gaining a deeper understanding of new concepts. Concept maps, therefore, help students relate new concepts to what they already know and result in a deeper and more meaningful understanding (Chan, 2009).

A concept map can be used to gain an understanding of new information, access prior knowledge, organize plans for written documents (website, presentations, essays), problem solve and share knowledge with others (“What are concept maps?”).

Another challenge in education is that it is often difficult to understand how students organize their knowledge. Through the process of creating a concept map, teachers can observe their students analyze concepts (by listing all concepts that might be related to another topic) as well as synthesize concepts (by organizing them and showing relationships between them). Since concept maps graphically display a student’s knowledge, it is easier to identify misconceptions.

While concept maps help address these educational challenges, they also come with their own challenges. When concept maps are created without technology, they are less creative, less meaningful (do not receive as much feedback) and are less collaborative. Using a technology tool, like Popplet, helps resolve these challenges.

How It Works

Popplet is a website and iOS app, created in 2011, that lets users easily create concept maps and save them to the web. While typical concept maps only include text, Popplet lets users also include images and video to add more clarity to projects. Whether concept maps are completed or works in progress, they can be shared with others online. In the classroom, Popplet helps students think and learn visually by capturing thoughts and recognize the relationships between them.

On the Popplet website users can click “Make a New Popplet,” name the popplet, and double click anywhere on the page to add a box. The boxes can then be moved, the size increased or decreased, and/or the color changed. Within boxes, users can chose to add text, make a drawing, insert a picture from the desktop or Flickr, or YouTube or Vimeo video.

A Popplet project about atoms that contains text, image and video boxes. (Image from

Once many boxes with concepts and ideas are added, there are grey circles around the selected box. Those circles can be clicked and dragged to another box on the page. When this is done, a line will appear connecting the two boxes, signifying a relationship between those ideas.

When a Popplet project is completed, the user can choose how they would like to export it. They can choose to print the project immediately or save it as a PDF, JPEG or PNG file. Certain file types work better than others when being placed on a classroom website for example. For a great video explanation of Popplet's features click here.

Popplet concept maps can also be shared with others. Users can choose to copy a link and share that with others (post it on their blog or send it via email) that will enable them to view their project. Popplet also provides an embed code for every project so that others can view a Popplet project right from a website page as opposed to clicking a link and navigating to an alternate page or window.

Anyone with a Popplet account (free or paid) can be added to a project as a collaborator. This lets two or more users work together to add content to the same Popplet page. This is an excellent option for students working together on group assignments as they all have equal access to the assignment. When students add a box to the project, it automatically adds the student's name to the box so that it is is clear who contributed what to the project.

In this image, we can see that Popplet adds students names to each box automatically. We can also see that Paul has utilized the comment feature. Comments are hidden from the presentation view of a concept map, but appear in the work when collaborators click on them.

Another advantage of using a piece of technology like Popplet, as opposed to using a traditional paper and pencil version of a concept map, is that students can provide peer feedback on each others’ assignments. In her work, “Peer Feedback and Analysis Systems,” Joyce suggests that assignments (like Popplets) be put into a Google Doc or Slide and shared with the entire class (2014). Students can then look at each others’ assignments and leave comments with the Google software that contain suggestions for improvement. Students can then use that peer feedback to alter and improve their Popplet projects.

Teachers can also boost student collective creativity with Popplet by sharing projects on social media in order to receive feedback from a larger audience. In her work, “Social Media in Learning Environments,” Ochman suggests sharing student work on social media websites like Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest (2014). When students share their Popplet projects on social media, they will have shared it with a wider audience that will offer feedback from many differing perspectives. Sharing projects with a wider audience also motivates students to compete their best work since they know people other than their teacher will be viewing the assignment.

The Underlying Learning Theory

Joseph Novak developed the idea of concept maps in 1972 based off of the learning theories of David Ausubel. The fundamental idea of Ausubel’s cognitive psychology is that learning takes place by the assimilation of new concepts into existing concepts and frameworks that the learner was previously aware of (Novak & Cañas, 2008).

Concepts are identified by children early on in their development. They observe the regularities of their world and assign labels to them. As they develop, children notice that there are relationships between these regularities. By age three, learning new concepts is heavily dependent upon language- obtain new knowledge/meanings by asking questions and receiving clarification (Novak & Cañas, 2008). This learning process is made easier through the use of props and pantomimes with children, or “hands on learning,” such as using a spoon to show children how to eat with one. “Hands on learning” strategies are effective even throughout adulthood since the process helps make the learning more meaningful.

Ausubel discovered that meaningful learning requires three things:

-The material to be learned must be conceptually clear and presented with language and examples relatable to the learner’s prior knowledge.

-The learner must possess relevant prior knowledge.

-The learner must choose to learn meaningfully (Novak & Cañas, 2008).

Concept mapping provides students with a path to meaningful learning. When new concepts are mapped, students are able to relate the new concept to ones from their prior knowledge as well as organize this new information in a conceptually clear way. The new concept is therefore not thought of as a separate and independent being (such as when it is presented in a rote learning method such as flashcards for memorizing definitions).

Concept mapping also aligns with the Seven Affordances Framework developed by Dr. Bill Cope & Dr. Mary Kalantzis.

Chart from

As we can seem Popplet address each of the seven affordances of new learning well. One of the biggest strength of Popplet is that is multimodal. Students are able to add Popplet boxes that contain text, hyperlinks, images and video. This adds more meaningful content to their concept map. Another strength of this program is the collaborative feature. It enables students to add other students as collaborators on their projects. This way students can either comment of sections of each other’s work and revise, or add new sections to the concept map if they are working on a group assignment. 

Popplet in Practice

There are many effective ways that teachers can promote learning in the classroom through concept maps and Popplet. it is versitle and can therefore be used in any K-12 classroom. Elementary students may not utilize the collaborative features much, but they are easy tools for intermediate grades to take advantage of. One way it can be effectively used is to help create and organize ideas for an essay. For example, for an essay on a book or movie review project, the teacher can create a popplet project template for each student that contains a video box in the center with a summary of the book or movie, surrounded by boxes with the text “who, what, when, where, and why.” Students can then add boxes containing the information requested. Once those questions are answered, they can use that information to form a structure for their essay paragraphs.

Example of a teacher created template for a movie review on Popplet.

For another assignment, Popplet can be used to help guide and organize historical research. Each student can be assigned a different European explorer and compare their goals, obstacles, motivations and consequences of European exploration and colonization of the Americas (Noska, 2012). The students can color code the research that they gather and post (green boxes for economic consequences, red boxes for religious consequences, etc.). After each student has completed their research Popplets, the projects can be gathered and individually placed on a Google Slide presentation and shared with all students. Students can then read each others’ projects, learn from them, and comment on them with constructive peer feedback.

Example of a Popplet used collaborative in a science classroom.

Popplet also works well for collaborative science projects. In this example, students work in a group and create one Popplet to explore the relationship of heat transfer and ice cream. The students create one project and add the other member as collaborators. They can decide together how to split up the projects so each member knows which subject to focus on. The student name will appear on each box that they create. The group can then comment on each others’ boxes and offer feedback for improvement.

For more examples of lesson ideas please visit here or Popplet's blog.

Critical Reflection

Affordances Constraints
  • Popplet works on any web browser as well as on iPads.
  • The website and app are free to use/create an account.
  • You can add other popplet users as collaborators to your popplet and make it a collaborative project
  • Each Popplet box displays the student’s name which helps teachers track who contributed what to each concept map.
  • You can add media (pictures and videos) examples along with text.
  • Great for visual learners
  • Since it’s web is available anytime, anywhere
  • Has multilanguage support
  • Can also add comments on individual boxes on the page
  • Popplet works wll with interactive whiteboards like SMART boards for whole class instruction.
  • You can only create up to 5 popplets for free before you must delete old ones or purchase a larger subscription. Currently the rates are $3 per month for unlimited popplets with all of the features or $30 per year for unlimited popplets.
  • You can only add Vimeo or YouTube videos, not your own files
  • Not very customizable (can’t change the font, background colors, etc.)
  • Popplet is not available as an Android app.

Conclusion and Recommendations

While there are a few constraints with the program, they can be overcome. Currently Popplet only lets users have 5 concept maps at a time. Students can either delete older projects to make room for new ones or the teacher/school can opt for the paid version which is either $3 each month or $30 for the year. Popplet is also not currently available as an android app. The alternative to using the app would be to open on the web browsing app instead. 

I recommend using Popplet for a variety of uses in the classroom. It is an easy way for students to brainstorm essay topics since they are able to connect and arrange ideas on screen. It should also be used when teaching new concepts, such as science vocabulary, and relating it to prior knowledge. I strongly recommend using Popplet collaboratively since students learn better when they teach content to each other and they will grow as they receive constructive feedback and alter their concept maps. Popplet concept maps should also be shared through social media platforms to get a more worldly view and make the learning more meaningful since those with differing perspectives can offer new insights on the maps.

In the future I hope to see Popplet develop an Android app so that more students are able to utilize its product. It would also be great for this program to work with Google to develop a Google Apps extension or application. By doing this, students that use GAFE, could more easily collaborate and share their concept maps with others. 


Fajks, K. Analysis of concept mapping. Technology mediated learning analysis. Retrieved from

Joyce, B. Peer feedback and assessment systems. Technology mediated learning analysis. Retrieved from

Noska, D. Learning to use popplet in your classroom. Darcy Noska’s MSU Teaching Portfolio. Retreived from

Novak, J. D., & Cañas, A.J. (2008). The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct Them.

Retrieved from

Ochman, H. Social media in learning environments. Technology mediated learning analysis. Retrieved from