I am not the most organized person. Well, compared to some, I am super organized and the poster girl for keeping things in order. Or at least that’s what I’m told. However, when writing or creating, I try to make a plan – map things out and get it all in order before I start. This is a skill that took a while to develop and one that I appreciate any and all help to make it easier. There are a few great sites I use and encourage students to use – especially those who say they don’t need to make any outlines for their work.
Popplet is a website and app (for apple) that helps you web information. You can
use it to present information or to map your ideas. I like using it with students for study, especially since I can colour code each idea (and colourcoding is my life!). Popplet is free to start – you just need to sign up with an e-mail address. However, if you want more than five popplets, it costs 3$ a month or 30$ a year. For me, it was worth it but for students it might not be. They do offer an educational option – popplet groups. This option offers a lower cost for popplet accounts for student groups – a cost between 2.00 and 0.50 per account depending on how many students are signing up. For teachers or schools that want to use this as a good organizational tool, it’s a great price.
With popplet you can do some great maps. You can then set up timings and order and present them to others or just keep it for your own usage. If you’re using it for organization for essay writing it’s excellent – simply put the name of your topic in the center in one colour, then follow that by linking your three topics. Then, link your info for each topic. You can find connections and from that build transitions from section to section. Making each section a different colour will help you see your topics that much easier and from that, help you organize. You can also add pictures and video. AND, you can embed it into a website, well, if your site supports flash. Mine apparently does not. You can access your popplet account on the web or with your apple product. Whether you use it for essay organization, for exam review or for presentations, popplet is pretty nifty.
There’s a neat app for apple called MindMap. It’s 1.99 at the app store.
With it you can plan maps, much like you can with popplet. When your iPad is horizontal, it gives you a map much like popplet – choose a central circle then put your topics around it, adding sub topics as you go. When you turn your iPad vertical,
it gives you a more textual outline, more like you would write on a piece of paper. You can edit it in either form, which ever works best for you. If you want and have e-mail set up on your iPad, you can send it to someone (like, perhaps your teacher who required an outline for that paper you’re working on?). The vertical option does have colours, but the horizontal does not – I like popplet better for mapping because of that, but the mindmapping vertical is great for those who like to make lists, not maps.
If you like to type your ideas out, ReadWriteThink has a great free essay mapper. It leads you step by step through your five paragraph essay – asks you for a few lines and sentences explaining your topic, three topics that support your idea
and details that prove each of those topics. By simply clicking the arrows, you are prompted to move through your details. At the end it allows you to print, save or share. Very useful for writing the traditional five paragraph essay. And free! All you need is a computer – you don’t even need to sign up for anything. A teacher could just print off the pdf of a blank map if they don’t have access to the technology, however, as long as students have access to a computer, there’s no reason they shouldn’t pass it in.
One of the biggest questions that students don’t understand when it comes to essays is coherence. One of the biggest comments I give when I pass back essays is ‘focus’. These tools will help all students working on essays achieve coherence and focus as they attempt to write the perfect essay.