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Common Planning Time has been cut back in many schools, but the teams’ responsibilities have not.  Meanwhile many teams still want to do interesting and out of the ordinary activities with their students, but find it is difficult to set aside time to plan. A possible solution just might be Popplet.com, a free, web-based tool that allows multiple participants to create detailed plans asynchronously.

Popplet has some really cool features that would be helpful for teams planning a unit, event, field trip, or a curriculum change such as an approach to literacy across the curriculum:

  • Able to color code bubbles for organizational purposes
  • Can add text, images & video
  • Allows access to multiple participants (they do need email access)

Below is a model Popplet I’ve created. It represents the initial thinking of an 8th grade team planning a new Maine Studies Unit.

I started the web and invited a colleague to add ideas. If we were really a team, all of our teammates could have contributed to the web.  All that they need is an email address where I could send the invitation to participate.  Because this tool is web-based, my teammates and I could work on this anytime from any computer.  Perhaps Barbara can’t stay after school to plan because of child-care issues, however after the kids are in bed she might be able to grab 15 minutes to think about the new unit and post some ideas. My teammates could add ideas 24/7 thus saving valuable Common Planning Time for fine-tuning the unit.

If you look at the web you will notice there is a video (Don’t click on the red arrow, it’s not live.  However you can see the actual video on challenge-based learning at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOii_YyJQGA) that might give us an organizational plan for the unit. There is also an image of a rock that might be useful in the section of the unit on geology.  If we planned ahead we could start this Popplet well before the unit was due to begin and have gathered ideas and resources in this one location.  Then during Common Planning Time we could spend our time crafting an intellectually stimulating and engaging unit with the resources and ideas we have accumulated.

When working in cooperative groups, students will find Popplet a great tool, too!  They can also access this site from school and from home. When a group member is absent s/he could contribute from a remote location and remain active in the process.  The color coding feature helps students organize their ideas and information. Being able to keep pertinent images and video in one place would lessen the probability that they would be scattered across various lockers, notebooks, and folders–a great help to young adolescents who are often organizationally challenged.

Popplet would also be a great study tool for individual students:

  • Organizing notes into a study guide for a test
  • Planning an essay
  • Planning a project either in an academic setting or outside the classroom

Check out Popplet and share it with colleagues and students.

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