Graphic organizers are great tools students can to use to monitor their reading and comprehension of informational texts. Traditionally, teachers have created paper-based templates for students to use to organize their thinking around text. In a transliterate society, there are a number of web-based concept mapping tools and apps that teachers can employ in their classrooms to help support comprehension of informational text.
Popplet (http://popplet.com/) is a concept mapping tool that supports students as they orgainze facts, ideas and evidence around a topic. Available as a browser-based tool and as an iOS app, students create a primary “popple” and can then attach additional “popples” that can include text, photos, and videos. Support for embedded digital media, such as YouTube videos or royalty free photos, is a key feature of Popplet and other concept mapping tools, like Mindmeister (http://www.mindmeister.com/) and SimpleMind (http://www.simpleapps.eu/simplemind/).
In an elementary classroom, you may ask students to independently read a selection of informational text about “Arctic Animals,” and as they read, they would periodically stop, think, and react to what they are reading by inserting text and embedding digital media into a Popplet. When students embed media in their concept maps, they are taking a small snippet of HTML code from the source and adding that code into the concept map. This HTML code is what powers the media player and allows the digital media to be viewed by others.
The skills associated with working with small amounts of HTML code to embed digital media are becoming increasingly important in our hyperlinked, connected world. When students link and embed digital media in concept maps, it makes their thinking and learning more transparent for others and allows teachers an opportunity to gain insight into how students are comprehending informational text. As students get older and begin to write in online spaces like blogs and websites, embedding media, especially to source documents and referenced materials, will bring more credibility to students written work.