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Using Popplet with Learners on the Autism Spectrum

Popplet is a mind-mapping application which allows users to capture and instantly record their ideas in various ways, and to quickly create useful and impressive visuals. These visuals can be refined if need be and presented and shared. Popplet also supports real-time collaboration, so students and teachers can work together in groups.

Popplet is mostly used by educators and learners but as a multipurpose graphic organizer, Popplet’s reach includes creative and business professionals. Popplet has found a place in the classroom, the boardroom; any place where learning is a priority.

One area where Popplet has continued to gain traction over the years is with the parents and educators of learners on the Autism Spectrum. Of course, individuals on the autism spectrum, like all individuals, vary in terms of learning requirements and no single app could possibly meet the whole range of their needs. As a multipurpose app, with a user-friendly interface, Popplet does tick a few boxes according to educators and other professionals who devote their time to working with their students to help them reach their learning goals.

Making The Most of Technology: The App Wheel

DART, which stands for Development / Autism / Research / Technology, is a research group with its home in The University of Edinburgh. DART members include researchers from undergraduate to post-doctoral level and the group was founded by Dr. Sue Fletcher Watson. One of the many areas of focus for the  DART team is the impact and usefulness of technology on learning, and many fascinating articles about their findings can be found on their web pages. This is cutting edge work and any apps or any other learning strategies they document are done so as a result of evidence-based practice.

DART created an interactive App Wheel as a guide to help parents and educators choose apps:

You don’t have to look too closely to see Popplet’s distinctive logo in the bottom left side quarter. Click on the link above or the image to go to the interactive version, where you’ll learn more about Popplet and all the other apps.

Apps For Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Common Sense Media is a source of “independent, research-backed” information on digital technologies, specifically Education Technology. You can join Common Sense Media as a Parent or an Educator and benefit from targetted common sense. This is no small thing as the world of education apps is definitely daunting because of the sheer number of apps now available. You’ll find reviews from educators, parents, and learners who have actually used the technologies. You will also be able to access information and advice from the experts at Common Sense Media.  They recently published this informative app review by Parent, Educator, and Senior Editor, Christine Elgeresma.

Popplet: An App for Social Cognition

Jordan Sadler, is a Pediatric Speech-language Pathologist working at Northwestern University. Jordan created two activities in her work with young learners and subsequently published the details in a review of Popplet. We briefly summarize the two activities here, but if you’re really interested in what can be done with Popplet, take a look at Jordan’s original review.

1. Finding Common Ground

The idea for the first activity came from Jordan while she was working with a social group of four school-aged boys. Jordan and her colleague heard the boys “endlessly” discussing what activities they should enjoy together as a group. Jordan realized that the boys lacked common ground. By creating a Popplet that included the boys’ photos and their likes and dislikes she was able to “show them visually where their mutual interests lay”. Here’s the visual Jordan created, which she shared with the boys:

2. How Jordan Feels

In her second Popplet activity, Jordan helped a social group of three preschool-aged girls identify emotions from facial expressions. This activity makes full use of the iPad mini’s cameras and camera roll. Images snapped on the iPad can be instantly uploaded to any popplet being worked on. The girls used the reverse camera so that they could see themselves, matching their facial expressions to their emotions and leading to an increase in social cognition. Below is an example of a popplet from Jordan to demonstrate:

Building Blocks in Autism Spectrum Education: Popplet, Minecraft, and More

Minecraft In Your Classroom is an interactive iBook from educators for Autism Spectrum Australia (ASPECT), Craig Smith and Heath Wild. They “demonstrate how classroom teachers can use the incredibly popular iPad app Minecraft as a rich pedagogical tool.”  This book, like the two other books in the series by Craig Smith: The Digital Organic and The iPad Model Classroom are seriously worthy of the attention of all educators working with the iPad. For the educator working with learners on the autism spectrum, these digital volumes are absolutely packed with thoughtful, innovative, practical ideas on how best to utilize iPad technologies in every area of learning. Popplet is used as a sorting/classification tool in the science section of the Minecraft book:

Are you an educator working with learners on the Autism Spectrum? What technology are you using? Are you using Popplet? Either way, we’d really appreciate your feedback. You can contact us and share with the Popplet community on Twitter, and on our Facebook page. We look forward to hearing from you.