Mindmaps or concept maps are a good way to visualize  your thoughts around a certain topic.   Creating an anchor for the topic and then adding additional bubbles to that topic for added content provides a means to see your information.  However, until webtools were created to help you with these maps,  it was hard to reorganize those thoughts on paper.   Now there are several resources available that allow you to customize what you want in your mindmaps and reorganize them at will.  I will show you brief examples from different mapping tools and then we can share about which ones you like and how you can use them in class. Most of the resources have limited free versions, but the first two resources are either totally free (bubbl.us), or you have virtually unlimited use of the free resource (InstaGrok).

Bubbl.us (free flowing – no cost)

bubbl.usBubble us is a tool we have featured before.  As a matter of fact it was our second post the first year of the challenge, but in researching other mapping tools that are available, this one still offers the most functionality for zero cost!  You don’t even have to create an account to use it, but you will of course if you want to save your maps online.  Simply navigate to the website @ bubbl.us and start your mindmap.  The editor is very simple to use and get started with.   If you find another totally free mind-mapping resource out there that compares with this one, please let us know!

InstaGrok (Content pre-loaded, free for unlimited use of most features)

instagrokI really like instagrok because you start with pre-loaded content for a topic.   To create a Grok, you just search for a topic, and then pin in the content you want to share.  They are free for most features, and there is no limit to the number of Grok’s you can share.   While it isn’t a free-flowing brainstorming tool, it does give you a great way to put content knowledge into the hands of your students in a nice interactive way.   Again, content is preloaded with images, videos, websites, reference material and even formative quizzes, you just pin the stuff you want to share.   While I also haven’t searched every topic, there seems to be plenty of content.  You can also choose the difficulty of the content with a slider bar.   I used “biomes” as a sample topic and was very pleased with what I found.

MindMeister (Great for collaborative mapping)

MindMeister MapMindmeister is a great modern mapping resource that has iOS and Android apps to match.   These maps are collaborative which makes them great for class use.  Click on the map to try out the collaborative mapping feature…  There is a simple history on all maps that allows you to revert to a previous copy at any time or to play through the creation in a timeline.  You can integrate your Google drive to Mindmeister and have your maps appear in your drive for cloud storage and sharing as well.  There is also a guided presentation mode that looks very similar to Prezi’s zooming presentation format.  The limiting factor on MindMeister is that you only get 3 free maps then you have to pay for a monthly subscription (which gives you unlimited maps) for as little as $1/month.


You may want to try these also…





Your Challenge

Look over the resources above and share how you use mind maps in your classroom.   If you have examples of online maps, please share them with the group and tell what tools you use.


  1. I love the bubbl.us. I use maps to have my students branstrainstorm adjectives, stem changing verbs, and other grammar concepts. I have never used an online site before. I normally just give them a handout with a fill in the bubbles. This site is super easy to use!

  2. I like that you can create maps using technology. One problem I found was some said they required flash player so they will not work with the ipad unless there is a way around that now that I don’t know about.
    Bubbl.us was really easy to use. I created a small quick map and could add colors and move things around and keep adding. I also like the one you can add pictures with also.
    I can use this for teaching writing and brainstorming ideas and paragraphs first. Also would be easy to create a story map. We are in the middle of The Polar Express this week so I will try and have the students create a story map with bubbl.us. I think they will like it.
    A personal use i thought might work would be to create a family tree. Might also be able to do this in science with animal kingdoms etc.

  3. There are so many things you can do with graphic organizers, and it’s even better when students can create their own! Bubbl.us is a simple-to-use tool that will allow teacher to map all sorts of concepts. I would use it to prewrite ideas for a story, create a character map with character traits and evidence from the the story, illustrate main idea and supporting details from any nonfiction text, etc. Nice tool. My only frustration is that we are 1:1 with iPads and Bubbl.us can only view maps that are already created on the iPad. To actually create maps, kids will have to use a non-mobile device.

  4. After looking at the sites I really like the Bubbl.us site. It is very user friendly. I sometimes have kids read a nonfiction article and do a graphic organizer to show what they have learned. Up to this point I have used paper pencil. I am excited to try this site next time.

  5. I use Popplet quite a bit in my class. We don’t pay for it, so the students are only allowed to have 5 maps total on their account. When we are finished with a unit, they print them off for further need, and then they delete them. I have found that it is very helpful in certain books to use Popplet as a way to keep characters straight. For example, The Westing Game, has 16 heirs, so the students have a hard time remembering which 2 people are partners. This is an easy way for them to remember key details for each person.

    I think Bubbl.us would be just as useful a tool. I think I would use this more for my biography project. Each group has a different person, and they could use this tool to take notes as they are reading.

  6. I think we could use MindMeister in our class to provide input on our different projects. The students could start by mapping out their projects and then the others could collaborate with them by reviewing what they already have and then making suggestions that they may have to improve the project. I could see who suggested what and all of the information would be available for the original student to refer to as they progress through their project. Not a fan of paying for it, but it isn’t terribly expensive.

  7. My school has had Inspiration for years. I used to use it but haven’t in quite some time. Bubbl.us seemed simple and I know the kids would catch on quickly. I liked InstaGrok because it had some premade maps that looked great – Rocks and Cells. My class is studying Rocks this week (if we ever get back to school). I will also look for the one on Thermal Energy. It’s great that you can have a video inserted into a mindmap!

  8. I used Bubbl.us in my senior English class this year when we wrote our research papers. The site is easy to use and the students can pick it up fairly easily. What I really liked about it was that it could be shared to me. When I pick up websites like this, I like to have that option so I have something I can access. This gives me and the student the chance to collaborate and work on this together. I recommend this site to anyone who is doing any type of writing assignment.

  9. I just took a look at InstaGrok and it looks amazing. I really like that I can crete assignments for my students, keep track of their assignments, read their journals, etc. I know my students would love to get to create their own mind maps. I already worked on one for the 13 Colonies to use next week. I think I will work with my students to add to it or maybe edit what is already there. It is very helpful that I can adjust the difficulty of the Groks as well because we use flex grouping in our grade level and this feature will help me to adjust for the varying abilities. I can definitely see this as a great tool for allowing students to curate their own way of understanding the material given.

  10. In science, using a map to show the steps in a calculation like they do in math would be a really great tool for students to plot out the progression. In the lab, students could show the steps in an experiment and any modifications that they did or would suggest for a second trial in improve results. Really an awesome tool to add that could make students function at a higher cognitive level.

    Maps are also a great way to review for a unit test. They can show vocabulary, examples, equations, processes… Student could be asked to make a map of the unit and then share with a partner to see what they left out and then share with the class.

  11. I have not used mind maps in my room yet. I would currently do not have any technology in my room except the pro board. I have wanted to have my older students do some research. I can see using them to brainstorm. One thing that I have had them do is brainstorm a list of projects that they would like to do this year. I would love to have online portfolios, and we could use mindmaps to keep track of how we are doing accomplishing our goals for the year.

  12. I have used Kidspiration and Inspiration software to create simple Mind Maps as a pre-writing activity. I like the simplicity of Bubbl.us and that there is no password for the student to remember. I do like that they can still have a password in case they want to go back later and add to it. I also like the pre-loaded feature of Instagok. Many times a students may get stuck in their writing process and this feature will help them. I could use any of the mindmaps to have students map technology as it has changed over the years and the influences they have made.

  13. My students could certainly use Bubbl.us as a pre-writing tool to generate and organize their ideas for a piece of writing. Instagrok would work well as a platform or a literary or historical project. Students could select a topic, say women’s suffrage, and build an Instragrok containing images, video, and content.

  14. Bubbl.us & Instagrok are very nice resources for building relationships among concepts. I have used both in Biology to review vocabulary, and to concept ideas in various lessons when preparing for a test. Links to videos were helpful for some students as well.

  15. I love Mind Maps! We are now distributing the Simple Minds App on the iPads. The English teachers are excited about research development and brainstorming topic development. A History teacher is talking about giving students a month and year in history thus requiring them to map all events to find out how they are connected. Math teachers are excited about how this can help students with process and steps in problems. Our Elementary Music teacher is thrilled as students can research composers that studied with other composers and how they are connected. I can personally use this as an even planning tool for mini conferences and PD. Students are already using for their own personal use to describe friends and family.

  16. I like the simplicity of bubbl.us. The lack of bells and whistles allows the user to focus on the content as opposed to changing colors, sizes, fonts, etc. This program would make pre-writing activities very simple. Teachers could also use this site to teach note taking and organizing students’ thought processes.

  17. I think I could use this to redo how I usually start word problems in math. My first day of word problems we make a large construction paper size poster of ADD, SUBTRACT, MULTIPLY, DIVIDE, and EQUAL words that might pop up on future story problems. They could do this instead except that they wouldn’t have it at their finger tips when solving word problems.

  18. We have been doing concept mapping through Kidspiration and Inspiration, both of which are purchased software. I like the Bubbl.us website for it’s ease of setting up and navigating. This would be great to use when the students start mapping the elements of story. Personally, I like MindMeister since it works with Google Drive, which we use a lot. We just completed our technology curriculum mapping and this would have been a great tool for our collaboration.

    • In EVSC we also use Google docs for our curriculum maps. It is working great to be able to constantly add resources that match the standards directly into the curriculum maps. The mindmeister integration with Google docs is limited though I have learned. It does save the map in drive, but it really is just a link to the mindmeister map, so it acts as a bookmark.

  19. Mapping is almost an essential part to prewriting which doing so with mind maps make it easy to rearrange, add, and delete quickly. I’ve had students use a similar mapping program, Inspiration. I like how these are web based though to allow access anywhere to continue working.

  20. Our mind maps have been paper-pencil until now. The first two sites are great. Bubbl.us is very easy to use. I think students will navigate this program will very little direction. I can see it having many uses in science and math. We are studying integers in math, and it will be a great tool to assess student thinking about integers and how they are used in the real world. They could also add branches to include integer operations and the rules. Science concepts could easily be used as well. We are studying thermal energy which could have many branches.
    I also looked at InstaGrok and loved the premade Groks. I like the menu that is generated after you type in a topic. It already has sites, videos, key facts, images, concepts for your topics. This would be a great source of information for students to find and for teachers to find to present to students. When I typed in thermal energy, I found a great video (no ads!) about Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion. Amazing fact: “On an average day, tropical seas absorb an amount of solar radiation equal in heat content to some 250 billion barrels of oil.” Another great resource/tool! Thanks! Do you know if I can post a link from InstaGrok to Symbaloo or Blendspace? I will try it and see.

  21. I just used Bubbl.us in my Bus. Foundations Class. The students started out with the Marketing Concept as the main idea then they branched out with the main terms and did a great job. The students like using this type of technology and I am amazed by their creativity.

    • I always loved giving my students a choice as to what tool they used to accomplish the lesson I had for them. They loved it too and it helped them be creative. Along those lines I always had to be careful about the samples I gave them, because I would end up with many projects that were the same.

  22. This program kind of reminds me of ‘Kidspiration’ or ‘Inspiration’, which we still use. I think that this program can be very useful in a number of subjects. This could be used in Social Studies, Science and Language Arts If you are writing a report, it could be used as an outline for the report. What is more helpful about this vs’ Inspiration’ would be that you have online resources to help you. I especially like that you don’t have to sign in to bubbl.us, it is so hard for students to remember usernames and passwords.

  23. Before seeing these websites, I had been using something called Word Spider (http://www.gynzy.com/en/items/language/word-spider/16/1504). My etymology students would use it to make connections with various prefixes and roots.

    I just switched that link on my Weebly to Bubbl.us. I look for resources that don’t require a sign-in or any other added steps. On this site, you can just click and start building. It’s intuitive and easy to figure out, and you can export the finished file as a JPG.

    I’ll be using this site next semester with my etymology students. We can take a root and branch it out to see what connections the students make. I could also see us using it for particular vocabulary words. One tab could be antonyms, another tab synonyms, etc.

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