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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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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