Tool Review #2 – Bubbl.us

When concept/mind mapping, l find that flexibility and customization features make or break the tool. Especially when you’re trying to express an individual brainstorm (versus a collaborative one), you want to create something that in flow, color, and functionality reflects how those ideas are connected in your own head. Bubbl was uninspiring on this front. I used Bubbl.us to create a concept map to break down necessary components of an app I’m building for ED 659. Remember the browser game my middle school coding kids are making? I’m developing the app version as an end of semester present for them.

I like the idea of mind mapping tools in theory but rarely in practice. My brain doesn’t naturally map ideas in round webs and that is generally the template shape. I like linear progression, hierarchy, and lists. Lucky for me, Bubbl offered both “tree” and “grid” templates which were helpful for what I was trying to convey. I realized too far into the project that a storyboarding tool would have been more appropriate for what I was trying to do, but I made it work by putting numbers in the bubbles to indicate sequence and “listing” components underneath their parent bubble.

Bubbl doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of features. While you can create hyperlinks and attach files there is no opportunity to embed photos, video, or commenting like you can in MindMeister. There are also few aesthetic customization options beyond color of the bubbles. It was limiting to the point of not being fun to use.

Overall, I think there are stronger/more interesting mind mapping tools out there. While the minimal interface may be a place to start trying digital mind mapping for younger students, I don’t think it would be enough to keep their attention for long. Older students would be better off with more complex mind mapping tools, or even Prezi. Of any point in the creation process, I think brainstorming is one of the most exciting. When you’re scribbling and drawing lines out on a whiteboard it’s easy to see that energy, but it’s much harder to recreate digitally, which is where flexibility and customization really come into play.

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