Let the ideas bubbleth over

Summer’s over. A new school year is here.  Time to kick your brain into high-gear again!

Brainstorming is an important activity to do anytime you begin a project or research, and concept mapping is a good way to record the results of your brainstorm.  While scratching your ideas on the back of a napkin in a bar may be the sexy, artistic way to brainstorm, carrying around a stack of used napkins is neither practical nor a great practice in good hygiene.

Enter bubbl.us

Screenshot of the bubbl.us home page.

Sign in, or click 'Start Brainstorming' to create an account and start brainstorming.

Bubbl.us is a free web application for brainstorming.  With bubbl.us, you can create concept maps during your brainstorming session, collaborate with other “bubblers”, and share your brilliance with the world in a variety of formats.

If you’re a new bubbler, click ‘Start Brainstorming’ to get started.  On the following screen there’s an option to create an account in the upper-right corner.

You can use bubbl.us without creating an account, but your account opens up a lot of possibilities for sharing your brainstorms (as well as giving you the ability to save them).  Your bubbl.us diagrams can be embedded in web pages, exported as XML or HTML, or linked to as a read-only file.  Additionally, your account allows you to do collaborative brainstorming with your fellow bubblers.

Start by clicking the “bubble” that says ‘Start Here’ (of course).  Type in a word/phrase/concept to start the brainstorming process.  There are two types of connections you can make in your brainstorming diagrams: siblings and children.  If you think of them hierarchically, siblings are on the same level as the current term and children are one level down.

screenshot of a child element

Click this button to add a child to your diagram.

screenshot of a bubble highlighting the option to add a sibling element

Click this symbol to add a sibling to your diagram.

It’s that easy.  You can make connections between previously unconnected ideas, change the colors of your concept bubbles, and even delete them (which produces a fulfilling animated explosion).

screenshot of completed bubbl.us diagram

After you've added several bubbles, you can move them around and position them as you like.

Bubbl.us in the classroom

A great use of bubbl.us is brainstorming during an IL session.  Concept mapping is an important component of developing a topic and constructing search strings.

One of the activities I often do in class is ask students to (a) pick out the key concepts from a research question/topic (e.g. how  does Facebook protect your privacy?), and (b) come

screenshot of the bubbl.us menu

There are several ways to share your bubbl.us diagram - all located within the 'Menu' option.

up with related terms/ideas for those key concepts.  This usually plays out with me scribbling all over a dry-erase board that only half of the class can see and only 1/4 can read.  Using bubbl.us, the results of this activity could be represented on the projector screen, sans messy handwriting and positioned where everyone can see.  A link to the diagram could also be shared with the students so they can refer back to it at a later point.

Going one step further, students could create concept maps on their own or in groups during class, send a link to you (the instructor), and share it with the rest of the class.

Give it a try!

Try out bubbl.us, and post a link in the comments area of the blog to share your bubbles with other LibTechTalkers.  Let the brainstorming begin!