With the magnitude of material available online, it’s hard to organize the content in some personally meaningful way. Sure, services like delicious and Diigo allow you to organize links with tags and group them together around different subjects and themes. But, what about those people who are more visually inclined? How can they organize the web in some logical manner to?
This is where Pearltrees comes in. Pearltrees is a free site that allows users to collect, organize and share everything that they encounter on the web. The process couldn’t be simpler. Users add content by adding a “pearl” to their personal map. A pearl is a small orb that graphically represents web content by showing a relevant image and a minimized view of the webpage. The pearls can be arranged into “trees” around common themes or topics. The best part is that individual pearls or whole trees can be dragged around depending on how the user mentally organizes the content. The end result is a web of diverse content that visually represents how an individual user constructs meaning across the material. Technically, the site is easy to use and every created map can be shared with other users. People can even add notes to their maps to help provide further context to individual pearls or branches on a pearltree. For iPad owners, Pearltrees is also available as a free app which provides both access and authoring ability.
Educationally, Pearltrees can be used as a research tool. Small groups of students could be assigned different areas of a subject to research online. The individually created maps could then be brought together to create a massive, whole class map that represents the subject in its entirety. Used in this manner, Pearltrees can support collaborative projects that foster positive interdependence. Pearltrees could also be helpful for creating 21st Century portfolios. With students creating online content across a variety of media (blogs, wikis, YouTube, etc.), individual students could create a Pearltree to organize all of the content across time and space to chart their development as learners. Personally, I can see myself using Pearltrees as a method of organizing lessons for classes. I often use a variety of websites and videos as discussion starters during class. Traditionally, I’d create a Google document with a list of links that I’d bring up during class. While I often share the list with students after class, a Pearltree of the material could help some students better understand the organization of the lesson and the relationships between content.
By bringing visual mapping to the web, Pearltrees allows individual users to represent and organize web material in their own way. The result can be a powerful learning tool, helping students construct meaning across individual topics.