Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

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Not “The Best,” But “A List” Of Mindmapping, Flow Chart Tools, & Graphic Organizers

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'triple venn diagram' photo (c) 2009, Jimmie - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’m just making this a very “quick and dirty” list — at least for now — because, for the life of me, I can’t figure out how or why all the online mindmapping and flow-chart tools that are out there have any educational application.

It seems to me that there really isn’t much of a value-added benefit to doing any of this online as opposed to doing it on pen and paper — except, perhaps, it will look a lot nicer (and save paper). I do have my students use a lot graphic organizers in the classroom, and am including some resources for them in this list, too.

I can think of some minor advantages with a couple of the online tools on this list, but not much more. Please help me out if I’m missing something.

You might, though, find The Best Tools To Make Simple Graphs Online useful.  I can see the value in using those applications in school

Here are a list of what seems to me the better mind-mapping and flow chart tools (all free and all accessible to English Language Learners), and sources for hard-copy graphic organizers,  out there:

MINDMAPPING & FLOW CHART TOOLS:

Mind42 is a free online web application that has an incredible collection of features.  You can collaborate with multiple users in real time, and see what people are doing right on the screen in front of you.  You can communicate with them using a chat feature.  The interface is relatively simple.  You can grab images off the web and easily insert them in your work.   These are all the options, it seems to me, you’d want to include in an ideal application that, for example, “sister classes” separated by a wide geographical distance could use in joint projects.  However, there is one problem.  I can’t quite figure out what students would create that would be useful.  Nevertheless, I still did include it in The Best Online Tools For Real-Time Collaboration.

Gliffy is another online mindmapping tool.   My English Language Learner students have been able to use that tool to create nifty floor plans but, again, they could have easily done that with markers and paper.

Mindomo is another online tool, and Paul Hamilton has written about it.

Mindmeister and bubbl.us are two other accessible mindmapping tools.

A brand new one is called Lovely Charts, and it might have the most functionality of them all. TechCruch just wrote about it. Even with all that “lovely” capability, I’m still at a loss in figuring out its educational value.

Spinscape is a new mindmapping tool that looks pretty nifty.

Slatebox is a new and easy mindmapping/visualization application.

Creately is a new online diagramming web tool that just opened to the public. Tech Crunch has a detailed explanation about it, so instead of “reinventing the wheel,” I’m just going to suggest you read their post.

GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS:

I find graphic organizers to be indispensable in helping students learn how to write, though neither my students nor I have found it particularly beneficial to use them online.

I believe the best writing curriculum out there is, by far,  the one offered by the WRITE Institute. It’s focused on English Language Learners, but we’ve certainly used their materials successfully with mainstream students as well. Their curriculum, however, is only available to schools who’s Districts have an official “partnership” with them.  The use of graphic organizers is a key element of their units.

In addition to the graphic organizers in The Write Institute curriculum, here are the sources of other good ones.  Some you can actually use online, but you can also print all of them out for use by students away from computers.  They include:

I learned about Exploratree through Lucy Gray. Exploratree is a site that has a series of “thinking guides” that can be adapted by teachers and completed by students.  They appear to basically be well-designed graphic organizers, and include titles like “Thinking Boxes” and “From a Different Angle.”

Read Write Think also has a helpful collection of graphic organizers that can be used online or printed-out.

Tools For Reading, Writing and Thinking is another source of great graphic organizers that can be printed.

You can also find quite a few other sources of graphic organizers on the Teacher’s Page of my website under….Graphic Organizers. They include resources from Write Design, Thinkport, Scholastic and several more.

EFL Classroom 2.0 also has a good collection of printable graphic organizers.

Graphic Organizers is the title of an excellent article by Tracey Hall & Nicole Strangman. It gives an overview of graphic organizers and research study results on their effectiveness.

Holt has a nice collection of graphic organizers, thought you probably won’t find any that aren’t at other sites on this list.  What it does have, though, that the others do not is an excellent list of teaching notes for each individual graphic organizer listed. That’s a real find, especially for teachers not familiar with using them.

Here’s a nice collection of graphic organizers from the International Reading Association.

Subversive Graphic Organizers

Here’s some research on the use of graphic organizers:

Enhancing Learning Through the Use of Graphic Organizers:A Review of the Literature is an excellent recent review. Thanks to Bjørn Helge Græsli for the tip.

The National Center On Accessible Instructional Materials has an older review.

Here’s even more research, thanks to Nathan Hall.

As always, feedback is welcome.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at previous “The Best…” lists and also consider subscribing to this blog for free.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

12 Comments

  1. I’ve found that using these tools in conjunction with another project can be useful. My students used bubbl.us last semester when brainstorming topics for their online newspaper and it was useful because as the semester went on, they could revise their map. Also – and this may seem silly – they couldn’t lose the map! So, when they forgot their ideas later in the semester, they could easily refer back to the map because it was saved online. Finally, as a member of their collaborative team, I was able to provide feedback more readily than with a traditional paper map.

    In the future, I’ll have students link their maps to their wiki project so that at the end of the project, they can reflect on their learning process.

  2. Online mind maps are good for collaborative projects, say projects with your sister schools, where you are physically separated. You can do those either together, or at different times. The use that alyssar put mind maps to can be done with computer based mind map software that is either online, or a desktop program (like Inspiration). In addition to what alyssar shared, you can use them to create whole class charts during direct instruction (KWLs, MindMaps, Clues Problems Wonderings, etc.) that can be archived, and reviewed later.

  3. Thanks for highlighting resources from ReadWriteThink. We are very proud of what we have to offer on the site! If you are interested, we pay educators in the field to publish lesson plans and share teaching ideas. Let me know if you would like more information.

  4. Maybe you’d find my non-commercial list of mind mapping and concept mapping tools useful. The numbers are over a hundred now. It has screenshots, prices and links to the original sites with a brief description. It is here:
    http://www.mind-mapping.org/

    It has a special section devoted to on-line mind mapping tools.

    Vic Gee

  5. Hi, I am a teacher looking for a 3-d graphic organizer that i learned about in an ELL workshop. It involves weaving strips construction paper through slits of another piece of construction paper to make this incredibly fun/comples tool that flips open to create two folds of 8 squares; then you can flip it over and use the other blank side; i am not explaining it well, but if you have ever seen one you’ll know exactly what im talking about. I need help remembering how to make them…l

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  7. Pingback: Advance Organisers – How they Connect the Reading Experience | Marisa Constantinides - TEFL Matters

  8. We have thousands of teachers and students using LucidChart for educational purposes. Free educational accounts can be requested at http://www.lucidchart.com/education.

    We also have a Community Library where others share what they’ve created which may help spark some ideas of how it could be used. We literally see it used in almost every subject and discipline!

  9. Pingback: Mindmapping, Flow Chart Tools, & Graphic Organizers | (la) teacher online

  10. after reading this blog, i found out that Mind42 is a good web application but i would be grateful if you share the reviews of this application also. http://www.mindmappingsite.com/sw-tool-reviews/software-reviews

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