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. (NOTE: In March, 2016, the last time this post was completely revised and update, Gliffy was experiencing a major outage. I assume they’ve repaired it, but am not sure)
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
I learned about TUZZit from Carla Arena. It’s a free online graphic organizer tool that provides lots of different options of organizers (you can also create your own); lets you paste online images videos, virtual post-it notes and more onto them; and then you can share your creation with online collaborators. In some ways it seems like an Exploratree on steriods.
Common Core Correlated Graphic Organizers:
Develop Thinking from The Chicago Public Schools
Common Core Teaching and Learning Strategies is from Realizing Illinois
Common Core Resources from Spartan Guides
What Does Common Core Tell Us About Reading Comprehension? is from the Marzano Center
As always, feedback is welcome.