Get Graphic with Gliffy: Sharing Mind Maps Online | Edutopia
Edutopia on Facebook
Edutopia on Twitter
Edutopia on Google+
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
Subscribe to RSS

Get Graphic with Gliffy: Sharing Mind Maps Online

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former blogger

It's no news to anyone here that visual learning plays a critical role in instruction at all levels. Each of us works hard to ensure that we're reaching each learner and that we're employing various modes of presentation and interaction in order to teach in the most efficient and effective way.

Those of us who have been in the classroom also know that incorporating visual teaching and learning strategies is a highly effective way to help display mind maps, engage students in effective brainstorming, communicate ideas in a variety of ways, aid students in recognizing patterns and connections between concepts, and so on.

As a former fourth-grade teacher, I can remember that one of the hardest concepts to teach was effective outlining -- taking ideas and organizing them in a flow that made sense. Being able to visually represent concepts, brainstorms, and related bits of information graphically reached students at a deeper level than simply using text-based descriptions.

I'd like to introduce you to a Web site called Gliffy. According to its creators, "the word gliffy is an adaptation of the word glyph, a symbol or character that imparts information nonverbally." They go on to say, "Gliffy is an online diagramming service that helps users communicate with a combination of shapes, text, and lines." I describe it as a combination flow-chart and brainstorming tool mixed with a social, collaborative wiki.

What's especially fun about this tool, aside from it having a free option, is that it's collaborative: I can develop a mind map with you, and we can invite collaborators to work with us in a password-protected environment. I can email individuals or post the shared URL to my blog. The tool offers dynamic publishing, which means that if you link a collaborative gliffy document to a blog, it remains live; any changes to the original are always reflected in the blog links, and so on.

Those interested can check out a tutorial on YouTube. Gliffy is a great tool for those who either can't afford a commercial graphic organizer or want to take graphic organizing to the next level and involve collaboration and group work in the process. As always, let us know what you think, and share links to similar Web sites.

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former blogger

Comments (25)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Karen Richardson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I want to start by saying the I LOVE Inspiration. But, it is a software program that costs money. Students using public access computers may or may not have the software available to them. Gliffy means everyone gets access and, as Chris points out, gets the extra of collaboration.

Rachael's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I teach special education, and often my students have difficulties understanding things unless they are described in a wide variety of ways. I like how the tool allows a teacher to create so many different resources for multiple purposes. I also like the fact that it is colorful and appealing to the eye, which is a benefit for students. It is something that I would be interested in sharing with my colleagues at work and disucssing the possiblility of purchasing such a resource.

Claudia (Walden)'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I completely agree with using visuals, especially in kindergarten. I try to use visual aids whenever possible. I haven't used flow charts, but I'll try it. What is kidspiration? I've never heard of it.

Leona Harris's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Coberly and Cosgrove (2002) state that teachers who assume responsibility for student learning have a sense of efficacy, a critical component of professionlism. harberman (1995) emphasis this by stating that teachers with a high sense of efficacy believe that they can make a difference in students' lives. However,such teachers do not merely hold this belief they act upon it.

Jen Swenton's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Kidspiration is a computer program that uses visuals in order to teach reading, math, and writing. You can create story webs on it, play games, make visual picture stories and lots of other fun things. It is expensive for a school to buy a license and have this program put on computers. It is only $69 to buy the software personally and you can download a free trail too.
Check out the website for more info : )
Hope this helps!!

Kendi Flowers's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that teachers have a responsibility for their students learning. If we are not trying new and different techniques to provide learning for ALL of our students, then we are not doing our job. I have used Kidspiration and Inspiration and find both to be valuable in providing visual aides to enhance students learning. I had not heard of Gliffy, but to some time to navigate the website. I think it could be a valuable resource for providing visuals for students. Having as many resources available to enhance students learning is important. Thanks for the new idea.

Say's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This product seems to be wonderful for all students especially special ed. students and English Language Learners. I have used Inspiration and Kidspiration. A great resource that I got from my district is the Action Learning- Learning Tree. They have tons of graphic organizers that you can use to teach concepts and strategies. I am going to sign up for a free account to try to create organizers that fit what I want my students to learn. I will also share this with my colleagues.

Have anyone created organizers/frameworks for writing essays? Notetaking? Reading comprehension? Thanks.

Susan Loskamp's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I too feel the need to teach with visual aids and hands-on materials. I teach Kindergarten and without these strategies class would be boring and learning would be difficult. It is also more engaging for me as an adult. I would much rather have kids active during instruction than just telling them about it. This type of learning builds connections that they can apply later in different topics as well.

Sandy Sokerka's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

We have Kidspiration on our computers in our district. The program looks great but I unfortunately haven't but it to much use in my classroom. I would like to know how to use it effectively and would greatly appreciate any ideas or activities. I plan on using as a center and hope that my first graders do the activity without playing around. Since I am teaching a reading group at this time I am unsure how to make certain that are completing the task as there will be no finished product. I will definitely check out that website. Thanks for you help!

Monique Coyle's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Wow, this site sounds amazing! I can not wait to check it out. What I am especially interested in is how students compartmentalize learning in their brains, and how mind maps help them to both compartmentalize knowledge, and how they to help synthesize all the learning that goes together. I will be looking forward to trying out this site with my students. Thanks!

blog Hands-Off Teaching Cultivates Metacognition

Last comment 2 days 21 hours ago in Teaching Strategies

blog Going Beyond Teacher Appreciation Day

Last comment 10 months 2 weeks ago in Teacher Leadership

Discussion 6 Tips for Faculty Meetings Worth Going To

Last comment 1 week 1 day ago in School Leadership

blog Shifting Mental Models in Educators

Last comment 20 hours 11 min ago in Teacher Leadership

blog 8 Top Tips for Highly Effective PD

Last comment 1 week 3 days ago in Professional Development

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.