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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Get Graphic with Gliffy: Sharing Mind Maps Online

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org 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 Edutopia.org blogger
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Comments (25)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Dania Ch.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Great! I am very interested in Griffy. I can see how it helps us in effective teaching. Training our students to visually elaborate and communicate is a needed skill in our today's developing classroom. Effective brainstorming and making connections between ideas and given subjects are parts of high-level thinking practices. Students will do it in an interesting way.. Great.

Kimberly Coleman's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Gliffy seems like a great way for students and myself as well to stay organized. I habitually use outlines to organize my thoughts and Gliffy is a great way to get my students to organize their thoughts. I think the pictures will appeal to them more than just writing a traditional outline.

Carol Wright's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe graphics are very important in learning. This is a big emphasis at my school and graphic organizers are used in every subject. Sometimes ready-made organizers are used, but I find that student-made organizers are most effective as students use organizers that suit them and in the long run aid in their learning.
I have never heard of Gliff, but this seems very interesting. Kids could do a whole lot with this. I am sure students would be excited about using Gliff.

Lura's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for the information. Gliffy seems like it will be a very useful tool to create visual aides. I am a special education teacher and strive to reach the many different learning styles that my students have and this is a great resource for those visual learners.

Richard McKee's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This was a great website. It seems to be a wonderful way in which to incorporate technology into lessons. Many students can benefit from using graphic organizers to express their thoughts and reactions. For some it is more beneficial than more"traditional ways." It may also be helpful for students who may have difficulty expressing themselves through writing. It seems very similar to Inspiration and Kidspiration. I work at an Elementary School in a low income area with a High ELL population. I recently began using Inspiration with my students and have noticed a huge difference with my ELL students. While many of them do not participate in class discussions, I have found that they have a tremendous insight when allowed to use this program to respond to questions. Combining this program with a smartboard is also very effective for the whole class. If this website is as similar as it appears to Inspiration, then it is well worth it. I wonder how well it will work with a smartboard though?

Pamela Shackelford's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

looking at the gliffy site i can see many ways in which it could be used in the classroom environment. I love Inspiration but this site and software seems to be a viable option for teachers in district that do not have the Inspiration liscense and for individual teachers that want to use more that the typical textbook publisher provided graphic organizers. Thanks for the tip

MVL's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As I am reading everyone else's ideas, it gets me thinking of all the ways I can incorporate it with what I already have and do. I can have it open on the screen using my document camera and take notes while we read a social studies chapter. I can use it to form ideas for stories. I can use it map out long assignments with multiple parts. I can even use it to map out a daily schedule. Does anyone else have some basic ideas for elementary that is probably pretty obvious, but I am just overlooking?

Christine's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Gliffy seems like a great visual tool for the classroom. I could see myself using it for a variety of lessons. I am a very visual learner myself and I like to apply visual concepts with other tools when teaching an idea. This is great!The video makes it look easy to use which is even better!

josh's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This looks like a great tool to use in the classroom. I can imagine a lot of different ways to utilize this, and I think it's especially useful for students to stay on track while working on a project.

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