Graphic Organizers- Round 1

OmniGraffle: The Ultimate Graphic Organizer

Those of you who have listened to me from my soapbox know that I subscribe to the line of thinking that technology doesn’t improve every task. There needs to be some significant “value added” to make it worth the investment in time and money to use the technology. If we are merely substituting one method for another, it doesn’t seem worth the effort.

BUT- I’ve come across a tool that makes the jump and IS worth the effort. It’s called OmniGraffle and it is on your laptop- and your students’ laptops. It’s a graphic organizer program with turbo possibilities.

Many of us know the value of graphic organizers. They help us put our ideas into some sort of architecture (visually) so we can make connections and figure out the best way to make our subsequent writing or research flow. They can help us determine priorities in our research and hierarchies in our writing. They are a very strong tool.

When we give students a printed graphic organizer, however, we are assuming that they all think along the same lines when they are putting together information- something we know instinctively can’t be true. For some students, their thinking process changes as they work through a research project.

I’ll use myself as an example. I am, at best, a scattershot thinker. Putting an outline that makes sense together, even in its most basic form, is difficult. I work best if I can brainstorm lots of different thoughts, giving no more weight to one thought than another. When I am faced with the initial organization of research, in this case for a paper for a graduate class on pedagogy for distance learning, my initial effort at a graphic organizer would look like this:

My ThoughtCloud

My ThoughtCloud

Once I have this sort of “cloud” I start looking for relationships. Now I want a different graphic organizer, because I need the structure provided to me. Even with years of experience, I need help!





OmniGraffle documents are made up of “canvases”- essentially pages within the document. By copying the original canvas and changing the template, I easily came up with this:

Same ideas, different template

Same ideas, different template

Note the sidebar. I can EITHER move things around using the sidebar as an outline, OR I can draw lines to link the boxes. They then move where they should go depending on the template I choose.

And it gets better. I can break my organizer down even further by copying just one “leg” of my diagramto it’s own canvas where I can work on it further. This keeps the information manageable visually.

graphic organizer portion

One leg of my graphic organizer

All of these “canvases” are part of one file in OmniGraffle. Students can easily move from one canvas to another without shuffling pieces of paper (one of which always gets lost!) or opening and closing separate files.

How to integrate this in the classroom

Use the Smartboard. Have the class brainstorm using the cloud template in the first picture. Let them move the topics around and connect them so they make sense. Then do it again to show others way of thinking and organizing information.

Start with a premade diagram with prompts that you have made. Since all students have OmniGraffle on their MLTI machines, you can either post it on your GoogleSite (what? You don’t have one yet?) or email it to them. They can work on it and send it back to show progress.

Coming soon: More OmniGraffle goodies!


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