Collaborative Concept Mapping

I noticed that my last few posts have been focused almost entirely on Science, so I thought it was time to write about processing and mapping skills that work across disciplines. I have to thank Kevin Clark, an instructional technologist who works for our local REMC, for blogging about a fantastic new tool for allowing users to work collaboratively on a concept map from different computers, and share them online.

Gliffy is everything a concept mapping tool should be, and doesn’t require money or a download in order to use. Users can make concept maps, flow charts, floor plans, network diagrams, and just about any other simple diagram or chart you can imagine. It lets you place and resize almost as many shapes, objects, text, and connections between objects as Microsoft Publisher or Inspiration. It lets you write within the objects, or place text boxes around the work space, and allows you to make dynamic connections between objects that can be labeled and change position and shape as needed when dragging connected shapes around the workspace. The best feature by far though is being able to collaborate on a project with others. All projects are saved online, and when looking to share with others you are given a prompt asking for the collaborators’ e-mails. They receive an invitation and a link to follow so that they can work on the project (online of course) alongside each other in order to improve productivity and/or revise and edit a project together.

While I haven’t had enough time to devise a project for my students using Gliffy, I have created a crude flow map of the Blogging Process, which I have included below. Students could use the tool to create collaborative concept maps in science, create flow charts to show various methods of solving a single type of mathematics equation, or use it as a pre-writing tool to storyboard and outline a project. Charts and projects can also be shared as images (like the one below) both on the Gliffy website, or as embedded objects (the process was incredily easy, and followed a simple few step-by-step clicks). Gliffy is free for now (it apparently uses advertisements when sharing work with others), but even if they started charging a nominal fee it’s collaborative and online saving abilities would easily place it above Insipration and other concept mapping tools as far as it being a useful tool in the classroom.


  1. Funny you should mention C-Map Richard, as I’ve been playing with it for the past few weeks. I downloaded it after seeing in on another blog and have been tooling around with it. Personally I enjoyed the Gliffy site and userinterface much more than C-Map (had a hard enough time just figuring out how to download the C-Map program due to the site’s unconventional interface).

    I thought Gliffy would be better for working collaboratively, but I have the summer to really poke around and determine which I’ll be using in my classroom next year (which will change depending on whether I still ahve my laptops).

  2. you must suffer anyway to create linking phrases and draw down true concept maps.
    This tool has some graphical ulilities lacking in cmaptools, as snap to grid and move objects with arrows and, first of all, hyperlinking embedded in the text.
    I have not yet understood if the white gridded plane may be widened sensitively with the extension of the objects.
    Collaborations cannot be synchronous, but could almost become with a chat.
    Internet archiving is not manageable by the user. So I can believe big difficulties in managing collaboration to a complex knowledge model. Perhaps these file can be copied in and opened from every server? How would be browsing supported while opening these file (HTML) from different remote places?
    It lacks a lot of tools offered by CmapTools.
    I believe this tool is good for its immediacy, say for “flash collaborations”.

  3. Actually Alfredo, I was thinking this tool would be perfect for classroom collaboration, even without the immediacy. Not to degrade cMapTools, but the interface on their website is atrocious, with Gliffy begin much more user friendly. Elementary students would have an easier time using Gliffy from it’s much more “Kidspiration” like interface.

    Being web-based means it’s superior to CMapTools when updating is concerned. Instead of going back to the website, checking for updates, or having an in-program updater check (curse that Adobe updater), Gliffy is updated without any extra effort on the part of the user. Simply login, and “poof!” the latest stable version is presented to you, and anyone else you’ve chosen to share your project with. Granted, without internet access Gliffy is about as useful as a sock with holes at both ends, but with the increased investment by many school districts where infrastructure is concerned, there isn’t a classroom where I can’t get internet access in my district.

  4. Thanks for the mention of Gliffy. We are very appreciative. It is great to know there are teachers and districts preparing students (with internet access and using web 2.0) to program/compete in the world they are in. If you have any suggestions and/or feedback please drop us a line at our newly revamped website! Thanks,
    debik at gliffy dot com

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