Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Probable-to-Possible: Mapping and Flowcharting

This article originally appeared in the January central PA ASTD chapter newsletter . . .

With each turn of December on the calendar comes renewed optimism, new ideas and plans for a new approach. Resolutions abound, they often fall of the to-do list in favor of the more mundane, and urgent requirements. So, take some time this year to become familiar with a few technologies that will help you generate ideas, manage them and create processes for implementation.

Mind mapping
A mind map is a diagram of terms, tasks or resources arranged around a central keyword or idea. Mind maps are often used to visualize or structure ideas as an aide to everything from taking notes to solving problems.

Mindmeister (collaborative, browser-based and free)

Mind 42 (collaborative, browser-based and free)

Middle Ground
Visual Thesaurus (creates word maps that blossom with meanings and branch to related words )

Spinscape (auto-discover capability that allows you to pull in all the information you want from the web)

Flash Brainer (generate up to 530% more ideas than traditional brainstorming)

Axon Idea Processor (provides a variety of thinking tools)

Application for learning: Needs analysis, theming, creating scenarios and simulations, assessment
Other resources: Mind mapping blog,
Related concepts: Crowdsourcing,; Idea Management,

Concept Mapping
A concept map is a diagram showing relationships among concepts. Unlike mind maps, concept maps are not centered on a singular topic. A concept map can be a free form, system view of a set of concepts and can include multiple hubs and clusters.

IHMC CMap Tools (free concept mapping)

SMART Ideas (SMART board –related product)

Middle Ground
Inspiration (multi-functional tool)

Mind Manager (maps with an intuitive visual framework)

Design Web (automatic construction
of interactive conceptual maps)

Application for learning: Needs analysis, curriculum design, creating scenarios and simulations, assessment
Other resources: The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct Them,; List of concept mapping and mind mapping software,
Related concepts: Cognitive tutor,

We’re all familiar with the concept of flowcharting and almost everyone has probably done it at some point in their academic or professional careers. However, until recently there were very few computer-based tools available for flowcharting, beyond Visio in Microsoft Office. If you haven’t used Visio, you may have attempted flowcharting in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint (= pounding a nail in with a slipper).

Gliffy (online diagram software – free version) (online multi-user, real-time collaboration flow charts service)

Middle Ground
Microsoft Visio (advanced diagramming with flowchart linking)

FlowBreeze (create flowcharts from Excel)

Application for learning: Instructional analysis, process analysis, storyboarding, job aides
Other resources: Standard flowchart symbols,
Related concepts: Storyboarding,

So, enter the New Year with the same vim and vigor for new ideas and new approaches, but consider using some of the tools listed in this article to keep that momentum going. Capture and brainstorm new ideas with mind mapping, map new approaches and strategies with concept maps and create new and more efficient processes with flowcharting.

Also consider how these tools can impact your learning analysis, design and development directly. I’ve listed some applications for learning with each list of tools. What do you think? Do you already use the tools? If so, what are the results? Can you think of any other ways in which these tools can impact your learning design and development activities? Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter (@apetroski), LinkedIn ( or on the Learning Evolution Blog (

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Evolution of the Learning Game

When I was designing and devleoping my first games for learning in 2000, the framework of most serious games was fairly well established . . . "An interactive activity to reinforce rote leearning; built in Flash." Fast forward a decade-plus adn the options and opportunities in games for learning have exploded. The strategies for creating and using serious games has advanced. No longer confined to rote learning at the end of a tutorial or even to the desktop, serious games come in all shapes and sizes. While the desktop is still a primary delivery method, today's experiences can be much more immersive. And, there are some new and evolving ways to design, deliver and experience games for learning.

Read the remainder of this post on the LEEF blog . . .