Visual Tools to Engage Users

There are many tools out there that allow you to be more creative and bring visuals into the classroom, or just into your daily work.  Recently I’ve been experimenting with a7-10-2014 9-53-05 AM few different visual tools, including MindMupLucid Chart, and Piktochart, and shared a bit of this knowledge lightning style through workshops for AOTL librarians, and for the librarians and staff at the John Tyler Community College libraries.  Spending less than 15 minutes per tool doesn’t really get you deep into any of them, but it was just enough to spark some interest.  I already know of librarians who are trying them out on their own and developing some really cool graphics!

Here’s a snippet about each tool, and included here is a link to a Prezi with some basic information.  I encourage you to try them out on your own!


Used to create mind maps, which is a diagram for visually organizing information.  This tool could be used in the classroom to help students break down their research topic to develop a search strategy, and it can be used by anyone just trying to brainstorm a project or map out information.  One of the cool features is that you can share a map and collaborate on it with “anyone” in real time.  But therein lies the problem.  I had dreams of pulling up MindMup in the classroom, sharing a map with the whole class, and having students work together on the map, breaking down a topic together.  Or have students work in pairs or groups on the same map on different computers.  The sharing is done through Google drive, which works for VCU users since our email is now on Google apps.  But for the librarians at John Tyler, even though their email accounts are supported through Google, their accounts did not support access to the MindMup app they would need to connect to their accounts.  But the biggest problem is that collaborating is more often than not, “unavailable at this time.”


One of the nice things is that you can add images and attachments, and the attachments allow you to add more information without cluttering your map.

Ultimately, this could be a great tool for classroom and individual use, if you choose not to rely on the collaboration aspect.  In the meantime, I’m searching for a more stable tool that can support real time collaboration.

Lucid Chart

Lucid Chart is a very powerful tool that enables you to create charts, graphs and diagrams that can be incredibly dynamic, and even interactive.  It is very easy to use, and you can embed images, videos, and even create hot spots that link to other websites, pages, or layers within the chart.  Some cool features is that it will automatically adjust your chart as you add things, but you still have the ability to manually manipulate your objects as needed.  The real time collaboration works much more smoothly than it lucidchartdoes in Lucid Chart, but can be a bit tricky to get started.  (Sometimes you end up with a link that allows people to view the chart, but not edit, and you have to create a new link for collaboration.)

Out of both workshops, people seemed most interested in Lucid Chart, since it has many practical applications outside of the classroom.  You can see that we had a little fun with everyone in the workshop adding things to the chart at John Tyler.



book review infographicI’ve been using this tool the most lately to create handouts and the base for hover maps to embed into LibGuides.   This infographic I created in Piktochart can be used as handout, put on a PPT slide, or embedded into a LibGuide.   Unlike the other tools, you cannot collaborate on documents, and although it is free, the free version is very limiting.  There are enough themes and graphics to get you started, but I often find myself seeking out free graphics to upload, and taking stylistic cues from other themes and starting mine from scratch.  But the free version does still have some really awesome features, such as embedding videos, and the ability to create maps, charts and graphs containing your own uploaded data.  It’s very easy to use, and in addition to infographics that you can publish online, you can use it to create handouts, presentation slides, reports, and banners.


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