Electronic Graphic Organizers
A graphic organizer is a visual representation of concepts, knowledge or information that can incorporate both text and pictures. Their true value is in the mind seeing visual patterns and relationships and deriving new insights from the patterning of the information. The pieces of a graphic organizer are much like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. When the strange pieces are put together they form a familiar picture. The individual pieces have no meaning while the constructed puzzle does.
They have been used for many years as a visual tool for gathering, sifting, sorting and sharing information in many disciplines. Early childhood teachers use Venn Diagrams to teach comparing and contrasting objects while engineers use complex organizers to develop new processes and simulations.
Graphic Organizers are easier for humans to understand than other representations such as pure text. They allowed the mind 'to see' and construct meaningful patterns to create new insights.
The research and power of graphic organizers is well documented in education. However they were difficult to develop and very time consuming to produce and edit. Most were templates, workbook generated versions, more often than not, teacher generated.
Until now, graphic organizers such as concept maps, radial diagrams and note taking matrices required careful planning and editing to avoid being cluttered, confusing and consequently -- unusable. They became unwieldy and not very user friendly. When a new idea was generated or an unanticipated change was made this required a complete remake of the map, diagram or matrix. Furthermore, the map was often limited to the size of the paper and time allocated to generate the organizer. Think about your personal calendar! :>) Consequently the organizer and the developer lost their creative power to collect and generate ideas and information -- bogged down by erasers, space limitations and capabilities to edit. Graphic organizers were bound by typewriter mentality and cumbersome paper, pencil and eraser. These problems kept the applications limited in scope and use to all but the most sophisticated user.
Recent development of software to produce and edit graphic organizers has opened up new vistas for uses in gathering, sifting, sorting and sharing information in visual forms, yet unexplored. Barriers have been removed.
Newly developed electronic organizers and multiple windows ease designing, gathering and rearranging information. They allow the developer to cut, clip, paste, move and rearrange information at will. Not having to preplan, draft and remake brings into being the free flow of creativity and information in a natural manner.
In view of the wealth of information (info glut?) and continued development of the Internet, a new and powerful tool, the electronic graphic organizer can help plan, gather, sift and sort the vast amount of information generated in cyberspace.
The use of hierarchical graphic organizers as a web site navigation tool is appearing more frequently in web site development. Internet search engines are incorporating graphic organizers as a tool to lead info seekers in their quests for information.