Tech Tools To Boost Visual Thinking Skills

As described in a previous post  the first stage of computational thinking is decomposition, or breaking down data, procesess and problems into manageable parts. This first stage of computational thinking is also known as problem formulation and it includes problem finding (Repenning et al., 2016). Both problem finding and problem formulation are crucial for computational thinking, because if we want to come up with innovative and creative solutions, we first need to identify the problem to decompose it – to break it down into smaller parts in order to create innovative solutions. 

Decomposition can be performed through visual and verbal thinking. Visual and verbal thinking help us conceptualize problems visually and verbally.  Mindmaps, diagrams, spreadsheets and simulations can be used to boost visual thinking. They help students visualize problems and visually organize information. Informal doodling on napkins is an excellent example of verbal thinking. To boost verbal thinking skills, we can also use storyboarding, timelines and sticky notes.

There are many web 2.0 tools that can help students develop their visual thinking skills. Here are some of them:


MINDMAPS

Debategraph is used to create, vizualise, externalize and understand problems, ideas, thoughts and considerations. Maps can be viewed through different types of visualization (bubble, tree, box, document, outline, page view). Debategraph can include interaction with general public.

Text2Mindmap is a very simple mindmapping tool. Students write ideas in the text area and each text line automatically becomes a node on the mindmap. Mindmaps can be downloaded and printed out.

Popplet is used to create mindmaps using text, images, videos, drawings and URLs. Maps - Popplet boards can be linked with Popplet Linker in order to keep all the information neat and tidy as well as multidimensional.

Wisemapping is free to use without any restrictions. It is web-based but it can also be downloaded  to ensure the safety of its users.

Bubble.us is a web-based tool. Students can work together, share the maps and save them as images.

DIAGRAMS

Draw.io is free online diagram software for making flowcharts and different types of diagrams.

Lucidchart is free for educators. It runs in the cloud so all the students can create or comment on a diagram together in real time. It's also possible to tag missing students to remind them to add their ideas to the diagram.

Cacoo is used to create cloud-based diagrams collaboratively. There is a free plan for educators.

Gliffy is designed to make it easy and intuitive to create professional quality flowcharts, diagrams, floor plans, teechnical drawings and more. There's a free plan for educators. To qualify for this, send an email from your educational institution's domian to Gliffy Support.

Coggle is used to create diagrams using text and images. Multiple central items can be added to each diagram to map related topics in a single workspace. It's also possible to add text labels and images that aren't part of the diagram tree to annotate parts of the map. 

SPREADSHEETS

Airtable  is a combination of a spreadsheet and a database to enable you to break free of the grid. Powerful filtering, sorting, and grouping give you the freedom to arrange your work just the way you like. Choose the right views for your content, and save them for easy access any time. Airtable fields can handle any type of content: attachments, long text notes, checkboxes, links to records in other tables—even barcodes. Airtable provides templates for different tyoes of content. Here’s a sample template for Novel planning to help you unleash your writing power!

Zoho Sheet lets you chart a data-driven story. Crunch numbers and come up with visually appealing charts and graphs. Work together with your team in real-time. A free version is available for teams up to 25 people.

Google Sheets is used to create and edit spreadsheets. It is very easy to present data and create charts. Student collaboration is easy, no sign up is necessary, 

Microsoft Excel Online is used to view, edit, or create spreadsheets from anywhere. Excel can perform complex analyses and summarize your data with previews of pivot-table options, so you can compare them and select the one that tells your story best.

SIMULATIONS

Toontalk is a  simple and user-friendly programming tool. When a child tries to build anything beyond the simplest program in ToonTalk, they are immediately faced with the task of breaking the problem down into "robot-sized" (or more ideally "mind-sized") pieces. When done well, it is then easy to build or program each piece. This is a very general design skill that applies throughout science, engineering, and the arts as well. For larger problems, there is a hierarchical structure to this activity, where problems are broken into pieces and the pieces are in turn broken into smaller pieces.

Agentcubes  is used create our own objects and bring them to life in 3D worlds. It can also be used to create  online 3D games in the browser. Students can play, create, and share games or clone existing games to make them heir own. 

Cospaces is used to create virtual worlds through a simple drag and drop process from the library of assets, suitable across all ages and subjects. A free mobile app  can be used with an accompanying headset to experience creations in a virtual world.  3D worlds can also be explored and experienced with a tablet or smartphone in gyroscope mode (360° mode) if you do not own a headset.

Minecraft is a very popular game that students love to play. They can build constructions in a 3D world. In order to solve a problem, they need to break it down to simpler parts and work on it before proceeding.


Check out Tools for verbal thinking too.

References:
Repenning, A. Basawapatna, A. Escherle, N. (2016). Computational thinking tools, Paper presented at the 218-222. doi:10.1109/VLHVV.2016.7739688
Google for Education: Computational Thinking for Educators

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