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A spicy tool for interactive concept maps

December 21, 2011

SpicyNodes logoMy Christmas present to you is a review of SpicyNodes, a neat tool that helps you create a “nodemap” made of chunks of information. Each node can include a title, a description, an image or video, and a link. What makes this particular tool stand out is that after you create a map you can interact with it, moving nodes around or drilling down.

SpicyNodes lets you visually display hierarchical data. You start in Edit content mode, entering text information in outline form. Switch to preview mode to see how the map looks in graphic form – select a focus node and items beneath it in the hierarchy appear as surrounding nodes.

SpicyNodes is great for creating and presenting basic concept maps, so I built a nodemap that visualizes the basic organization and goals of my spring multimedia course (click the image at the bottom of this article). I didn’t originally expect to keep the finished product, but now I plan to use it during the first week of class.

SpicyNodes edit mode

The free version offers 16 visual styles you can customize. Under  Edit style, you control the color and shape of nodes and lines, as well as choose fonts and background colors. More features appear with a paid account: the watermark is removed, customization options are added, and you can have bold or italic text.

More important for educators, a paid account provides password-protection and multiple authors can collaborate on a nodemap. The website offers all users a cookbook with ideas for using the tool, as well as tutorials, articles and more. The American Association of School Librarians selected SpicyNodes as one of its 2011 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning.

This site is seriously Flash-based, so it doesn’t work on some devices. The developers sell a sister app, Wikinodes, in the App Store and they might decide to offer a SpicyNodes player for iPads. Finally – and I know this sounds petty – I wish they had given it a name that wasn’t so cute. I immediately thought of another tool I like that has a silly name – AudioBoo.

Overall, I found SpicyNodes very easy to work with. It has earned a spot in my presentation toolkit!

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