Review by Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2014

Creately

Diagramming tool OK for some, but too tricky for most kids

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
N/A
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6-12
Great for:
Common Sense says (See details)
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Pros: A few built-in templates and object sets address some specialized, upper-level content areas.

Cons: The confusing interface and editing features will challenge most kids, distracting them from the actual learning at hand.

Bottom Line: For a few specialized uses it might be just the thing, but there are better diagraming options for most kids.

Some specialized high school teachers may find Creately useful in courses like drafting, chemistry, electric and auto shops, or, say, in a robotics club. English teachers might have students do some pre-writing activities like story webs or other diagrams for note-taking, and employ Venn diagrams for work with logic or interpreting literature. Statistics teachers might want students to use tree diagrams to illustrate or interpret probability concepts.

Some of the shape sets could be useful in a chemistry classroom; logic gates can be good for debate clubs. User interface mockups might be useful in a computer science class where students are programming or designing a website. While online, real-time collaboration is a great feature for group work, Creately might only confuse on this front.

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Creately is mainly a productivity tool for business use, though it may have a few school-related applications. Users can create all kinds of diagrams, including mind maps and flowcharts, among some more complex and specific types. There's a dashboard-type page for file and folder management and an editor page for working directly with the diagrams. Users can build their creations from scratch using text, lines, objects, and imported files, or they can choose from a selection of templates that come with relevant objects and images. Objects can be rotated, enlarged, connected, ordered, and linked to other diagrams or URLs.

Most templates and objects are specific to business, software engineering, or design, but there are also some general templates as well as a few related to chemistry. There are few education-specific templates, but they're mostly teacher-centered. With an account, users can also share and collaborate in the cloud. Selected objects highlight and lock temporarily when two or more users are working on the same document -- changes update from one user to another relatively quickly, if not immediately.

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Creately promotes a skill -- diagramming -- that if more fully integrated into school curricula would better prepare kids for all other types of learning. While the specialized capabilities here are nice, the site is likely too advanced for most students. Lots of products allow users to create diagrams, but diagramming software like this keeps objects connected even when moved or nudged around the workspace. Creately is one of a handful of cloud-based options that have sprung up around Microsoft's professional software, Visio.

Another of these options, MindMeister, would be a much better fit for use in school. While roughly comparable in price, MindMeister is more visually appealing and definitely easier for kids to use. With Creately, manipulating text boxes can be tricky, as they resize and bounce around the screen a bit. Bumpy editing, sharing, and updating features will likely turn teachers and kids off. The synchronous sharing works relatively well, although there can be some hiccups -- updates don't always migrate between users as quickly as they should. For teachers, templates for school use are sparse -- expanded options here could make the site a more appealing teacher tool. For most uses, go with a different, more kid-friendly option.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Aside from some of the diagram templates, there aren't many appealing bells or whistles here. As a commercial product, the templates trend mostly towards use in business settings.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Diagramming is an empowering skill for kids -- the key to unlock lots of learning. However, it's likely that Creately will only be useful for older, more advanced high schoolers. A few of the templates may interest teachers.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

There are some help pop-ups, but overall, support for newbies is lacking – most kids won't find it easy to use. There aren't any obvious tutorials or explanations of the various diagram types.


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