Virtual Flip Chart

May 14, 2009


The problem with Powerpoint and the like is that they are passive tools. They’re great for presenting pre-prepared material (if used carefully and the slides are well designed – big ifs!) but don’t allow for input from the audience and for the presenter to display something that arises during the presentation itself.

I’ve believed for a long time that training should be interactive – it should be more like a discussion or conversation than a lecture. One technique I use quite a lot is writing on a flip chart. I either use it to summarise points made during a discussion, to pull together findings and key points from practical exercises or for “brainstorming”.  The problem with this is that my handwriting is not so great and, despite my best efforts, tends to deteriorate as the discussion progresses. So, for a while, I’ve been on the lookout for a software tool I could use as a sort of “virtual” flipchart. As usual, I don’t like paying for anything (especially software!) so I’ve been trying to find a good, but free, program  that would fit the bill. I’ve considered using Freemind, a mindmapping tool that’s been around for a while, but I find that the charts it produces are rather cramped. There are a number of web based tools I’ve tried out, but they’re not really amenable for use in the class, requiring an Internet connection which, in UK hotels, is expensive, and there’s also the risk of the system or connection failing. However, I think I’ve found something that will do the job for me. Dropmind is another online mindmapping tool, but a downloadable desktop version is also available and it looks promising.

As I see it, the positive aspects of using a mindmapping tool on my laptop with a projector include

  • legible charts!
  • the charts can be changed as we go along, something that isn’t really possible with a flip chart
  • the charts produced can be saved for reference in a more convenient format and can be printed out

Inevitably, there are negatives, too. The ones I foresee are

  • using a computer based tool will tie me to the laptop and restrict movement around the room
  • the projector would still be switched on. One of the nice things about using a “real” flipchart is that it introduces variation – turning off the projector makes a nice change.

There are bound to be other pros and cons. I think I’ll give it a try and see how it goes down.


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