Mr. Venn and His Diagram: Now, In a Free, Collabrified, App!

Mr. Venn and His Diagram: Now, In a Free, Collabrified, App! 

"Students using word processors for writing generally produce longer, higher-quality writing than students using pencil or pen and paper." (Quote from ResearchBrief and see Norris & Soloway for a slew of supporting research studies.)


"Change is cheap."  Using a text-editor, students get some words down on the paper — ooops, screen — and then it is easy to move the words around, delete some and add some. A text-editor helps make students more effective writers. Cool!

CollabrifyVenn, the latest free, device-independent, browser-based, collabrified app from the digital cobblers at the Intergalactic Mobile Learning Center (IMLC), is a text-editor for Venn Diagrams.  As such, then, CollabrifyVenn should help make students more effective Venn Diagrammers.

Whoa! Let’s step back and unpack that last paragraph. Indeed, "let’s start at the very beginning. It’s a very good place to start."  (If you listen carefully, you just might hear Julie Andrews singing those lines from Do-Re-Mi — smiley face goes here.)

So, there was this fellow, Mr. John Venn, a mathematician and philosopher who lived and worked at Cambridge University in England. In 1880, Mr. Venn described the Venn Diagram "… in a paper entitled On the Diagrammatic and Mechanical Representation of Propositions and Reasonings …" In the paper he called the diagrams "Eulerian Circles" — not Venn Diagrams — since Leonhard Euler had earlier developed the concept of intersecting circles as a way to represent logical propositions. But, since Mr. Venn "popularized" that particular visual diagram, his name has become associated with the circles representation.

Today, in K-12, Venn Diagrams are used in all areas, e.g., in language arts, science, math, computer science, etc. They are considered to be a type of graphic organizer. Concept maps, with their nodes and arcs, are probably the most familiar example of a graphic organizer. Graphic organizers, like the Venn Diagrams, display information visually, spatially.  While this isn’t the time and nor the place to get into a battle about "learning styles," it is, nonetheless clear, that visual representations do aid learning.

But here is the key:

  • Up until now, a teacher would hand out a piece of paper that had three intersecting circles — a Venn Diagram — and the students would make entries into the three circles – hopefully accurately. Changing a pencil entry is seldom smudge-free — with ripping the paper a not infrequent occurrence. Pencil and paper is better as a write-once medium.
  • Going forward, however, students can use CollabrifyVenn as an inquiry tool, making tentative entries in the circles — and then easily changing the entries (add, delete, move) via CollabrifyVenn’s drag-and-drop interface. And, because CollabrifyVenn is "collabrified," two or more students can work together, each on his/her computing device, synchronously, on the same Venn Diagram, adding, deleting, moving entries around — all the while talking with each other.

Time for an illustrative example!

  • Elliot fires up the Chrome browser on his Chromebook, while Cathie brings up Safari on her iPad. (Sorry; while CollabrifyVenn, written in HTML5, will run just fine in Chrome, Firebox, Safari, Silk, etc., it won’t run in the Microsoft browsers since those browser don’t exactly follow the HTML5 guidelines laid down by the WorldWideWeb Consortium.)
  • Cathie goes to: and creates a new Venn Diagram, calls the file "Tornadoes vs Hurricanes" and shares it with Elliot. (See Figure 1. Click on the three dots in the upper right corner; the "Share…" option appears in the drop-down menu.)
  • Elliot goes to and clicks, in his list of Venn Diagrams, one a file entitled "Tornadoes vs Hurricanes." Now both Cathie and Elliot are working inside the same file – the same Venn Diagram!
  • Before they begin their investigation, Cathie and Elliot brainstorm what they think they know about tornadoes and hurricanes — much like they might do using a paper, KWL graphic organizer – or use CollabrifyKWL, see below.
  • Now Cathie and Elliot, using the Internet, do research on tornadoes and hurricanes. Cathie finds a website about "water spouts" — tornadoes that occur over water.  She points out that Elliot’s entry "ONLY over land" under "Tornadoes" is incorrect. No problem! Elliot puts his cursor on the handle to the right of the "ONLY over land" entry and drags that entry to the trash can. (See Figure 1.)

And on and on it goes! Cathie and Elliot are Venn Diagramming, they aren’t just filling in a Venn Diagram. Since "change is cheap" — since making changes to entries in a CollabrifyVenn Diagram is quick and easy — CollabrifyVenn enables learners to engage in the iterative process of Venn Diagramming.

As a reminder, besides CollabrifyVenn IMLC is providing a suite of free, device-independent, browser-based, collabrified apps designed expressly for grades 1-6:

  • Collabrify Flipbook: Collaboratively construct drawings and "flipbook" style animations — students (even high schoolers) love, love, love this app!
  • Collabrify Map: Collaboratively "graphically map" out ideas using nodes and arcs (relationships); integrate images INSIDE a node — way cool!
  • Collabrify Writer: Collaboratively use multiple media in "writing" — pictures and videos are first-class citizens in this "media writer."
  • Collabrify KWL: Collaboratively use the KWL technique for brainstorming and inquiry — and in CollabrifyKWL the "L" can require Evidence!
  • Collabrify Chart: Collaboratively build a spreadsheet – use it for numbers and for text.

The above apps run just fine on tablets (e.g., Amazon Kindles, iPads), as well as Chromebooks, laptops, and desktops. And, of course, students can use these apps by themselves, solo. 

It’s fun to imagine Mr. Venn … logging into CollabrifyVenn!