Saturday, November 6, 2010

Top 10 Mind Mapping Uses for Students

A guest post by Toni Krasnic

Mind maps graphically organize and represent relations between ideas and concepts. Because they’re visual as well as verbal, mind maps play a key role in harnessing the full range of our brain skills within one framework.



Although still relatively little used is school, students who have discovered mind mapping find it a fun and engaging approach to enhance thinking and learning, and a great tool to manage information and increase productivity. Below are the top 10 uses of mind maps by students.

10. One-place repository of information and resources

Mind maps are great in helping you overcome information overload. Not only can you integrate key concepts into mind maps, but you can also link images, charts, and files in any format so that you have all pertinent information in one place. Mind maps also allow you to attach notes, include spreadsheets, hyperlinks, and prioritize all information. This way, you have access to all important information and resources from one map.

9. Holistic integration of information (personal information management) and knowledge (personal knowledge management)

Mind maps are great for integrating vast amounts of information from multiple sources in a personally meaningful way. Mind maps require much less time to compose and less time to read because they place emphasis on key concepts and clarify their organization and associations in a way that makes sense to you. As a result, you can process a lot more information into personally meaningful knowledge, better and faster. Furthermore, mind maps can expand or collapse to give you a focused view (details) or a bird’s eye view (general overview). By showing everything — the trees and the forest — in a single view, visual maps help clarify thoughts and tackle complex topics. The accuracy, depth, and cross referencing afforded by mind maps are hard to match with any other tool. Visual representation by mind maps allows for development of a holistic understanding that words alone cannot convey.

8. Personal dashboard to manage tasks and goals

Many students use mind maps to manage their busy lives with a personal dashboard mind map - a one-map summary of your personal life. You can create different branches for different parts of your life, such a school, personal, extracurricular activities, etc. Within this map, you can then add to-dos, with start and end dates, descriptions, and color coding. You can also add goals and subgoals to keep you on track to where you want to be in the near future. With the recent advances in technology, you can now easily access and edit those maps with you smart phones.

7. Note taking, research, and writing

One by one, old traditions are changing with technology, but note taking by students in schools hasn’t changed yet. Pen and paper note taking in classrooms needs to be reexamined because it still exists out of tradition, not because it’s the best way. The active process of note taking with mind maps eliminates the redundancy of just copying information on paper, which, unlike mind mapping, doesn’t encourage interaction, thinking, creativity, or learning. Once students become familiar with mind mapping, they can use it to take notes in lectures, synthesize lectures with non-lecture information, organize and summarize research work, and prepare for writing assignments.

6. Exam preparation and review

By having all your notes in one place, you no longer have to scramble the night before exam to your class notes, book notes, practice problem notes, and other miscellaneous notes. They’re all in your mind map, organized and connected in a way that makes sense to you, enabling a productive and stress-free review.

5. Transparent thinking

Mind maps are a diagram of your thinking that you can share with your study partners and teachers. For example, students can meet after each chapter to share and compare their mind maps in study groups, which is a great way to share what you know and find out what you still don’t completely understand. Students can also share mind maps though mind map sharing portals and web-based mind map interfaces to collaborate with other students from their personal learning networks outside of school. Students can also share their mind maps with teachers, who can quickly glance over them to provide detailed feedback on students’ understanding of the class material.

4. Improved memory and recall

Mind maps are very effective at bringing together logical, visual, and creative thinking to help you organize and link information, a process that improves memory and learning. When you learn a new concept, you add it to the appropriate place in the mind map, and in order to do that, you have to analyze the patterns, structures, and connections of concepts within your topic. This promotes better understanding, memorization, and recall, as well as the ability to apply knowledge in new situations.

3. Increased creativity through free-form, non-linear thinking

Like your thinking and understanding, mind maps are not static constructs. Rather, they are inherently flexible and constantly changing, encouraging refinement of thinking. Mind maps help you break the habit of thinking linearly and encourage flexibility. This means making use of more visual thinking to link concepts in relationship webs rather than in sequential order. Non-linear thinking enables you to jump around ideas and explore connections between ideas in pursuit of a big picture that is personally meaningful. Non-linear thinking not only helps make sense of existing ideas by finding the missing connections between them, but also helps identify gaps in understanding, and just as importantly, triggers new connections to seemingly unrelated ideas and helps generate new ideas altogether. With non-linear thinking, one can see possibilities that totally elude the linear thinkers.

2. Problem solving, decision making, and taking action

Mind maps are a way to develop logical thinking by revealing connections and helping students see how individual ideas form a larger whole. Their flexible structure encourages new ways of thinking about concepts and ideas and allows for the personal manipulation of information and testing of different scenarios. Mind maps enhance the problem-solving and decision-making process by generating alternative solutions and options, revealing a previously unseen but appropriate action. This will help you get unstuck by helping you generate different perspectives on the problems, resulting in a different state of mind, leading to novel, creative solutions.

1. Transform rote studying into self-directed learning

Through mapping concepts and ideas, students become better learners and thinkers. Mind mapping is a powerful tool because it turns complex information and problems into simple and clear diagrams through a visual representation of key concepts, facilitating comprehension and learning. When mind mapping, students whole-mindedly filter and break down unprocessed information to key concepts (analysis) and then organize and connect key concepts back together (synthesis) in a personally meaningful way. Mind maps enable students to see the connections between ideas they already have, connect new ideas to existing knowledge, and organize ideas in a logical structure that allows for future modification. This is the basis for meaningful learning. This active, self-directed process of learning eliminates the redundancy of most students’ approach to studying, which relies on simply copying and repeating back information. Mind mapping offers enough flexibility to maintain interest and encourage curiosity, and enough structure to keep the learner on track.

What are some of your favorite mind mapping uses? Let us know in the comments.

Toni Krasnic is the author of CONCISE LEARNING: Learn More & Score Higher in Less Time with Less Effort. He is a student success coach, visual mapper, and an educational consultant. He also publishes the free, monthly Student Success Newsletter. His Web site, www.ConciseLearning.com, has many free, useful resources on mind mapping for students and teachers. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

On November 15 at 11AM EST, Toni will host a session on Mind Mapping in Education at the Global Education Conference. Join him for this FREE, 1-hour webinar.

2 comments:

Goalscorer said...

This is a good list: but beware of the procrastination process (very popular with students): spend so long working out a beautiful plan that there is no time left to do any work.

Tools have to be easy to understand, quick to use and display all the relevant information in a single clear picture.

Former unsuccessful student! said...

Well said! I never finished my undergraduate degree and "perfectionism" which resulted in procrastination was part of the problem. For all you younger folks, remember that "The perfect is the enemy of the good", i.e., you can spend so much time trying to study "perfectly" that you never study "adequately", or, in some cases, "at all". Remember that studying is a skill that, like other skills, starts out "rough" and gets more smooth as time goes on. The kid playing little league basketball, including my daughter, looked like a gang of chickens out on the floor. A few years later she was one of the top players in our state the year she graduated. Didn't start that way, though, and your attempts to become a better student won't either.