Monday, June 18, 2007


A mind map is a powerful tool for unleashing learners problem-solving and creative abilities and improving their note taking skills. It helps learners to understand new material, memorize information, and recall it later.

Tony Buzan, creator of mind mapping, compares our brain to a radiant thinking association machine, which has 5 functions: receiving, holding, analyzing, outputting, and controlling. Our mind is constantly looking for patterns and completion. For example, after hearing "one, two, three," we tend to add "four" (p.34-35). Our brain employs free-association of ideas to create patterns. Mind maps are used to build connections and establish associations between the learner's experience and new information, between previous knowledge and new concepts.
(Tony Buzan and Barry Buzan, "The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain's Untapped Potential.")

To create mind maps, learners put main ideas in the center of the page and supporting ideas are placed on the radiating from the center "branches." Learners work outward from the center in all directions and produce colorful charts with key words, phrases, and images. Mindmaps are useful for essay-writing, report-writing, research paper, book reviews, test preparation, planning, and note-taking.

Joyce Wycoff, the author of “Mindmapping: Your Personal Guide to Exploring Creativity and Problem-Solving," presents mind maps in 8 easy steps:
Step1. Mindmapping begins with a word or image placed in the middle of the page.
Step 2. Lighten Up! Start with an open, playful attitude.
Step 3. Free Associate. Allow the ideas to expand outward into branches and sub-branches.
Step 4. Think Fast. Brain works best in 5-7 minute intervals so try to capture new ideas and place them on branches.
Step 5. Break Boundaries. Break the 8 1/2 x 11” habit. Use larger paper and different colors.
Step 6. Judge Not. Put everything down that comes to mind even the most unrelated thoughts.
Step 7. Keep Moving. Create new branches, change colors, don’t stop.
Step 8. Organization can always come later.

These are tips for creating mind maps:
  • Think creatively and in a non-linear manner
  • Use at least 3 colors for mind mapping
  • Put the main idea in the center of the page
  • Use upper case letters to print key words
  • Add explanation to key words in lower case
  • Add single words or simple phrases to each branch
  • The branches should be curved
  • The branches should radiate from the center
  • Have lots of space between key words
  • Use symbols and images.

Mind maps can be written and drawn by hand, but learners can also use mind mapping software: Inspiration, MindGenius, Visual Mind, MindManager, MindApp, etc. Recently, Tony Buzan's group developed software iMindMap, which allows learners to draw freehand branches. Watch movies on YouTube where Tony Buzan introduces iMindMap:

I’ve downloaded a free trial version of iMindMap. It’s a colorful software which helps you to create a cloud (book, ellipse, light bulb) for the main idea, radiate your supportive ideas on curved branches and add images. According to Buzan, this program is "still a young and developing child" and, in my opinion, it requires some improvements:

1. The size of a chart is large in iMindMap, and it would be comfortable to have the shortcuts Ctrl + and Ctrl – for zooming in and out.
2. I found that Branches are difficult to resize. You can press and hold Shift with right-click and drag the branch, but the text gets distorted. Instead of resizing, it's easier to delete the branch and draw a new one.
3. iMindMap developers incorporated the mind mapping technique into the help menu, but it’s difficult to find information and navigate between different topics.

Overall, iMindMap is a useful and colorful tool, and I would recommend it to educators and learners. I've created a mind map based on the SAU 16 Levels of Technology Integration Rubric.


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