Friday, 27 May 2016

Tech Enhanced MindMaps

Mindmap Methodology via Examtime

Mind maps are such flexible, powerful ways to represent learning, and yet I rarely see them used. I think one thing that probably puts people off is they think they might as well just use paper, and I too once thought this... I was wrong.

Shifting mind maps to a screen drastically changes what you can do with them—so when you ask students to mind map on a screen, don't just ask them to replace what they can do just as well with paper mind maps—use SAMMS to transform them, so they are used in ways that can’t be replicated using static media like paper:

Situated Creativity

Online or 'cloud based' mind maps can be worked on in groups, synchronously and asynchronously - collaboratively or cooperatively, a seamless blend of classwork/homework. This means that rather than the tedium of teachers collecting in the work regularly to 'mark' the can view any of them, at any time, anywhere.


Smart web search for images to illustrate stages - combine with smart use of unit keywords (process, source) to really empower inquiry, eg students can clarify the understanding of essential words and terms by adding images that to illustrate (not just decorate) their maps; eg students learning about the process of how chocolate is manufactures can add an image that illustrates “chocolate process” or ‘chocolate source” to amplify the meaning of key ideas with images, and even videos. Terms that are ambiguous or confusing for the student can include a simple definition (in Google just type define: ). The treasure trove of knowledge that is the internet becomes a cornucopia of content to simple and easily make a mind map a glorious representation of that students expanding understanding.


This is probably the most powerful enhancement of mind mapping on a screen. The mind map can be evolve, so it a form of assessment I call an ‘ongoingative’, in that it starts as a pre-assessment, gets used formatively throughout the unit, and ends up becoming a summative assessment. A much more natural, nonlinear, ‘organic’ way to organise ideas—starting very simply with initial ideas and understanding (pre-assessment), then revisiting the same mindmap regularly (once a week?) taking screenshots of the changes/evolution over the course of the unit.* Another factor here is that, unlike with the paper equivalent, ideas can easily be dragged and dropped, disconnected and reconnected, moved and removed as the overall map becomes more focused and as a clear structure emerges. Also, on the screen there is no need to be confined to the limits of a page, they can allow their mind map to expand in any direction their thinking takes them. The examples below (Rewind, Review, Reflect) shows how this works in Mind Meister using the history tool to review a process that took weeks in minutes.


At the end of the unit, the screen shots of the mind maps over the previous weeks can be turned into a screencast with the student reflecting on their learning. In iOS Puppet EDU makes this very easy, or use Quicktime to narrate a sequence of screenshots. Alternatively kids could use PicCollage to make a montage of key screenshots of a LJ post, with some text to summarise their learning? Mind maps like Mind Meister incorporate a Prezi like presentation mode, that allows the students to guide the audience/teacher through the elements that are most essential, they can even add a narration using an app like QuickTime - see the 'Reflect, Present, Narrate...' example below.

Socially Networked Activity

Mid unit reflection, kids can share their on going work in a multiplicity of ways, from sharing their mind map with their peers to facilitate collaboration or cooperation, or as simple as posting a screen capture of the most recent version of their mind map to share with the class, either via a class online space, or a Padlet et cetera. Peer to peer feedback, mediated by the teacher.

An Example from Grade 3

Michael Wheeler worked though a unit with his class that really exemplifies how well this approach works. Over the course of several weeks the mind map/concept map became a repository for recording and reflecting on their learning experiences throughout the unit; special guests, website info, BrainPop activities and videos, educational interactives—all summarised and and mapped in relation to three essential understandings. 

Rewind, Review, Reflect

This video powerfully demonstrates the 'history' tool, which effectively allows the students to rewind the map, and review the entire process of learning and inquiry captured over the preceding weeks.

Reflect, Present, Narrate...

The screen captures below demonstrate the final stage of the project, where each student was able to turn this formative record of learning into a summative presentation with a few clicks, this was then used to record a screen narration where the students reflected upon their work, by summing up the overarching understandings from the unit, not just narrating the text on the screen.

Grade 5

Across the Curriculum

Mind maps can be used for:

  • problem solving - WWWHWW
  • outline/framework design
  • structure/relationship representations
  • marriage of words and visuals
  • condensing material into a concise and memorable format
  • Project management 
  • Book/film/unit summaries
  • Word study - spellings, forms, etymology, patterns/conventions/connections
  • Brainstorming (ideation)
  • Knowledge management (including pre assessment) 
  • Planning 
  • Ongoingatives 
  • Connections between concepts, ideas, knowledge, skills. 
  • Maths strategy representations and connections, and/or process stages/steps

Concept maps vs Mind Maps

Technically mind maps differ from concept maps in that mind maps focus on only one word or idea, whereas concept maps connect multiple words or ideas. Also, concept maps typically have text labels on their connecting lines/arms. Mind maps are based on radial hierarchies and tree structures denoting relationships with a central governing concept, whereas concept maps are based on connections between concepts in more diverse patterns. A concept map is a way of representing relationships between ideas, images, or words. In a concept map, each word or phrase is connected to another and linked back to the original idea, word or phrase. Concept maps are a way to develop logical thinking by revealing connections and helping students see how individual ideas form a larger whole.

A Mind map reflects what you think about a single topic, which can focus group brainstorming. A Concept maps are more free form, as multiple hubs and clusters can be created, unlike mind maps which fix on a single conceptual centre. The reality is that I doubt many people really care about the semantic differences, my mind maps also exploit the features of concept maps, or maybe it's vice versa? The point is that this model is versatile and dynamic, it can be whatever you want it to be. This is a sentiment clearly echoed by a passionate advocate of this way of working, Ken Robinson; who gives the following, practical advice:
There is no wrong way to create a mind map as long as it makes sense to you. Mind mapping offers you a lot of creative freedom and can open whole new ways if thinking. Here are some of the main principles you to keep in mind as you practice mind mapping: 
  • Use single words or very short phrases for each line. Remember, this is a visual as much as a verbal system.
  • Form organic connections.
  • Use a variety of colours throughout the mind map. Colours give the map visual appeal and they help to identify different levels and types of ideas."
  • Each keyword or image should have its own line. 
Finding Your Element, pp 11-12

Key Concept Mind Maps

No need to look far for the a set of powerful single words that can form the basis of a concept map in any curricular area, some or all this essential 8, I call, '2Fs, 3Cs, 2Rs and 1P' are all you need:
  • form - define it, what is it?
  • function - how does it work?
  • causation - why is it like this?
  • change - how is it changing?
  • connections - how is it similar to other things?
  • responsibility - what do you/we need to do about it?
  • reflection - how do you know what you think you know is true?
  • perspective - what are the possible points of view?
Key concept starters in Popplet

Key Concepts in Mind Meister

Some Suggested Tools

For the reasons outlined in this post, mind mapping tools that are situated online make the most sense, top of my list for these is Popplet, followed closely by MindMeister, which has the added advantage of working with GApps, although it is more suited to older students, as you can see in the examples above, it works well with students as young as grade 3 as well.

Further Reading

MindMeister have published a great post on the benefits of mind mapping, "From Collecting Dots to Connecting Dots": Using Mind Maps to Improve Memory and Learning" that is well worth a read. It provides a short overview of principles of memory and learning and effective learning techniques, and demonstrates how students can use mind maps to become more effective learners.

*Mind maps like Popplet and Mindmeister include history tools that literally allow you to rewind to the start of the process and play it back.