Posts Tagged ‘Mind Maps’

Today I had great fun with my four and six year old boys (my two year old was also helping) in creating a story using a mind map. The whole idea came from an inspiration I had earlier from the ThinkBuzan newsletter, which encouraged parents to do fun activities with iMindMap 5, one of them being creating a story. When I read their Blog post I though it was a lovely idea, but with none of my boys being a confident writer I though it wouldn’t really apply to us. Then, I started thinking straight and realised that in mind mapping little words and many images mean greated imaginative and associative power, especially with iMindMap 5, where all you need to do to add your images is Google for what you are looking for, copy and paste into your branch. And that’s exactly what we did!

We started off by thinking of a title for our story and that was a bit of a challenge in itself, because I realised Matteo (6) didn’t really know the meaning of “Title”, but once we got through the idea that it tell what the story is about he came up with a very suitable title for their Star Wars based story (and what else could it be about?). Then, we split our mind map into four main branches; Characters, Places, Weapons and Battles. I was very pleased to find out that Matteo (a very, very reluctant writer) was quite willing to write the words on the branches and that he was quite good too! It brought back to me the power of engagement and active learning… he was excited about writing his own story, about what really interests him, so writing all of a sudden became a pleasure and not a burden 🙂

The rest was easy, because all we had to do was to Google the images the boys were choosing to make their story and paste them in the relevant branches, as you can see from the mind map we created below.

A Mind Map Story by very young learners

With the battles I asked the boys to decide who was fighting who and in what places. Basically they were beginning to storyboard their story using the power of associations that this mind map gave them. We came up with some conventions. The double arrows show who is fighting in our story, but if the arrows are red, it means the villain wins, and if the arrows are blue, the heroes are prevailing 🙂 simple but effective. The battles will take place in the places linked to each battle by the dotted arrows!

As my first attempt to mind map with my little boys I was extremely pleased to see such interest and creativity going on. Mind mapping truly is the “Swiss Knife of the brain” as Tony Buzan often refers to, and I will try to transfer my passion for mind mapping to my children more actively in the future. iMindMap 5 is a really powerful tool for mind mapping, because it allows anyone, even bad Artists like me to create very visual and effective mind maps in very little time.

A feature that we will add in the next few days to our Mind Map Story is a narration of the story following branches and by adding audio comments, another great feature in iMindMap 5. If you want to download my boys’ mind map you can find it on my Biggerplate account.

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Reading this excellent blog post from @Chickensaltash and the more complete article from TES rekindled my passion for Tablet PCs in the classroom. Though I believe IWBs are a great tool to enhance Teaching and Learning and I agree with Dan Roberts when he tweets that we have to do with what we have got, I find it difficult to understand why very few schools went down the road of installing Tablet PCs instead of IWBs (I am talking about schools that installed IWBs after the first boom and when Tablets were already well known). Here are my thought on why I believe Tablets are a much cheaper and more versatile option.

1. I bought my first Tablet (a Toshiba Portege’) 2nd hand for £400, my second one (Toshiba Tecra M7) new for £800 and my current Toshiba Portege’ M400 for £890. This is to say that they are quite cheap. In fact, most schools would have at least a projector per department (if not per room) these days, so a tablet PC is all you need to go with it to have a fully interactive kit to share with your pupils. Buy a normal PC/laptop and you still have to buy a multi-k £ whiteboard. Moreover, the newest Tablets are multitouch, giving a more interactive experience than some IWBs.

2. Tablets are fully portable. Ever had to fight to book the only room with IWB in the department? And having to put up with the dirty looks of the teacher (often the least likely to actually bother using an IWB and that uses it as a post-it holder) being kicked out from his class? It is understandable that departments start with what they can afford, but this unpleasant situations would be avoided if the department had bought two Tablet PCs for the price of one IWB (and you still have to buy a PC/laptop with the IWB, so you might be able to fit three Tablets for the same price). This way it is the Tablet that moves rooms, not the teachers. This is a lot better for everyone (teachers and students) and the lesson can start on time.

3. You can’t pass an IWB around, but you can send the Tablet around the classroom for the pupils to use and contribute actively to the lesson (well, you either need a very long projector cable, or a wireless projector).

4. You can place your Tablet PC wherever you want, so you can stand away from the line of view of the children and you don’t project your shadow on the screen. The latter is really annoying for both the audience and the person using the IWB, because it makes it really hard to write, as you don’t actually see what you are writing (I know there are some projectors that project right from the top of the board and get rid of this problem, but I have seen hardly any in the schools I have visited).

5. You can actually work on your interactive resources even when you are away from your classroom, as a Tablet PC allows you to write on the screen just like you would do on an IWB. It’s just not as big and as heavy! I have used it to annotate and mark pupils’ electronic work, draw mind maps (one example on my previous blog), etc, and obviously get my pupils engaged with the same rich experiences.

6. You can download free software for IWB on your Tablet PC. KindleLab is an example, but you can also try the free trials from Promethean and SmartBoard to compare and then decide to buy the software if you want, so your Tablet PC is just as good as an IWB on the Software front.

I really think Tablet PCs are a fantastic tool in Education and I wish more schools used them. I thought they deserved at least a mention in the TES article, but they didn’t, so I felt the need to write about them and share what a great asset they have been in my practice.

I had always thought I understood what a mind map was and that I was drawing effective mind maps until my eye was caught by a second hand book in the Oxfam Charity shop in Cardigan (West Wales). Little did I know at the time that the book I was holding in my hands was the great classic “The Mind Map Book” by Tony Buzan himself. And what is even more amazing is that it was only 10p!

I devoured the book and I soon realized I was not an expert in mind mapping after all, but quite far from it. And who was better to “hear” it from than the inventor of mind mapping himself? After reading the book (and partly while I was still reading it) I felt compelled to try the mind mapping rules the Tony Buzan talks about and it was a revelation. My maps became a lot more enjoyable both to draw and read and I could use this fantastic tool not just to remember concepts, but to create and consolidate meaning and as a planning and creative tool. Even since I have been trying to get my students to appreciate the usefulness of mind mapping in various way, as I have written and shown in my previous blog post.

Here is in a nutshell the rationale behind some of the most important rules in mind mapping explained by Tony Buzan. Its a great video, if you want to introduce mind mapping to your class in five minutes!

When I wrote the blog post on my top 5 list of features in Office 2007 I mentioned INK for Office 2007 as one of them and one of the reasons I like it so much is that you can use it in PowerPoint to create very nice mind maps that blend beautifully your own handwriting and powerful images that you can find on the internet. It is very important in the mind mapping process to have the freedom to write and draw on your map by hand and so expressing your creativity. That is why no mind mapping software has yet been able to substitute your hand in this highly effective and enjoyable activity, although iMindmap is very good and the closest to fully hand drawn mind map in my view!

Anyway, although drawing your own images is important in mind mapping, in a subject like Physics accuracy and clarity are also important. That is why using images that can be pasted on PowerPoint together with branches and words handwritten using INK (which you can find on the bottom left corner in presentation mode, or on the review ribbon, if you are using a Tablet PC) can be a very powerful tool. Well, pasting images from the internet can also save a lot of time and still make your mind map very beautiful and articulated.

I made the mind map in the above video to help my A-level Students to understand Magnetic Fields, but then it occurred to me that they would have probably been confused by it without an explanation of “my mind”. So, I decided to narrate the mind map to them! I did that in class, but I also recorded my explanation using Community Clips, so they could download it from our VLE and use it for revision any time they wanted (I would love to be able to say I can picture them with their earphones on the bus listening to my mind map on their iPods, but I can’t).

Anyway, that was the mind map and the idea was that they would have narrated the next mind map I made and the third one they would have both created and narrated. We had a very professional sounding narrator who would give a really hard time to any BBC presenter, but I didn’t think it would be fair on him to display his voice to the world without asking.

I hope you have enjoyed reading and listening to this post and that you will start using mind mapping with your classes too, if you haven’t already!

Any feedback is welcome. Thanks!

I have often wondered whether to use Office Live, or not! I tried it a couple of years ago with my Yr10 pupils and it just didn’t work for them. They would not upload stuff on the share workspace and some complained they couldn’t access the resources I uploaded, or could not log in. So, I gave up for a season, until a few months ago when I created a PowerPoint Template for my Yr 12 Students to use to create a massive mind map on various aspects of Quantum Phenomena and EM Radiation. I designed the template using PPTplex, a PowerPoint plug-in that allows you to view your slides as if they were part of a canvas. You can then use the buttons and scroll on your mouse to zoom in and out of each slide (see my previous blog about it)

The result was that each pupil in yr 12 was assigned a topic and turn that into a mind map on a single slide. Thanks to the zooming features of PPTplex there was no concern about the font size and students could, therefore, fit as much information as they wanted in their mind map. Each slide was a new central concept within a much larger mind map whose template I designed in the background view to include all the pupils’ slides and show how each topic linked with each other! This way they could all work at the same mind map presentation and that saved the hassle to have to collect all their work and paste it in a single presentation afterwards. In addition, it allowed the students to use the amazing features of Office 2007, like smart arts and PPTplex and create really nice and visual mind maps!

So, did it all work so smoothly? Well, we live in the real work! I already knew about the problem of not being able to work simultaneously on the same file. If someone is currently working on one file another user can only open it as a read only. This takes away all the collaborative nature of sharing documents online, doesn’t it? No doubt, tools like Google Docs and Google Wave allow a much superior real time collaboration, but the tools provided by Google Presentations are quite limited compared to the range of features of PowerPoint 2007, which allows the user to create much more versatile and professional looking presentations, as example of which is PPTplex. Some students could not download the Presentation and work on it and one pupil experienced the frustration of not being able to edit the presentation because another student was working on it at the same time. Thankfully, he was quick enough to think of saving it with another name, make his changes and then cut and paste onto the Office Live shared presentation later.

So, is Office Live a useless online collaborative environment? I believe it’s far from that, because of the reasons I explained above. If they could merge the awesome features of Office 2007 with the collaborative power of Google Docs, or even better, Google Wave, that would come close to perfection. But we live in the real world where live can sometimes mean “wait a minute I am rebooting” and collaboration sometimes means “Well you both wrote on the same spot, so I won’t show any of it at all!”

What so you think? Please, leave a comment!