Although mind mapping is already used by over 250 million people worldwide (According to Tony Buzan), it is still relatively little used in schools and unknown to students and teachers. However, once students and teachers get introduced to mind mapping, they find it a fun, engaging, and motivating approach to learning, and a great tool to manage information and increase productivity.
In this two-part segment of education series, I’ll describe how students (part 1) and teachers (part 2)can benefit from mind maps.
To become successful learners, students must have some basic training on how to learn. In his work, cognitive psychologist David Ausubel made a very important distinction between rote learning (avoids understanding of a subject and instead focuses on memorization) and meaningful learning. He argued that meaningful learning takes place by the assimilation of new concepts into the existing concept framework held by the learner. This ability to integrate information—identify key concepts and meaningfully structure (organize & connect) them—is a key feature of mind maps.
What is a mind map?
A mind map is a graphic tool used to collect, create, manage, and exchange information visually. It represents information via the spatial organization and association of concepts, topics, ideas, words, or other items linked to and arranged in a radial pattern around a central concept (see diagram). In essence, mind mapping enables you to transition from information chaos and overload to a meaningful presentation of information by organizing and connecting concepts and ideas so that they make sense to you.
Think of a mind map as a tree, where the various outlying branches—the concepts and subconcepts—all connect back to the trunk or central concept. The elements of a given mind map are arranged intuitively according to the importance of the concepts, with the goal of representing accurate and meaningful connections among them. The concepts are typically represented in a hierarchical fashion with the most general (inclusive) concepts closer to the central concept and the less general (more exclusive or specific) concepts placed further away from the central concept.
How mind maps help students learn
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. Mind mapping offers enough flexibility to maintain interest and encourage curiosity and enough structure to keep the learner on track.
How to draw mind maps
Drawing mind maps is very simple. Only two steps are truly critical to mind mapping: (1) identify/add key concepts and (2) organize/connect key concepts correctly and meaningfully.
In other words, provided you do these two things, you don’t need to worry too much about the process by which you create your map. In fact, preoccupation with producing the “perfect” mind map can slow your thinking and stymie the process. Mind maps come in many variations and you may encounter other mind mapping guides that describe a different organizational format or number of steps. The mind maps that you make are yours alone, and you can choose the form that best suits your purpose and needs.
Other uses of mind maps
Use of mind maps is not limited to education. Rather, professionals and others also use them to enhance their productivity at work and in life. Some examples are shown in the mind map graphic below.
Give mind mapping a try. It may be the key to unlocking your full learning and productivity potential.
Toni Krasnic is the author of CONCISE LEARNING: Learn More & Score Higher in Less Time with Less Effort. He is a mind mapper, a student success coach, and an educational consultant. He also publishes the free, biweekly 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.