This blog post has been created by Jennifer Carey. Jennifer is a student and teacher, as well as a self-confessed long time lover of technology and of all its possibilities in the classroom.
Mind Mapping is one of the hot buzzwords being thrown around in the world of pedagogy. What exactly are mind maps? Well, in simple terms, they’re those old bubble brainstorming maps that we were all forced to draw in the 8th grade. If you were particularly artistic, yours may have looked something like this:
However, mind mapping has come a very long way in recent years, especially with the assistance of technology. No longer are mind maps stagnant and immutable images – they are malleable, dynamic, and even collaborative. People are using mind mapping for organizing their personal life, developing business ideas, and in a variety of educational environments.
In this post I want to highlight my favorite Mind Mapping software – MindMeister — and talk about several ways I use mind maps in my classroom. If you think you might like it as much as I do, you may want to participate in an opportunity (I’ll describe it at the end of my post) to get a free professional account for a year.
There are many similar products out on the market today (both free and fee-based), but what sets MindMeister apart (in my mind) is that it provides simultaneously collaborative brainstorming and visualization tools using cloud technology. If you would like to see how MindMeister works, check out this brief video:
As you can see, MindMeister has numerous features and allows a great deal of flexibility and creativity. MindMeister also allows for portability with its “Mobile Apps” for iPad, iPhone, and Android devices. You can take your maps on the go!
MindMeister has many different plans and pricing tiers, from its basic Individual Account, which is free and allows three individual maps, to its extensive Business Pro accounts that provide broad technical support and an array of tools. They also provide great discounts for educational institutions and non-profits.
MindMeister in the Classroom
While MindMeister has been successfully employed in many sectors, my greatest interest is utilizing it as a tool in education. I have been using the software for the past year both for my own planning and development and as a classroom tool. As an educator, I use it to plan my lessons, organize my writing, and to even blueprint some personal things in my life (perhaps outlining that novel I’m writing…).
The classroom, however, is a different story. For me, the best aspect of MindMeister is its ability to promote collaborative work (and its availability on nearly every platform). My students can access maps from their mobile devices or any computer with an Internet connection. I have used it in the classroom for students to brainstorm a discussion, to begin to organize their ideas for papers and projects, and even to help them study for tests and quizzes. I have had dozens of students simultaneously editing the same document for all of these exercises – a key feature in my experience, as it opens the way to innovative discussion and teamwork.
Last year, I had students proudly share a map with me that several of them had been using at home to study for their final exam in my history class. I recorded it in my blog: “Students Using MindMeister as a Study Tool.” More than a dozen students, in different class sections and in their own homes, produced this impressive map using the review sheet!
Mind Mapping Class Discussions
I like to use MindMeister to help organize class discussions. My students recently finished a unit on the Code of Hammurabi. I divided the class into four groups to focus on laws related to class and status: Civil Law, Criminal Law, Family Law, and Other, which dealt with anything that didn’t fit into the other three – a hodgepodge. (Click to enlarge the map.)
The whole class had access and the ability to edit the document. Each group (using their smart phones) edited a section, listing off the ways that different laws treated individuals based on their class and/or status.
I gave them 15 minutes to edit, then we returned as a group to discuss. We even made a few additions and edits together. This is one of those activities where I’m telling students to get on their phones instead of to get off them!
How Would You Use MindMeister?
So, now comes the most exciting part of this post. How would you use MindMeister in your classroom? Do you think it would fit well into a lesson plan? A group discussion? As a planning tool? The field is wide open.
Not long ago, MindMeister contacted me and asked if I’d like to give away three, one-year professional accounts (a $120 value). What better place to do so than here at the Voices blog, where educators are always looking for ways to blend good technology into strategies that can deepen student thinking and learning.
These Pro accounts allow unlimited mind-maps, automatic backups, sharing tools, extensive technical support, and much more. The three best ideas will win the coveted prize!
To get started, if you do not already have one, go to MindMeister and sign up for a free account (or a 30 day free trial of a paid version if you would like to play with all of the bells and whistles). If you have a blog, write a post describing at least one bright idea about how you might use this mind mapping tool in your teaching or professional learning. Then leave a comment here that includes the link to your blog post. If you don’t have a blog, post your idea in the comments section of this post or send it to me via email. I’ll post the best ideas and announce the winners. All submissions are due no later than October 15. Any school-based educator is eligible.
I can’t wait to see what you all do with this!