Your first kiss, your first car, your first day teaching, your first mind-map.

I know, you remember them all like they were yesterday.  And they’re all hugely significant events in your life.  Of course, it’s hardly fair to compare your first kiss with your first mind-map–obviously the mind-map was more exciting and memorable. But only one of them helps you explicitly make connections in your mind.

I wish I remembered the first time I used a mind map to organize and connect my thoughts.  The reason I use mind-mapping, whether electronic or paper and pen, is because it’s a flexible way to organize your thoughts and make connections between complex ideas in a memorable, tangible way.  It also helps you realize there is more than one way to arrange ideas.

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Example of a Coggle Mind Map

According to me (yes, that’s right–it just ‘seems right’), the more connections that a piece of information has in your mind, the more stable and memorable it is.  There are a few sources on Wikipedia claiming some fairly anecdotal-sounding results (“80% of students felt that using mind maps helped”, but I am always pretty skeptical of educational research anyway.)   This is basically shooting from my gut–using mind maps to draw connections between seemingly-disparate concepts has to be beneficial.

Hence, the mind map is the main technological component that my final project will focus on.   Rather than simply have each student create their own mind map, I would like to transform this exercise into a collaborative one, in which students will see that there is more than one way to organize knowledge.  The concept of “no single right answer” is something that is often greeted with discomfort in my classes, and I am intentionally creating it here!

I have been an avid user of XMind for years.  I won’t rave on about it, because in reality, it’s not the program that really impresses me.  (Actually, the free-version is badly hamstrung and customer support is notoriously poor).  It’s the concept of an easily editable (i.e. NOT pencil and paper) mind map. There are plenty of options out there, all with their own perks.  But only the following two applications support online, real-time collaboration: Coggle and MindMup

Coggles can even be embedded!  Slick!