You might be familiar with creating Mindmaps to help you learn or revise – perhaps from school when you emptied all the felt tips out of your pencil case to create a colourful, busy and memorable diagram to help you learn the boring bits from GCSE Biology. Or maybe it’s a method you’ve heard of but never attempted, thinking it might be too time consuming or simplistic. Well, as technology has moved on so has the process of Mindmapping, which can now be quick, adaptable and mess-free but still a good way to help you learn visually.
The idea of a Mindmap is to create a visual reference of something you are trying to revise or plan, such as a module topic or essay. The use of colour, imagery, nodes and strands is a tried and tested method of creating connections and planting information in your brain, and works well for many people. If you are finding it difficult to revise a certain topic, or make sense of the research you have done for a piece of work, now might be to time to delve into Mindmapping.
With easy-to-learn and intuitive software (some free, some not), and apps (cost-likewise) you can now create vibrant Mindmaps at the comfort of your computer or tablet. These can be adapted and added to without having to redraw the lines and information – these can simply be moved and expanded, and the map can be made more engaging through images (either your own, those found online, or often ones which are included in the software).
Some ideas for how to use Mindmapping:
- Plan a presentation – Jot down all the ideas and information you want to include in your presentation. If you are using a tool like Powerpoint, it may be a good idea to include some of the visual information and key text on the Mindmap in order to review how this comes across as a whole.
- Plan an essay – After doing your initial research for a piece of work, use a Mindmap as a way of testing yourself on what you have learnt so far. This will highlight what the most significant aspects of the research have sunk in. It could also help you to figure out key relationships between ideas and different sources, and may start to suggest a structure for your essay and highlight any gaps in your knowledge.
- Revise for an exam- Instead of just reading through lecture notes, or rewriting what you’ve learnt in uninspiring note form, use a Mindmap to visualise the content of your module. Images and colours will help you to remember facts, and connections between points on the map will help you to develop more complex and sophisticated ideas about the content.
- Conceptualise your work – If you’re at a stage in a project where you’re just a bit stuck and can’t find a way of moving forward, a Mindmap could be an effective way to stimulate your synapses. Use the tool quickly and messily, letting your intuition guide you in thinking up words, phrases, connections, ideas and images which may help you to find a way to continue in a new direction.
- Communicate with your tutor – You may have plenty of ideas at the beginning of a project or assignment, but until you start writing or designing it may be difficult to convey these during tutorials. Help yourself and your tutor by creating a Mindmap out of your current thinking and research, and use this as the focal point for the development of your work. The tool will help you to keep track of your original agenda or abstract, and can be added to and reassessed with your tutor as the work progresses.
- Group Work – For group projects you could work simultaneously on a single Mindmap – perhaps as a paper brainstorming session first, or shared via Google Drive with each group member adding their ideas in turn. This visual reference will help the group to coordinate and unify the range of ideas and may suggest a structure for splitting up the workload.
At Sheffield Hallam, all student PCs offer an easy to use and effective Mindmapping programme called Inspiration. The software allows you to quickly visualise your ideas through the automatic creation of strands and nodes, as well as having a large directory of images and colour options. Alternatively, try out apps like iMindMap for iPad (from free to £14.99 subscription for all the features) – from MindMaps inventor, Tony Buzan, this app allows you to create striking, engaging diagrams to develop, revise from or discuss while on the go.
For more information visit Illumine Training’s guide to MindMapping site, which has some hints and tips on creating Mindmaps (many are useful for doing it with technology as well as on paper).