When I was an undergraduate student at the University of Canterbury down here in New Zealand in the early-mid 1990s, I used mindmapping on double sheets of paper to summarize lecture notes, readings and other insights on learning materials. Thanks to the MindManager mindmapping software developed by Mindjet, today’s student has more effective options available. In this blog post I want to reflect on a number of conversations that I’ve had with people on both the student and educator side of the educational matrix, the uses they are putting MindManager to in their learning and teaching, and the benefits they are seeing. Hobie from Mindjet offered me the opportunity to speak with the people I did, but apart from making the initial introduction by email, all the work was on my time and dime. He hasn’t even seen a draft 😉
MindManager from the Student Side
I don’t have a PhD in educational philosophy and effectiveness, but I would argue that the use of MindManager drives heightened active learning on the behalf of students. Due to the non-linear nature of a mindmap, every new factoid that comes across the student’s desk has to be integrated appropriately into the mindmap, rather than merely being noted down on the next line on a sheet of paper. That is, the student is constantly forced to ask him or herself “so what?” and “where does this fit with what I already know?”. This active learning could indeed be done with a sheet of paper and a lovely pen, but the benefit of MindManager is that it makes revision and re-ordering of the map drop-and-drag simple. The incremental work on the behalf of the student to revise what they have previously structured out is minimal with MindManager, but is a major pain with a pen and paper approach.
Trevor Claiborne, who has just graduated with a double major in Psychology and Linguistics from UC Berkeley, used MindManager extensively from his first year. From year two he took a Tablet to every class, and took notes directly onto a MindManager map, and then created a linked map for his readings. During his final semester at UC Berkeley, Trevor had the opportunity to teach a class, and again used MindManager to capture, record and display the class discussion in real-time. Trevor had earlier experimented with Microsoft OneNote, and on the difference said:
MindManager is much better for mindmapping than OneNote, due to the easier way of thinking about a topic or issue. I can drag-and-drop map items around the page, can introduce new header categories, and as my understanding of the information changes, I can re-organize everything very quickly.
Trevor has written about his use of MindManager on the Student Tablet PC Blog … see Part 1 (overview, what is mindmapping) and Part 2 (how to use it for lectures, essays and projects). He is joining Google in a marketing and product management role next month, and I wish him all the very best in this next adventure.
MindManager from the Educator Side
The key phrase that comes to mind when thinking about MindManager from the educator’s side is relational concept communication. Rather than giving students a flat list of learning concepts and seeking to explain inter-relationships orally, mindmapping permits a visual organization of content which very clearly and concisely shows the relationships between things. Pure memorization of facts is not enough. As students move into the business and professional worlds, their ability to see the inter-relationships between concepts, the linkages between things and the implications of a decision is a critical and career-enhancing skill.
Dr. Ron Sakaguchi is an Associate Dean for Technology & Innovation, and the Professor of Biomaterials and Biomechanics in the Department of Restorative Dentisty at at Oregon Health & Science University. He is also a very strong advocate of the educational benefits of mindmapping and MindManager as a way of doing so. To help the future health professionals under his care and direction, Ron hands out a single MindManager map at the beginning of a course that shows the learning objectives for the first half of the year. When the end of the course rolls around, Ron has another one for the students that covers the full course. His intention is to clearly show the linkages and relationships between the various concepts and constructs that students will be learning, and to help them organize their thinking, studying and research projects. Ron is also an active advocate of mindmapping with his faculty peers, seeking to teach them how to use MindManager in their research and teaching activities.
Ron tried a number of other mindmapping software products on the market, but has found MindManager to be the best. For example, it (a) automatically gives a neat layout, (b) automatically scales maps to fit a printed page, and (c) tries to avoid overlapping branches.
You’ve Got to Try It
With Mindjet offering a free 21-day trial and attractive educational/academic discounts to boot, you’ve got to try it out. As a student, it will make you a more active learner. As an educator, it will help you communicate your concepts more effectively. That’s a major win for both camps.
And finally, if you aren’t a “formal student” at an institution but rather are fully engaged as a lifelong learner, you have to try it out for yourself.
Use Mindjet MindManager in Higher Education
Linda Briggs, Tool Helps Map Out Complex Subjects, June 28 2006, campus-technology.com
Academic uses Mindjet MindManager to improve the process of creating on-line courses, customer spotlight on Dr. Michael Ruffini on mindjet.com