A certain colleague of mine has been trying to get us on the mind mapping band wagon for months now. He uses mind maps to take notes, to organise his project and lord only knows what else. I've held off on mind maps so far, thinking them to be the latest fad in productivity enhancement.
First off, mind maps are graphical representations of a thought, concept or idea that can be quickly cobbled together. They work by associating new words and ideas to the ones already on paper. So for example, if the central idea is "paper" you may get branches like "material", "writing" and "printing", which may also have branches of their own. Mind maps allow you to brainstorm about a lot of ideas and to quickly take notes of the process.
Yesterday in class we created a mind map about cooperative learning (samenwerkend leren). I've recreated the mind map using Freemind and the result can be seen here.
To create the mind map linked above I've used the free and open source tool FreeMind. This software can be used on both Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, which makes it perfectly suitable for students. Of course the price is right too ;)
Because the software is written in Java it takes a while to start up. Once it's up and running it works like a charm and you will not notice any speed issues.
Editing the mind map is very easy. The software distinguishes children and siblings. A child forms a new branch from the currently selected idea. A sibling creates a new branch in parallel to the currently selected idea (a brother, or sister if you will). These two basic functions are performed using either the TAB or the ENTER key, which makes it trivial to quickly type up a big mind map.
Mind maps that you've created can be exported as either graphical files (JPG or PNG), as HTML or as an Open Office file. Those graphical exports are very useful when you want to include your mind map in either a website, or a printed report.
FreeMind offers a lot of additional options that can make for a very snazzy mind map. There's colours and icons aplenty, most of which the average student won't use anyway.
I'm not onboard when it comes to being hyper-enthused about mind maps, but I can now definitely agree that they're very useful.
You can download FreeMind from their SourceForge page.
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All content, with exception of "borrowed" blogpost images, or unless otherwise indicated, is copyright of Thomas Sluyter. The character Kilala the cat-demon is copyright of Rumiko Takahashi and used here without permission.