Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Increase your creativity and learning skills with mind mapping

Nowadays, with learning how to learn becoming a more and more important cross-curricular topic, implementing new learning techniques within our school curricula is always a good idea.
When it comes to improving people's learning skills and getting the most out of their brains, Tony Buzan knows a great deal. He is the creator of the mind map tool, a revolutionary method that improves focus, logic, creativity and most cognitive processes. As Buzan himself says "a mind map is a thinking tool that reflects externally what goes on inside your head". 


As we can see in the image above, a mind-map is somewhat reminiscent of the technique called brainstorming. This is not brainstorming itself, it's much more, but brainstorming can be used at the beginning as a first stage learning towards mind mapping. How would one go about brainstorming? Let's take the word "happiness" as an example. The first thing we would do is writing such word inside a geometric shape we like, such as a rectangle or an ellipse, surrounded by around ten branches. In those ten branches we would have to write the first ten words that our mind would generate by association with the "happiness" concept, for instance: relax, swim, run, laugh, family, light, exercise, smile, waves and fun. In a second stage, we would do the same, but putting a drawing with each word and using different colours. This exercise can be used to develop our skills of association, allowing us to go beyond traditional linear thinking.
Later on, we can move to the mind-mapping exercise itself, which can be used to categorize anything (semantic fields, for instance). The main rules to follow are:
1) Putting the word of the main topic in the centre of the paper along with a drawing or picture that conveys its meaning.
2) Using plenty colours.
3) Drawing curvilinear branches, with one word in each branch.
4) Always use uppercase letters.
Below, we can see an example of a mind-map describing the rules to design a mind-map.

The mind map concept can be used with children of all ages. Even those who don't know how to write yet can do quite well by using only visual images instead of words and images together.
In the English class they could be used to categorize words grouping them together. For instance, we could design a mind map to review or learn the topic "the foods", where we could write the word "FOOD" at the center and then putting several branches like "FRUITS", "DAIRY PRODUCTS", etc. classifying each item ("apple", for instance) within its parent branch.


We can watch Buzan himself explaining this great technique in the video below.

Moreover, the fact that Tony Buzan has developed a specific mind mapping software for personal computers, makes all this even more interesting. We could use the software to teach our pupils this technique and, at the same time, accomplish another important cross-curricular topic: that of using ICT (Information Communication Technologies) in the classroom. Here, you can download a trial version of iMindMap:

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