Memorization of study materials can easily done using mind maps and concept maps.
What is Mind Mapping?
A mind map is a graphical way to represent ideas and concepts. It is a visual thinking tool that helps structuring information, helping you to better analyze, comprehend, synthesize, recall and generate new ideas.
Just as in every great idea, its power lies in its simplicity.
In a mind map, as opposed to traditional note taking or a linear text, information is structured in a way that resembles much more closely how your brain actually works. Since it is an activity that is both analytical and artistic, it engages your brain in a much, much richer way, helping in all its cognitive functions. And, best of all, it is fun!
So, how does a mind map look like? Better than explaining is showing you an example.
Benefits and Uses
I think I already gave away the benefits of mind mapping and why mind maps work. Basically, mind mapping avoids dull, linear thinking, jogging your creativity and making note taking fun again.
But what can we use mind maps for?
- Note taking
- Brainstorming (individually or in groups)
- Problem solving
- Studying and memorization
- Researching and consolidating information from multiple sources
- Presenting information
- Gaining insight on complex subjects
- Jogging your creativity
It is hard to make justice to the number of uses mind maps can have – the truth is that they can help clarify your thinking in pretty much anything, in many different contexts: personal, family, educational or business. Planning you day or planning your life, summarizing a book, launching a project, planning and creating presentations, writing blog posts -well, you get the idea – anything, really.
How to Draw a Mind Map
Drawing a mind map is as simple as 1-2-3:
Start in the middle of a blank page, writing or drawing the idea you intend to develop. I would suggest that you use the page in landscape orientation.
Develop the related subtopics around this central topic, connecting each of them to the center with a line.
Repeat the same process for the subtopics, generating lower-level subtopics as you see fit, connecting each of those to the corresponding subtopic.
Some more recommendations:
Use colors, drawings and symbols copiously. Be as visual as you can, and your brain will thank you. I’ve met many people who don’t even try, with the excuse they’re “not artists”. Don’t let that keep you from trying it out!.
Keep the topics labels as short as possible, keeping them to a single word – or, better yet, to only a picture. Especially in your first mind maps, the temptation to write a complete phrase is enormous, but always look for opportunities to shorten it to a single word or figure – your mind map will be much more effective that way.
Vary text size, color and alignment. Vary the thickness and length of the lines. Provide as many visual cues as you can to emphasize important points. Every little bit helps engaging your brain.
Mind mapping is an absolutely fascinating and rich topic – this post only scratches the surface. If you want more reference material now, Wikipedia is always a good starting point.
Mind mapping is a passion for me, and it is one of the strongest drivers behind this blog. I plan to explore it in much more depth – publishing mind maps, providing tips, talking about computer mind mapping, and much more. Just make sure to keep visiting (or better yet, subscribe).
In the meantime, please give mind mapping a chance – try it out. Follow these handy tips and see the results for yourself. Don’t worry too much about doing it the “right” way – just make it fun.
To inspire you, one more great mind map from Buzan Centre Australia on Creative Intelligence.
Study Matrix Mind Map Showcase
Adam Sicinski’s maps are perfectly aligned with Litemind’s mission, so following I present 5 selected mind maps on the topics of: learning, time management, memory, stress management and advanced mind mapping.Click on the thumbnails to see a larger view of the mind maps. Below each thumbnail is also a link to the original article in Adam’s blog. These articles contain detailed explanations about the mind maps’ contents, as well as links to the full, downloadable maps (in both wide-screen and standard formats). Enjoy!Get More This is not a sales pitch, sponsored post or anything like that — I am posting these links because I was amazed with the detail and the attention that went into creating them, and how they really express the essence of the ideas.Browse around the IQ Matrix Blog and the companion IQX Shop, and check how Adam is quickly developing many great learning resources. Some are paid (such as study aids recreating Shakespearean literature classics), but most of them are free.
Introduction to Concept Mapping
Used as a learning and teaching technique, concept mapping visually illustrates the relationships between concepts and ideas. Often represented in circles or boxes, concepts are linked by words and phrases that explain the connection between the ideas, helping students organize and structure their thoughts to further understand information and discover new relationships. Most concept maps represent a hierarchical structure, with the overall, broad concept first with connected sub-topics, more specific concepts, following.
What are concept maps?
Concept maps are visual representations of information. They can take the form of charts, graphic organizers, tables, flowcharts, Venn Diagrams, timelines, or T-charts. Concept maps are especially useful for students who learn better visually, although they can benefit any type of learner. They are a powerful study strategy because they help you see the big picture—because they start with higher-level concepts, they help you chunk information based on meaningful connections. In other words, knowing the big picture makes details more significant and easier to remember.
Concept maps work very well for classes or content that have visual elements or in times when it is important to see and understand relationships between different things. They can also be used to analyze information and compare and contrast.
Concept maps were developed to enhance meaningful learning in the sciences. A well-made concept map grows within a context frame defined by an explicit “focus question”, while a mind map often has only branches radiating out from a central picture. Some research evidence suggests that the brain stores knowledge as productions (situation-response conditionals) that act on declarative memory content, which is also referred to as chunks or propositions. Because concept maps are constructed to reflect organization of the declarative memory system, they facilitate sense-making and meaningful learning on the part of individuals who make concept maps and those who use them.
Differences from other visualizations
Topic maps: Concept maps are rather similar to topic maps in that both allow to connect concepts or topics via graphs. Among the various schema and techniques for visualizing ideas, processes, and organizations, concept mapping, as developed by Joseph Novak is unique in its philosophical basis, which “makes concepts, and propositions composed of concepts, the central elements in the structure of knowledge and construction of meaning.”
Mind maps: Both concept maps and topic maps can be contrasted with mind mapping, which is often restricted to radial hierarchies and tree structures. Another contrast between concept mapping and mind mapping is the speed and spontaneity when a mind map is created. A mind map reflects what you think about a single topic, which can focus group brainstorming. A concept map can be a map, a system view, of a real (abstract) system or set of concepts. Concept maps are more free form, as multiple hubs and clusters can be created, unlike mind maps, which typically emerge from a single center.
Concept mapping was developed by Joseph D. Novak and his research team at Cornell University in the 1970s as a means of representing the emerging science knowledge of students. It has subsequently been used as a tool to increase meaningful learning in the sciences and other subjects as well as to represent the expert knowledge of individuals and teams in education, government and business. Concept maps have their origin in the learning movement called constructivism. In particular, constructivists hold that learners actively construct knowledge.
Novak’s work is based on the cognitive theories of David Ausubel, who stressed the importance of prior knowledge in being able to learn (or assimilate) new concepts: “The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows. Ascertain this and teach accordingly.” Novak taught students as young as six years old to make concept maps to represent their response to focus questions such as “What is water?” “What causes the seasons?” In his book Learning How to Learn, Novak states that a “meaningful learning involves the assimilation of new concepts and propositions into existing cognitive structures.”
Various attempts have been made to conceptualize the process of creating concept maps. Ray McAleese, in a series of articles, has suggested that mapping is a process of off-loading. In this 1998 paper, McAleese draws on the work of Sowa and a paper by Sweller & Chandler. In essence, McAleese suggests that the process of making knowledge explicit, using nodes and relationships, allows the individual to become aware of what they know and as a result to be able to modify what they know. Maria Birbili applies that same idea to helping young children learn to think about what they know. The concept of the knowledge arena is suggestive of a virtual space where learners may explore what they know and what they do not know.
Concept maps are used to stimulate the generation of ideas, and are believed to aid creativity. Concept mapping is also sometimes used for brain-storming. Although they are often personalized and idiosyncratic, concept maps can be used to communicate complex ideas.Formalized concept maps are used in software design, where a common usage is Unified Modeling Language diagramming amongst similar conventions and development methodologies.Concept mapping can also be seen as a first step in ontology-building, and can also be used flexibly to represent formal argument — similar to argument maps.Concept maps are widely used in education and business. Uses include:
- Note taking and summarizing gleaning key concepts, their relationships and hierarchy from documents and source materials
- New knowledge creation: e.g., transforming tacit knowledge into an organizational resource, mapping team knowledge
- Institutional knowledge preservation (retention), e.g., eliciting and mapping expert knowledge of employees prior to retirement
- Collaborative knowledge modeling and the transfer of expert knowledge
- Facilitating the creation of shared vision and shared understanding within a team or organization
- Instructional design: concept maps used as Ausubelian “advance organizers” that provide an initial conceptual frame for subsequent information and learning.
- Training: concept maps used as Ausubelian “advanced organizers” to represent the training context and its relationship to their jobs, to the organization’s strategic objectives, to training goals.
- Communicating complex ideas and arguments
- Examining the symmetry of complex ideas and arguments and associated terminology
- Detailing the entire structure of an idea, train of thought, or line of argument (with the specific goal of exposing faults, errors, or gaps in one’s own reasoning) for the scrutiny of others.
- Enhancing metacognition (learning to learn, and thinking about knowledge)
- Improving language ability
- Assessing learner understanding of learning objectives, concepts, and the relationship among those concepts
- Lexicon development
Benefits of Concept Mapping
Concept mapping serves several purposes for learners:Helping students brainstorm and generate new ideasEncouraging students to discover new concepts and the propositions that connect themAllowing students to more clearly communicate ideas, thoughts and informationHelping students integrate new concepts with older conceptsEnabling students to gain enhanced knowledge of any topic and evaluate the information
How to Build a Concept Map
Concept maps are typically hierarchical, with the subordinate concepts stemming from the main concept or idea. This type of graphic organizer however, always allows change and new concepts to be added. The Rubber Sheet Analogy states that concept positions on a map can continuously change, while always maintaining the same relationship with the other ideas on the map.Start with a main idea, topic, or issue to focus on.A helpful way to determine the context of your concept map is to choose a focus question—something that needs to be solved or a conclusion that needs to be reached. Once a topic or question is decided on, that will help with the hierarchical structure of the concept map.Then determine the key conceptsFind the key concepts that connect and relate to your main idea and rank them; most general, inclusive concepts come first, then link to smaller, more specific concepts.Finish by connecting concepts–creating linking phrases and wordsOnce the basic links between the concepts are created, add cross-links, which connect concepts in different areas of the map, to further illustrate the relationships and strengthen student’s understanding and knowledge on the topic.
Concept Maps in Education
When created correctly and thoroughly, concept mapping is a powerful way for students to reach high levels of cognitive performance. A concept map is also not just a learning tool, but an ideal evaluation tool for educators measuring the growth of and assessing student learning. As students create concept maps, they reiterate ideas using their own words and help identify incorrect ideas and concepts; educators are able to see what students do not understand, providing an accurate, objective way to evaluate areas in which students do not yet grasp concepts fully.Inspiration Software®’s Inspiration®, Kidspiration® and Webspiration Classroom™ service all contain Diagram Views that makes it easy for students to create concept maps; students are able to add new concepts and links as they see fit. Inspiration, Kidspiration and Webspiration Classroom also come with a variety of concept map examples, templates and lesson plans to show how concept mapping and the use of other graphic organizers can easily be integrated into the curriculum to enhance learning, comprehension and writing skills.For more concept map examples as well as other graphic organizer examples, mind map examples and more, click here.
Making and using concept maps
Making one is simple. There is no right or wrong way to make a concept map. The one key step is to focus on the ways ideas are linked to each other. For a few ideas on how to get started, take out a sheet of paper and try following the steps below:Identify a concept.From memory, try creating a graphic organizer related to this concept. Starting from memory is an excellent way to assess what you already understand and what you need to review.Go through lecture notes, readings and any other resources you have to fill in any gaps.Focus on how concepts are related to each other.Your completed concept map is a great study tool. Try the following steps when studying:Elaborate (out loud or in writing) each part of the map.List related examples, where applicable, for sections of the map.Re-create your concept map without looking at the original, talking through each section as you do.
Examples of concept maps
Example 1: This example illustrates the similarities and differences between two ideas, such as Series and Parallel Circuits. Notice the similarities are in the intersection of the 2 circles.
Example 2: This example illustrates the relationship between ideas that are part of a process, such as a Food Chain.
Example 3: This example illustrates the Causes and Effects for an event, such as The Civil War.
Example 4: This example illustrates the relationship between main idea, such as Climate Change, and supporting details.
Example 5: Outlining is a less visual form of concept mapping, but it might be the one you’re most familiar with. Outlining by starting with high-level course concepts and then drilling down to fill in details is a great way to determine what you know (and what you don’t know) when you’re studying. Creating an outline to start your studying will allow you to assess your knowledge base and figure out what gaps you need to fill in. You can use type your outline or create a handwritten, color-coded one as seen in Example 5.