Saturday, January 15, 2005

Tip #51: Visual Engagement: Mind Maps

Mind maps are creative diagrams of connected ideas that have been popularized by Tony Buzan and Evelyn Wood. They illustrate network displays that correspond to the brain's information processing and storage mechanisms. As such, they tap into both the visual and the verbal functions of the brain, resulting in better integration and retention. You can learn more about how to design a mind map, its benefits, and its uses, as well as see an example, at Tony Buzan's website:

Mind maps can generate new insights and connections between ideas. They are a welcome alternative for learning styles that are uncomfortable with outlines. The linear nature of outlines, in which items must be placed under one category, makes it difficult to show relationships and links between items.

Also known as information graphing or memory mapping, mind mapping is a powerful technique for engaging the whole brain. Mind maps stimulate creativity and comprehension, present a global picture, and illustrate where the parts fit in the whole.

There are as many ways to draw a mind map as there are minds to draw them. However, they all begin the same way: the title, main theme, or central idea is located in the middle of the page.

One mind mapping technique uses circle clusters. It begins by circling the central topic in the center of the page. Associated subtopics are placed in bubbles around the central topic and are connected to it with lines. Additional related elements are connected to each subtopic. The different levels of subtopics are distinguished through the use of bolder lines, squiggly lines, etc.

Another mind mapping technique uses lines, with graphic symbols and images added to enliven the concepts for better recall. Main points radiate from the center, beginning at one o'clock and continuing clockwise. Elaborations, clarifications, and other details branch off the main limbs from the center outward. Arrows connect ideas. They use different colors to keep points separate from each other.

Artistic skill is not necessary. You just need a willingness to experiment and have fun.

Mind maps have a broad range of applications. They can be used to present or organize information, or provide an overview. When mind maps incorporate colors and images, they can make it easier for participants to memorize and retain the information. Mind maps can be used for brain storming as a group, or simply as a means for participants to keep their own notes. In anticipation of this, it is helpful to have clear sheets of paper and colorful markers available for participants.

Next week, we will discuss the use of cartoons.

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