Saturday 30 June 2012

Mind Mapping in ELT with MindMaple

I have been fascinated with mind mapping since I first read Tony Buzan's  book on this topic many years ago. I used  it quite a lot when I was studying music, to break down the structure of compositions as well as to brainstorm the structure of essays and assignments, so I was delighted when my new sponsors - MindMaple asked me to look at their product.

For those of you who don't know much about mind maps, they are like diagrams which include words, images and icons to explore ideas and make the connections between ideas. here's an example from Wikipedia
When I was at college, these were drawn by hand on large sheets of paper but nowadays they can be produced using computer programs, and MindMaple is one such program. Using a program like MindMaple to do this has a number of advantages (especially if you don'r draw well).  The program comes with a library of images and graphics and you can import in your own photographs and illustrations too. You can also hyperlink words to website and webpages as well as upload files as attachments. Features like these make it much easier to produce a really useful finished mind map that you can share with other people.

MindMaple does this pretty well with a good clean interface which is pretty intuitive for anyone familiar with 'Office' type software.

MindMaple is software so you do have to download and install it and there are many pros and cons around that. If you work in a school or institution that has good IT support, or better still none, then you can get software installed pretty easily and especially if you done have a great internet connection MindMaple will be fast and easy to use. If you work in a school that has a very security conscious IT department it could take you months to get this installed whereas a web based tool you could probably use immediately - if you have a good connection.
So how do you use mind mapping with students?
There are a number of really useful ways of applying mind maps in your teaching.
  • You can get students to create a mind map of the lesson as a form of note taking to help them revise later. Or you can create a mind map of each lesson and give them to students to see how much they can remember from the lesson.
  • You can get students to make a mind map of a book, story or text they are reading. This could involve mapping the relationships of the characters, adding in characteristics, adding in actions that each one does etc.
  • In an EAP context you could get students to create mind maps of more academic texts they are reading, so that they represent the information from the text visually
  • You can get students to create vocabulary mind maps based around themes such as sport or politics and they can gradually add words to these and organise them in categories around the central theme.
  • You could get students to research a topic and create a mind map to display their findings, such as research into a historical place or event. They could hyperlink their mind map to the relevant research sources they find.
  • You could create or get students to create grammatical mind maps research a specific verb tense with break down of form, and pronunciation points as well as few examples and notes about concepts etc.
  • You could get students to create infographics using MindMaple. Infographics usually compare contrasting ideas or display statistical information. Here are some examples: Infograpgics
There are many tools and software available for creating mind maps, but these are some of the things I particularly like about MindMaple
  • It has some really useful formatting tools that help you make the mind map look nice. You can easily change the look of your mind map and in a single click apply a hole different colour palette.
  • You can add callouts and notes to the mind map. These appear and pop up when you haver the mouse over parts of the mind map image.
  • It's great that you can add your own images as icons within the topic blocks.
  • You can drag the topic blocks around the screen to arrange them with your mouse, but MindMaple also has a really handy balance tool that with a single click will arrange the whole of your mind map so that it looks tidy and symmetrical
  • MindMaple - in the premium version - exports to quite a few formats which makes it pretty flexible as a tool, you can export your mind maps to pdf and use them as wall charts or save them as Word documents. The Word document export also shows a breakdown of the different levels of your map so you can use this a the framework for structuring an assignment.

Things that I'm not sure about
  • The concept of 'software that you download and install seems very 'old school' these days with so many browser based tools around, but as discussed earlier, there are some advantages to this.
  • It would be great to have a mobile version of MindMaple or at least a function html 5 web based version (I'm told that they are working on a mobile version).
  • It's great that MindMaple exports to html, but there isn't any hosting support, so if you ant to get your mind maps online you have to have access to some sort of server space. This can be a real stumbling bock for many teachers.
  • The  built in clip art and selection of backgrounds is still a little limited and it would be good to have more variety to choose from.

MindMaple has free and a premium version. You can compare he differences here: but the main ones seem to be the export features are more limited in the free version and there are fewer themes and images .

At $9.99 a year MindMaple is a pretty good buy for those who take their mind mapping seriously or you can buy a lifetime license for $50. There doesn't seem to be an institutional license option and you would probably need this if you wanted to get it installed in a school for students to use.

So if you work in a school where installing software is no problem or if you want to try it on your own computer then I think it's well worth downloading the 'lite' version and seeing how well it works for you. If you take your mind mapping really seriously and want a good reliable product that isn't going to disappear ( as many web based products do) then it's well worth thinking about MindMaple Pro.

I hope you find MindMaple useful and enjoy making some beautiful mind maps.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Thursday 14 June 2012

Explore The Past Online

I spotted this interesting tool this morning. Take Me Back To is a search engine which can locate information from a particular day in history.  It searches for a range of things from the date you enter, from popular songs and movies on that day, to news, fashion styles and advertisements.

All you have to do is type in a date and click on 'Go' and it will generate your results.

You can try it from here.

Powered by

This is potentially a great tool to use with students.
  • You could show results and see if they can guess the year / date
  • You can get students to research a date and make past tense sentences about it.
  • You can get students to find out what was happening on the day they were born.
  • You can get students to compare results from two different decades.

There are a few things you need to be careful about though
  • The search doesn't work so well when you tart going further back than the 60s
  • In the section that shows magazine covers, it sometimes shows the cover of Playboy magazine and students could possibly click through to the site from there, so be careful about letting younger learners or teens access the site.
Despite the potential problems, I still think Take Me Back To is a really interesting site to generate materials for language work in the classroom.

I hope you find it useful.

Related Links:

Nik Peachey

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Create an eBook from Online Articles

ReadLists is a great tool for creating eBooks from any content you find online and you don't even need to register!

Just go to: and paste in the URLs of any articles or webpages you want to include in your eBook then click on 'Add'.

Once you have finished adding article to your book, give it a title and a description.

 Then all you have to do is send it to the device of your choice.

You can also share the eBook on Twitter or Facebook or get a URL or Embed code for it.

Here's the URL for the Top 10 Most Popular Blog Postings from my Learning Technology Blog. You should be able to open this on iPad or iPhone or on any other reader:

This is a great way to create eBooks from your own online content or from any content you find online.
  • You can create and share reading lists for courses.
  • Create your own eBooks of yours or your students' stories.
  • Create your own collection of your favourite articles.
  • Collect a reading list of articles to read when you don't have an Internet connection.
  • Webpages that you capture in this way can be much easier to read and of course you have all the eBook's mark up and note taking functions which will store all your annotations on the eBooks you create.

There are a few things to watch out for though.
  • Remember copyright. If you are creating eBooks from content that belongs to someone else, get their permission, especially if you start distributing it.
  • It's a shame that video and other embedded elements from the webpage aren't included in the eBook version.

I hope you find ReadLists useful.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Monday 11 June 2012

Teachers are Like Sharks

In the classic 1977 movie - Annie Hall, there is a scene where Woody Allen compares relationships to sharks and says that they have to constantly move forward or they start to die. In many ways I think the same can be said of teachers. Many of us work with our classes in complete isolation and are rarely observed and when we are then it is often only for the purpose of quality check rather than as part of a process of continuous development.

In my own case I was often lucky enough to work in schools that had regular development seminars, or a lively staffroom where teachers willing talked about and swapped teaching ideas and materials. For many though I know this isn't the case, though the growth in access to Internet services has enabled a lot of teachers to find their own way towards their continuing development, so now as part of a workshop I'm developing I would like to ask you how you keep developing your teaching and which methods do you find most effective.

Please contribute your ideas to the questionnaire below. You can:
  • Add ideas for developing your teaching
  • Add Pros and Cons to the ideas
  • Vote for the 4 you think are most effective.

You can either add ideas below or click on this link to submit ideas and vote

powered by tricider
Thank you for contributing towards this research.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Friday 8 June 2012

Engage Students with Flipped Video Tasks

The concept of the flipped classroom seems to be gaining ever increasing momentum within the field of education generally. Much of this revolves around the use of video to deliver input / lectures to students who can then come to class and do the more engaging and practical part of their work with some teacher support.

One of the major criticisms of this method though is that a dull unengaging content doesn't suddenly become engaging because it's on a video on the web, so how do we get students to engage with the content and make sure they watch it in a challenging and interactive way.

Vialogues is a useful tool for attempting to do this (though dull content will always be dull) because it enables you to create interaction around the video that actually gets students to think about and engage with the content.

Here's an example Vialogue I created around one of my own (rather old) short videos.

As you can see it has the YouTube video (you can also upload video from your computer if you prefer) but I have been able to create a few questions and simple polls for students to interact with at specific points in the video.
As I said, this doesn't make the content any more lively, but it does make the viewing process a little more interactive and collaborative.

So if you think the flipped classroom approach is for you ( and your students) then Vialogues could be a good tool to try.

I hope you enjoy it.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Monday 4 June 2012

Create Quick Video Conferencing Rooms

Video conferencing is becoming an increasingly common form of communication within business, learning and within our day to day social lives.  So what are you doing to help your students get to grips with this important medium and to help them communicate effectively with video conferencing tools?

Well if your answer is 'Nothing' here's your chance to get started. is a free and very quick and easy tool to help you create a video conferencing chat room that you can use wit your students.

All you have to do is go to:  and click on 'Get a Meeting Room'.

This creates a link to a unique meeting room for your meeting. You copy the link and send it to any of your students you want to meet up with.

Then click on 'Enter Now' and you'll just need to add your name and then enter the room.

At this point you may get a message asking you to allow access to your webcam and audio. This is nothing to worry about, just click 'Allow'.

At that point you should be able to see yourself in your webcam and you just have to wait for your students to arrive.

If you look to the bottom of the screen you'll see that you can also open a note pad  so that you can take notes during meetings and that file sharing and screen sharing are coming soon.

Here's the link to the meeting room I created:  There's unlikely to be anyone there, but you can use the link to see how it connects on your computer.

It's great that you can do all this without even registering on the site. There is a registration option too though and if you do use this you can create your own permanent room and schedule and manage meeting etc.

So this is a great free, cheap and easy way to get your students into a video conferencing chat room, but what do they do once they are there?

Here are some suggestions for video chat room activities
  • Tell them a story - Ask them to make notes as they listen then come to the next class and retell what they remember of the story using their notes.
  • Interview a visitor - Get visitors from outside the class to come to the chat room so that they can interview them and then write up the interview. (Make sure they prepare questions first and have some idea of who and why they are interviewing)
  • Show and tell - Ask each student to bring a long an object that has significance for them and ask them to show and tell the other students about it.
  • Salesman simulation - Ask the students to bring along an object and attempt to sell it to the other students. They must describe the object's features and say why it is a bargain. You could add to this simulation by giving a students a budget to spend on the different objects.
  • Tutorials - You can use the chat room for one to one tutorials with your students and give them some feedback on their progress.

  • Of course one of the biggest problems with these kinds of activities is that they take place outside of classroom time and so they can be difficult to co-ordinate as you need to get groups of students online at the same time.
  • There is also likely to be problems with sound and vision if students don't have good equipment and good connectivity.
  • There is also likely to be a limit on the number of students that can gather in one room before it slows down too much.

If you are worried about all these problems, then probably the easiest way to get started and use something like this is to try to get a visitor online who your students can interview in class.

You could also try to get your students to use the chat room autonomously to do homework in pairs or to peer tutor and support each other.

Well I hope helps you to get started with video conferencing. It's something that's likely to become increasingly important in the day to day lives of our students, so let's help them use it effectively.

Related links:


Nik Peachey