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


Jan Schwartz said...

Doesn't look as though there is a Mac version. Do you know if that's in their plans? Would love to try it.

Nik Peachey said...

I think there are plans, but no sign yet. I tried it on a PC, but am not a PC fan. That said, most of the institutions I train in use PCs so ...




Penny said...

Fantastic application. I was looking for such software since last year. Now I can start preparing some mind maps. Thank you.

Silvers said...

Thank you so much for this post Nik.I discovered Tony Buzon ten years ago and now use imind for my blogging and materials design.

I've never heard of this application. your article has given me an idea for an article I've wanted to write for a long time:)