Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mind Mapping for Teachers, Part 2: Chunking of Language

This is the second part of a week-long series of guest posts on mind mapping by Hobie Swan, a professional writer from Boise, ID. Mr. Swan is interested in helping teachers find ways to incorporate this strategy into the classroom.

As I writer, I can easily bristle at the idea of our trading in the well-crafted sentence for a few well-considered words. If it wasn’t so handy, I’d be a lot more resistant to this practice. But because of the visual nature of a mind map, people tend to use words much more sparingly that they do when writing a document (such as the one you’re reading right now that may seem to be droning on and on). What might otherwise take a paragraph to communicate can be done using just a sentence or phrase--maybe even in one single word--when you mind map.
mind-mapping-for-students-full-5 by jean-louis zimmermann, on Flickr

This makes the information in the map:
  1. More easily understood: Children for whom English is not their native language, with dyslexia, or low literally levels often find it far easier to understand what is being communicated—and more able to interact with the information.
  2. Contexually powerful: Because of the spatial nature of a map, the viewer finds context by seeing where a concept is relative to its neighbors. Communicating without these visual cues means that all meaning must be expressed using words—and we are back to the multi-page document.
  3. Concise: Because the map is built with individual branches made up of a few words and maybe an image or icon, it’s possible to capture up to 10 or so pages of writing in one map. The ability to see all of the information in one view improves the ability to interact with that information. Note: Map branches can be “collapsed” so that the document isn’t cluttered with information you don’t need at any given moment.
  4. Quickly digested: You plow through a written report. You scan a map.
  5. Flexible: I’ll discuss this further in the article about writing. The main point is that by capturing information onto individual branches, the information can be quickly and easily dragged and dropped into similar groups, chronological order, or any other arrangement that best suites the current objective.
The one thing I don’t dare put on a list like this, for fear of trivializing mind mapping, is that the way of capturing, organizing and sharing information is much more fun and engaging than simple “writing a report.”

Today’s students live in a world filled with motion and images. For many of them, nothing could be more boring that having to reduce all of that excitement and action to “a page and a half” of writing. But turn them loose with a mind map, in which they can quickly capture and organize elements of the information sea in which they swim, and you may be surprised at what they come up with.

Read the other entries in the series:
Part 1: Introduction
Part 3: Improving Student Writing
Part 4: Improving Research