Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mind-map It in 5 Minutes

As a teacher of writing, I'm often confronted with students who are full of good ideas but just can't seem to get them down on paper properly. Usually they just start writing an essay from the top, and the reader has to dive into a stream-of-consciousness-like monologue that ends somewhere totally unexpected. Since college professors and test center examinators usually don't have much time to appreciate students' writing artistically, it's my job to hand some tools to these students for writing more effectively, more goal-oriented and overall much faster.
One of the things I teach them is to start with brainstorming and writing down all their ideas as quickly as possible. The easiest way to do this? Make a mind map.
The first one to ever introduce the concept of mind maps to me was a professor at Ghent University (Professor Martin Valcke, for those who know him). He taught about the science behind instruction, the different techniques, systems, different ways of testing, and so on. 
He also taught us, and showed us, the value of mind maps. 

To make a mind map, start with the most important concept or idea which you put in the middle of your page. Then, by association, link other ideas and concepts to it, and then again do the same for those new ideas. You'll end up with a system of nodes that will show you the relationship -and degree of importance of that relationship- of each concept to the other. The picture at the bottom shows you a very elaborate example of a mind map on time management.

Mind maps are a great, quick way to get your thoughts, ideas, plans or feelings down on paper and to create room in your mind so you can start using it more creatively instead of for storing information. It's a great learning tool as well! 
I'm just getting back into studying about mind maps and how to use my brain more effectively with the help of The Mind Map Book (Amazon link) by Tony (and Barry) Buzan. It's a fascinating read!

Picture by Jean-Louis Zimmerman

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