Monday, September 1, 2014

Theme for September: Mind Mapping at School!

This month at Biggerplate, we're launching the start of a new initiative that will see us focus on a particular subject theme each month on the website! As pupils around the world return to school this month, our theme and focus for September will be mind mapping in schools! 

We think that choosing a theme each month will help us to better show how mind mapping is being used in different contexts around the world, by gathering maps, case studies, and conversations around the theme. Every month, we hope to encourage people to share mind maps related to the theme, and also join in the online conversations about how/where mind mapping fits with the theme! 

We launch this new initiative with a focus on mind mapping in schools, and hope as many people as possible will share their maps, and perspectives as we seek to better understand how teachers and pupils can use mind mapping to improve their working and learning. If you're a teacher, or indeed a school pupil using mind maps, we'd love to hear from you! 

There's lots planned for the new monthly theme, and we look forward to exploring this, and future topics with you all over the course of the month! 

Happy mapping!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mind Maps in Action: Improving Water Systems & Quality in Spokane

In this latest edition of our 'Mind Maps in Action' series, we talk to Mike Taylor about his fascinating work with government to improve water quality and systems in Spokane, and his use of mind mapping as an aid to decision making, organisation, communication and more!

1. Could you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?

I serve as Director of Integrated Capital Management and City Engineer for Spokane, WA, a city of 210,000. My team manages the planning, design and construction of about 1,000 miles of streets, sewer, water and storm water systems ($1.7 billion) for our community. The bulk of my career was in the
private sector as the founder of a civil engineering consulting firm that grew to 4 offices in 2 states and, continues to this day. Sold to my successor partners; ‘retired’ for 10 days; and, competed for the city engineering role. Now, am working with Mayor Condon and Utilities Director Rick Romero to help infuse private sector best practices in the public works arena and more.

2. When and how were you first introduced to mind mapping?

In 2001, when serving on a hospital board, the hospital CEO presented some decisions in mind map form. We engineers are naturally graphic communicators (plans, sketches, and diagrams); and, his decision mind maps were such a great tool to depict everything in context. As board chair and vice chair; they helped me through a very challenging time. The hospital was failing and we needed to pull it around. Decision maps, organization charts, complex and demanding processes of approval were all well depicted by mind maps. It helped get to timely decisions and we all got the job done. Six years later, both hospitals are going strong.

3. What do you perceive to be the greatest benefits of their use?

I think viewing topics and issues in a holistic fashion is a major benefit. On boards, too often, decisions are based more on the dominant personalities than the merit of the argument. Carefully constructed mind maps put fiduciaries on a more even footing; and, the merit of the idea more often drives the strategy. I also appreciate the ability to blend visual cues with the written material. That clearly strengthens assimilation, understanding, and recall of information. Green for “go!” or, for money; blue for water projects or strategy; yellow for caution or emphasis; red for urgent or deep trouble; etc.

4. Could you tell us a bit about your work with the government relating to water quality improvement in Spokane?

We are embarking on the largest public works program in the history of Spokane. We will be investing approximately $100 million per year for the next 6 years in our infrastructure. Issues with algae blooms in downstream reservoirs; untreated overflows during storms from our combined storm and sanitary system; and, PolyChlorinatedByphenols (PCBs) in storm water runoff require upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant; addition of storm water retention tanks; and, retrofit of large areas of the city with grassy swales, rain gardens, and infiltration galleries to address the pollutants. We are also aggressively addressing the upgrades to our water transmission lines; pavement condition; sewer collection and conveyance; and, the wells, pumps, reservoirs and controls, to name a few.

5. What place has mind mapping had in this work, and how has it helped?

I introduced it to the Mayor’s cabinet in 2011 to depict issues and ideas for strategic consideration. Then, taught the introductory classes; and, we now have 37 licenses in City Hall. We use it to frame decisions; track projects; communicate technical issues with lay persons; organize meetings; graph and refine processes; and, to organize work. Again, the most helpful has been in the decision maps providing decision makers with the holistic depiction of decision, background, alternatives, pros and cons in an all-inclusive map. Follow the logic or challenge an assumption; and, the revised decision map is ready for debate and consensus.

For following our various projects from concept through design and construction, the rolling master map and companion Gantt chart is a great tool to depict where we are. A very large dashboard, if you will.


The mind map Mike has been using in his work with the Mayor of Spokane to review the entire water quality cleanup programme! Click the image for the original map on Biggerplate!

6. Would you like to add anything else?
Mind maps are a great tool to use with a variety of others to more clearly communicate with your audience. I use Google Earth and Sketchup, along with mind maps, to communicate with senior staff, City Council, neighborhoods; and, various citizen activist groups. Those that use mind maps are clearly part of an innovative core who are leading a culture shift that is paying big dividends. We formed our own Integrated Strategy Studio (ISS) (Skunkworks) to address the water quality challenges; and, the full array of public works. This is totally atypical of classic municipal structure; and, deliberately intended to overcome the silos of each utility to address issues as stewards of the citizens’ capital investments. The systems approach to wastewater reduced a planned $500 million program down to closer to $300 million; and, improved the pollutant removal by 25 to 250 times in key pollutants. Bright minds, unfettered by bureaucratic constraints, working together for innovative solutions. Great formula.

Recognizing the value of the systems approach, we now address all street, sewer, water and storm water projects holistically; and, bundle them wherever practicable. This was never facilitated by utilities and streets functioning as individual entities. Their structure actually pitted them against each other for General Fund budgets. Rick Romero led the process and supported me in assembling the brightest minds from the water, wastewater, streets, and planning to form the ISS; last June. They are now routinely saving millions per year through the integrated approach. They are also spearheading innovative approaches to public works challenges that were previously often shunned by “we’ve always done it this way” cultures. ISS is a work in progress, but delightful team to lead; and, making big strides for our beloved city. This couldn’t happen without the leadership and support of our mayor and Utilities Director. They are a pair of the most creative personalities that I’ve had the pleasure of serving with in my career. Good things are happening. More to come.


A huge thank you to Mike for sharing his story with us! You can see more terrific maps from Mike, covering a range of topics, on his Biggerplate profile, here.

Are using mind maps in your day to day life and work? We want to hear from you! Get in touch via Twitter (click here) or by commenting below.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mind Maps in Action: Educating Future Nurses

In this 'Mind Maps in Action' edition, we speak to Pat Schmehl about her use of mind mapping in her role as a nursing educator.

Could you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?

I am a registered nurse with two grown children and two grandchildren. I graduated from a diploma program 36 years ago and have dedicated my life to nursing. The majority of my career was spent at the bedside caring for critically ill patients.

After receiving my master’s degree in nursing 10 years ago I began educating future nurses in a 2 year program (associate degree) at a local community college. An adjunct position transitioned to a full time one and I have been a nurse educator ever since.


When and how were you first introduced to mind mapping?

I attended a nurse educator boot camp in 2007 along with several other faculty members and the topic was introduced there. At that time use of mind and concept maps in nursing education was relatively new. 


What prompted you to utilise mind mapping in your role as a nursing educator?

Actually, one of my co-workers who had attended the boot camp made the first suggestion. Then our sophomore nursing faculty team decided on a format. I expanded on the idea from there and created a lecture to introduce students to the process.


What do you think are the benefits of doing so?

The main benefit is critical thinking awareness and growth. Concept mapping embodies the critical thinking components of analyzing relationships, learning goals that transcend comprehension and knowledge application. This is extremely valuable in nursing because these mental processes directly affect and determine nursing actions.

Another important benefit is that the created map is a direct reflection of the thoughts and associations used by the student. This provides instant and valuable feedback on critical thinking, both for the student and nursing educators. It provides wonderful goal setting and mentoring opportunities.

Finally, as the critical thinking improves, the practice becomes habitual and becomes incorporated solidly into nursing practice.


Do you think there is scope for greater adoption of mind mapping within the medical sector and if so, how might we make this happen?

Without a doubt. In nursing and medical education there is always a striving for realism to reinforce knowledge application and nursing action rationales. Adding mapping in some form to simulations would be fantastic. I have also read an article or two on the possibility of incorporating concept maps into patient education. There are some very provocative possibilities.


Mind Map by Pat on Nursing Actions for the Ventilated Patient
One way to increase awareness would be to have more published. There are some texts, one of which I have written, but I feel more articles need to be written on how to institute and integrate concept mapping into curricula.

Research focused on their use and critical thinking outcomes would help as well. There is not a great deal of nursing or medical related research concerning this.


How do you think we could encourage the use of mapping within education as a whole?

Other than what was previously mentioned, there is a need for better student preparation for studying and learning at a collegiate level. Learning styles are an extremely important step for reinforcing self–reflection on how to best learn. Learning styles and brain processing are intertwined. Aligning the style to both studying and note-taking assists with maximizing study time and effort for the most meaningful learning. Concept map formats can then be created to align with that style for maximum learning outcomes. I have encouraged this, seen it in action and the results are dramatic. Students gain confidence and perform better academically as well as clinically.


Is there anything else you would like to add?

Concept maps do not need to be completed solely on paper. Many nurse educators utilize concept maps in lecture PowerPoints. I have often used “verbal” or “mental” concept mapping exercises during clinical post conferences using an actual patient scenario.  The steps used in creating a patient care based concept map can even be broken down to extract valuable learning points. The versatility and adaptability is endless. Pairing mapping with simulation is great for realism in nursing education.

Thanks to Pat for sharing her story with us! You can follow Pat on Twitter, and find more of her maps on Biggerplate right here. Do you have a Mind Maps in Action story you'd like to share with us? Get in touch via Twitter or by commenting below!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Idea Mapping Workshops from expert, Jamie Nast


In this post, Biggerplate friend and partner, Jamie Nast, talks to us about her upcoming Idea Mapping workshops in Bournemouth, UK.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

I’ve been teaching mind mapping and life-long learning skills since 1992. I’m the co-founder of NastGroup, Inc and the author of a book titled “Idea Mapping” published by John Wiley & Sons. To date have taught this skill to over 21,000 professionals around the globe.
When and how did you first come across mind mapping?

It was 1992 and I was a Senior Leadership Instructor for EDS (Electronic Data Systems - now HP). The company had a strong ex-military employee population and culture. Despite the encouragement to take risks and be creative, employees were more often punished if the risks didn’t pay off. So senior leadership was tasked with finding a way to breathe more creativity into the company. That’s when they discovered the Buzan Centres.

Tony Buzan and Vanda North (Founder and former CEO of the Buzan Centres USA) trained the initial group of EDS instructors. While at EDS Vanda and I worked closely together creating an instructor-driven workshop rather than the expensive video-driven course taught by Tony. Together we wrote the manual and were able to eliminate the royalty fees on the videos. This project took my understanding of the material to an even deeper level. Vanda and I continued to teach together as often as possible. An unbiased Measurement & Evaluation team gather statistics from workshop participants for 3 years. Results showed that this was the #1 course (even compared to the technical classes) as far as participants using skills taught in the workshop after the class in both their work and personal life.

In 1998 I left EDS (having taught over 7,000 EDS employees across the US and Canada) and NastGroup, Inc. was born. That year Vanda named me her first Senior Master Trainer and I retained that title until 2006 when Vanda founded The Learning Consortium and I joined her in that new adventure.


What do you perceive to be the greatest benefits of using maps?

It changes the way you think and process information. I think it’s hard to explain until you’ve experienced this phenomenon yourself. The other main benefit is the ability to see all of the data on a topic in a single page or view. This enables you to see relationships between data that would not be obvious in a linear document. In turn this helps clarify your thinking.


Could you tell us a bit about your upcoming workshops?

Although mind mapping is a major piece of the workshop, it’s much more than that. I share a learning model and then apply that to teach participants four different skills that most adults think impossible — including drawing a portrait of a human face. I force you to come face-to-face with your disbelief in learning a new skill and how that impacts your ability to learn — and then I watch you have that “ah ha” moment. I don’t want to spoil the surprise of all the activities, but I’ll tell you one thing. At the end of day 2 you will use one of the memory systems to learn to count to 100 in Chinese in less than 10 minutes. I know you don’t believe me — no one does … until the end of the day when you will count perfectly to 100 in Chinese. This workshop is packed with activities and skill-building. If history repeats itself, this workshop will likely be among — if not the best workshop you’ve ever taken. Here is the course abstract.


What would you say were the top 3 reasons to attend?

1. Take that next step in your learning journey and expand your brain in ways you can’t imagine.

2. Meet and learn from like-minded professionals including Vanda North and Graham Hughes who will be joining us.

3. Be part of a community that goes beyond a 2-day workshop experience as we hold each other accountable and share in our learning beyond the 2 course.


When and where can people attend?

The dates are September 17-18, 2014 in Bournemouth, UK. Both days will run from 8:30am - 5:00pm. Exact location will be determined once we have a better idea on the number of participants, but registration will be limited to the first 24 individuals so we can get to know each other. Course fee is $695 USD. Biggerplate members can use the promotion code #BIGGERPLATE20 to receive a 20% discount when you register.

Thanks to Jamie for talking to us, and for rewarding Biggerplate members with her promotion! Don't miss out - be sure to register now!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mind Maps in Action: Teaching News Reporting

In this instalment of 'Mind Maps in Action', we talk to David Wallace about his experiences of using mind mapping in an educational context, as a teacher of news reporting!

1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

After nearly 20 years as a technology and business news reporter, I waded into the world of teaching news reporting. I’ve been an adjunct professor at Emerson College, a regional 4-year school in Boston specializing in media/communication and Boston University.

Most of my news career was spent as a freelancer -- for Reuters, The New York Times, various trade magazines and websites -- so I was exposed early to things like remote work as a free agent, Bluetooth and WiFi, knowledge management, analytics and bring-your-own device issues.

I’ve lived in Philadelphia, South Florida and New York before settling in Boston a dozen years ago and traveled extensively for work and play. Some of the more interesting spots were political, Jamaica and Honduras (pre-Internet); Cuba in the early 1990s just as Web access/email was spreading and trade shows in Germany and Taiwan.

2. Where did you first come across mind mapping?

Since 2005 I’ve had a marketing/communications consulting practice for emerging technology companies called Gamechange LLC. We’ve worked for IT companies like SAP and for start-ups ranging from sustainable energy to travel. While working for innovation training companies, including Doblin and Imaginatik and their clients, I experienced mind-mapping and wall-drawing during meetings to capture information, actually show the thought-process trail so people could follow the path of a presentation -- or conversation -- in an explicit way and use that item later as a reference tool.

3. Can you describe your experience of introducing mind mapping to your students?

News reporting and writing is all about making efficient decisions and finding the best information in the least amount of time. Then you have to assemble the pieces into a clear script, article or memo. Over time, the practices can become routine but showing the students a step-through process that says “We know Fact A and need a comment, who are three people you should contact” That makes a list and you can show the next action steps.

You can use mapping to show the process of researching -- identifying sources, ranking best options at the top then going through all the choices to least-likely to be helpful. Keep notes of emails, calls and times or results. And you can save that ‘thought process’ and see where decisions may have been right or wrong. I use a white-board to diagram it for a classroom of 12-15 students, but they can use mind-mapping to set out a series of actions for themselves.

4. How would you encourage other educators to utilise mapping in their teaching?

Especially in the arts, the law or medical training where students do independent work and need to explain their actions to others -- or detail their influences or thoughts. Giving the students a tool they can customize and find new ways of using is another way of “teaching students to learn from each other.” Chances are good that each student finds a unique approach.

The maps can store or compare visual, not just text information. Search for images has improved but mapping can be used to detail what features of an image or style refer to others as inspiration, composition etc.

5. What do you think is the greatest barrier to wider adoption of mapping in education and in general?

I can’t speak to “education in general” but mapping is both a very personal and a fairly social/collaborative tools for working. A lot of US students work alone and don’t ask for help because they don’t want to ask questions in front of peers or fear the impact on their grades.

Mapping isn’t part of the usual software that people are exposed to in earlier education. Perhaps, if they see it as a study aid or in-class note-taking method they’d be inclined to use it more widely or apply it in different circumstances.

6. What's the most unusual and/or innovative use of a map that you've come across?

Sorry, I got nothing to add. I’m mightily impressed by even basic applications of mapping!

Thanks to David for sharing his story with us! You can follow David on Twitter by clicking here. Why not get in touch with your own mind maps in action story? Leave a comment below or get in touch on Twitter to share your experiences with us.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mind Maps in Action: Youth Business Start-Up

In this instalment of our Mind Maps in Action series, we talk to Darran Gillan about his work with Tollcross YMCA and how mind mapping helped their young people start their own T-Shirt business.

Can you tell us who you are, what your role is, and a little bit about Tollcross YMCA in general?

My name is Darran Gillan and I am the Youth and Community Development Manager for Tollcross YMCA. My job is to plan and deliver all youth and community activities in Glasgow’s east end and maximize young people’s participation by encouraging and assisting them to become involved in YMCA opportunities. My work focuses on building positive relationships with young people and with other youth work partners involved in the organisation, supporting the board of management by developing the vision and strategic plan to guide Tollcross YMCA.
Tollcross YMCA was founded in 1870 and has provided recreational facilities within a safe environment that promotes educational and social activities for the people of Tollcross and Glasgow’s east end. The purpose of the organisation is to promote citizenship and develop community spirit by encouraging people to consider their environment and develop activities that support and advance people to reach their full potential. We are a small organisation comprised of twelve local volunteers that make up our board of management with six part time youth workers and one community manager.

2. Can you tell us about the Youth Social Enterprise Club?
The A.S.P.I.R.E programme, which is our social enterprise programme, delivers a series of interactive workshops, training and qualification based activity directly to young people aged 10-18 to help them identify and develop community projects based on social issues that negatively affect their community.
A.S.P.I.R.E work with young people who are disengaged in education, who have been through the care system or long term unemployed. We recognised that their inactivity has diminished their self-belief and aspirations and as a result participants comfort zones have been stretched which helped them to rediscover who they are and who they can be. What’s special about A.S.P.I.R.E is that its entirely youth lead with minimal involvement from adult youth work intervention. The central message of the programme is that volunteering helps you gain practical experience and related qualifications towards your goals.
The mind map we spotted on Twitter was fantastic, can you explain how that map came about?
Tollcross Tee's is a small order T-shirt design and printing company run by young people from Tollcross YMCA's A.S.P.I.R.E. programme. The idea behind Tollcross Tee’s was identified by young people looking for a gap in their local market, to allow them to make some money for themselves. The young people identified that there are many local and community businesses in Glasgow, looking to promote themselves and their events, but on a tight budget. Or it might be that you’re looking for a novelty gift for a friend or loved one but don't want to spend too much? Then Tollcross Tee's could meet that need and hence the idea took root and now we have a specialised small run orders company that can print one off bespoke design T-shirts up to an order of twenty T-shirts at a comparative rate.
How the mind map that was featured on twitter came about was that at the early stages, when the group were seeking funding for this idea, the grant applications asked lots of difficult questions. The young people involved were all creative types but not business types. So we used a creative process that feels natural to them to answer such questions like, who is your audience demographic? What were the potential threats and solutions to your business? By the end of the session most, if not all the questions within the grant application were all answered by way of mind mapping.


Who introduced the idea of mind mapping for this task? What was their previous experience of mind maps?
I had used mind maps when I was at university and understood that linear thinking can be limiting and that when your trying to develop a business things are all over the place and rarely fall into place neatly. For me as a youth worker the mind map was a great tool for them to use as a number of them could not spell and others where hindered by communication barriers so trying to mind map the questions out was a far effective task than simple brain storming on a piece of flip chart.
The young people involved in the process have never mind mapped before and found it a freeing experience although a bit puzzling to start with as they could not identify how pictures, key words and branches would answer the questions or develop solutions. After the process was complete many related the experience to being an artist painting a picture. They did not realise what they had created until they took a step back and saw that the group had answered many of the difficult questions posed in the grant forms once they looked at the whole picture or in this case the mind map that they had created.

Did the team find mind mapping helpful for this process, and if so, why/how do you think it helped?
The mind map helped the young people with information such as price setting, what method to best place your order? T-shirt size, color, quantity, image file type and date of delivery required minimum or maximum?

The collaborative and picture method of mind mapping was fun, which is very important in youth work. This was learning with out knowing that you were learning. This helped the process along much more than all staring a blank page.  Their was a deep discussion of what T-shirt sizes should come in small, medium or large what choice of colors in red, blue, black and white etc.


Mind mapping these issues out created a more focused discussion as within the mind map it was not in isolation, but taking into consideration how one decision in one area can affect other areas of your business. This was visually displayed within the mind map and helped inform the decision making process of the group.


Mind mapping helped resolve the stale mate that developed and from then on such questions where made visual, bright and communicated to their imagination where words, tone and gestures failed. 


Also there was much more of an even spread of contribution of ideas as all participated simultaneously, then amended and tweaked each other's suggestions on the board. This would not have been so effective if we chose a more traditional route to problem solve as within every group there is a mix of strong and weak personalities and mind mapping helped the dynamic of the group to all play on an even surface of collaboration with out some members of the group feeling intimidated by dominant members. So again, in terms of youth work practice, this was inclusive.

What outcomes has the mind mapping process helped to identify, and what's happening now with the project?
The young people have now developed their own Tollcross Tee’s website tollcrosstees.jimdo.com. This fulfils some of the promotion and marketing ideas that came out of the mind map. They have also developed a mind map of their business plan so as to keep it relevant as opposed to keeping it stuck on a shelf. This map takes pride of place within the middle of the office as a visual reminder of the content of the business plan.

The webpage’s were all taken from individual mind maps that were then collectively put together as a collage. To the average person it looks like a mad man’s crazy ideas, but it is like a secret code that only those in Tollcross Tee’s can understand and decipher and that makes it cool!

Is there anything else you'd like to include/promote to help Tollcross YMCA?

Tollcross YMCA has been named as a finalist in the 2014 Scottish Charity Awards under the Celebrating Communities Category. The Awards, celebrate the crucial work of charities, community groups and individuals dedicated to making Scotland a better place to live.  Tollcross YMCA has been nominated for its deliver of the A.S.P.I.R.E. social enterprise programme within the Tollcross community.
To find out more about Tollcross YMCA and the youth and community activity that we deliver in Glasgow’s east end then visit www.tollcrossymca.org follow us on Twitter @TollcrossYMCA or like us on www.facebook.com/ymcatollcross
Thank you to Darran for participating in our 'Mind Maps in Action' series and sharing his story with us! You can find Darran on Biggerplate by clicking here. If you've had a mind map experience you would like to share with us, get in touch via Twitter, or leave a comment below.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Announcing Biggerplate Image Packs!!


Ever wanted to liven up your mind maps with a more interesting selection of images? Well now you can!
We're thrilled to announce the launch of Biggerplate Image Packs; a selection of fantastic image sets that can be imported into your favourite mind mapping software and used to add more visual interest to your maps!
You can choose from a selection of packs, covering People, Money & Finance, Web & Social, as well as Signs & Signals! We'll be adding new packs all the time, so keep an eye on the new section of the website for new packs, competitions, and freebies!

How does it work?
It's easy, once you download an image pack, you can then import the 20 individual images into your favourite mind mapping software to be used whenever you need as you are mapping! We'll shortly publish a set of 'How-to' guides for this to help you, but in the meantime, if you have any questions, just let us know!

> View Image Packs!