Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mind Maps in Action: Using mind maps to support disabled students.

In this edition of our Mind Maps in Action series, we talk to Assistive Technology tutor, Martyn Stahl, about his use of mind mapping software to help disabled students at Portsmouth University achieve their full potential.

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

About 16 years ago a TV program showing how voice recognition could help dyslexics changed my course of employment. Being dyslexic myself I could see the potential it had in helping people that had previously struggled to express themselves in school, work and life.  Having no knowledge of computers and no teaching experience I embarked on several courses at college and Portsmouth University. While completing a teacher trainer course in IT at Portsmouth University I was asked to support their disabled students, training them in the use of what is now termed Assistive Technology.  I have been employed by University of Portsmouth for 14 years working with disabled students showing them how they can use technology to support their studies. I still get a great kick out of seeing how technology can remove large barriers to students opening up a path to success.

2. How and when were you first introduced to mind mapping?

One of the first lessons I had to take was in the use of Inspiration mind mapping software, which presented quite a challenge, as I hadn’t heard of either! Enter the Buzan Mind Map book. I thought it was great. I could clearly see how it worked and the potential for everyone, not just my students. Adapting the Buzan methods to the then diagram based Inspiration required some out-of-the-box thinking but I got there. Attending a Buzan two-day course helped me to fill in some of the gaps I had and it was helpful to talk to people from varying backgrounds, learning how they use it.

3. What do you perceive to be the single greatest benefit of mapping?

Making things clear. Whether you are using it to plan a project, take notes or give a presentation it’s, ability to give clarity is unbeatable. Being able to use colour, pictures and structuring it in a way that make sense to you means the information is personal. It’s like you now own it!

4. What role does mapping play in your day-to-day work?

I use it to plan courses, curriculum, presentations and note taking at meetings. Whereas I used to do a lot of hand drawn mind maps I now use software most of the time. iThoughts on my iPad is excellent. Having such a comprehensive package on a portable device is great. Inspiration, Mind Jet, MindGenius and MindView are the main products that I teach which keeps me on my toes. I spend a good deal of my time showing students how to get the best out of mind maps to support them in planning and writing essays, note making, organising their day and giving presentations. Using the Buzan methods as a basis helps them focus on what the information they’re studying is really about. I also try to promote mind mapping amongst colleagues and have arranged workshops in the use of Inspiration and MindView which we have site licences for. Part of my job is to make sure the networked Assistive Technology is working and kept up-to-date, which includes mind mapping software.

5. How have your students reacted to the use of maps and what difference has it made to their work?

This is probably the best part of my work. Although students come from school and college having used mind maps they often have a very patchy idea of what it is and are doubtful it can help them. As I talk them through the software and demonstrate how they should be using it to make information clear it is often like turning the light on in a dark room. They go from “don’t see the point in being here” to “this is great”. Tying in study skills with mind mapping software allows them fulfil their potential, especial the dyslexic students. Most dyslexics have short-term memory and organisational problems but are very visual, they have to think out-of-the-box to get round this. It’s like mind maps are made for them.

To take one area as an example, note making from textbooks. If you have a short-term memory problem this becomes a nightmare. Why am I reading this? What am I looking for? What was the question? What’s important? I take them through some basic study skills and show them how mind maps can be used and by focusing on the main central topic they can record small scraps of information using just key words which can be added to and easily reorganised (one of the benefits of software based maps). It means they don’t have to remember large amounts of data. It is recorded in a way that makes sense to them with their key words and is easily restructured. The result is a sense of relief and a positive view of note making.

I have visited a lot of student accommodation, not always a pleasant experience….. but it’s great to see printed mind maps small and very large on walls, fridges and ceilings!  They love them.

6. What do you think is the greatest barrier to wider adoption of mapping in education? And where within the education sector do you think mapping could have the biggest impact?

The understanding of and training in the many uses of mind mapping. Teachers are overloaded from primary through to senior school and like most good tools mind mapping would make their own and students’ life easier but how to find the time and where to go for advice? Web sites like Biggerplate can play a part. I’ve certainly picked up some good ideas but more specific training is required.
Primary school has to be the starting point. Learning is fun at that age so if mind maps become a part of their learning tools they will carry it through their education and into their working life. After all mind maps are fun whether you are 5 or 50!

7. Would you like to add anything else?

I would certainly like to ‘Big Up’ Biggerplate. Looking at example maps I have found solutions to some tricky problems and the webinars have been helpful. Lets have more of the same with an even greater variety.

A huge thank you to Martyn for sharing his experiences with us, and we wish him and his students the best of luck for the future!

If you're using mind maps in your day to day work or personal life, we want to hear from you! Feel free to get in touch via Twitter (click here) or by commenting below.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Biggerplate Unplugged, London: Full Agenda!

With Biggerplate Unplugged - the Annual Mind Map Conference - returning to London later this week, we're taking a look at the full speaking line up for the day!

Liam Hughes - Liam (Biggerplate) will discuss the first two years of Biggerplate Unplugged, and explore what we have learned about the mind mapping community through these events, and what comes next!

Craig Scott - Craig (iThoughts) will talk about how his customers tend to use the tools he develops, and how this influences the development of new features and functionality.

Sharon CurrySharon (Fathomicity) will draw upon her extensive experience of mapping in military, business, educational, charitable and civil service environments both in the UK and abroad to show organisations are 'mapping' into their most powerful and important resource. Their people.

Jamie MacDonald - Jamie (MindGenius) will share a few insights into some of the barriers to effectiveness at work, and highlights how business mind mapping acts as the 'pain relief' and catalyst for a more effective and productive way of working.

Raag Hazarika - Raag (MindJet) will explore key areas for potential mind mapping usage, including project management, visual information dashboards, personal productivity, strategy and business planning, brainstorming, and problem solving.

Mikko Arevuo - Mikko (Regent's University) will discuss how maps as epistemic objects can help decision-makers to make sense of complex problems and improve the quality of decision-making processes.

Norman McBrien - Norman (ExamTime) will discuss how students and teachers are using mind maps in conjunction with other online tools to create memorable learning experiences.

David Svoboda - David (Intel & ThinkBuzan) will share his personal experience of how the use of Mind Mapping software can give a presentation greater impact.

Sergey Soloviev - Sergey will illustrate the activities seen on every digital project where digital professionals exploit structure to reduce risk and explain why mind mapping software does the job better than other tools.

Madeleine Philippe Madeleine (Maptelling) will discuss how maps empower her students to learn, think, and communicate. How digital (and less digital) natives adopt these tools, and how they contribute to building skills for modern business.

There is still time to snap up one of the few remaining tickets and join us as the Annual Mind Map Conference returns to London. Don't forget: BPUN won't return to Europe until 2017, so don't miss out! Click HERE to book your place! Join the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #BPUN.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Conference Countdown: Sharon Curry from Fathomicity

With just 10 days to go until Biggerplate Unplugged, we continue our countdown of the fantastic speakers lined up for the next mind map conference, taking place in London on 19 March! View event details

Sharon Curry: Fathomicity
Leading with mind maps

We first met Sharon at the very first Biggerplate Unplugged conference back in 2013, and since then we have been continually amazed and interested by her work in the fields of Leadership, and how she has incorporated mind mapping into a range of fascinating contexts to help support and enable leaders.

Sharon has a huge amount of experience in this field, as she is not only a former Naval Officer, but has also worked internationally on a range of business, education, and government projects focused on leadership. And at the heart of her leadership toolkit... is mind mapping!

Sharon will draw upon her extensive experience and learning in this field to show how organisations and leaders can use mind mapping to leverage their most powerful and important resource: their people.

We're thrilled to have Sharon coming to speak in London, and have no doubt that both experienced and aspiring leaders will be informed and inspired by what Sharon discusses during her presentation!

Join Sharon and a host of fantastic speakers at the next Mind Map Conference in London on 19 March! View full event details

Monday, March 9, 2015

Conference Countdown: Jamie MacDonald from MindGenius

With just 10 days to go until Biggerplate Unplugged, we continue our countdown of the fantastic speakers lined up for the next mind map conference, taking place in London on 19 March! View event details

Jamie MacDonald: MindGenius
A more effective way of working

Returning to speak at his second Biggerplate Unplugged event, Jamie will be exploring the barriers to effective working, and how mind mapping can help to overcome some of these issues, and act as the 'pain relief' in organisations. Jamie will also be discussing how mind mapping can act as a catalyst for more effective and productive working, based on his extensive experience of helping organisations to implement mapping in their daily work habits.

We're delighted to welcome Jamie back to speak, following on from his highly entertaining presentation at Biggerplate Unplugged in Berlin last year! Jamie is not only an experienced member of the MindGenius team, but is also a real mapping enthusiast, and is determined to ensure more people become familiar with this way of working, and the benefits it can bring!

Join Jamie and a host of fantastic speakers at the next Mind Map Conference in London on 19 March! View full event details

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Mind Map Conference Countdown: Craig Scott from iThoughts

As we edge ever closer to the return of Biggerplate Unplugged on March 19th, we thought we'd give you a little info about the fantastic line up of speakers confirmed for the mind map conference! There's still time to reserve your place at the event, but don't leave it too long! View event details

Craig Scott: iThoughts
MindmAPPing from a developer perspective

Craig speaking at Biggerplate Unplugged in 2013
Returning for his second Biggerplate Unplugged appearance, we are delighted to welcome Craig Scott from iThoughts to share his perspectives and experience with us. Widely recognised as one of the world's leading iPad mind mapping apps, Craig has been a key driver of innovation in the development of mobile apps ever since the launch of the first iPad. Having shared with us his story at the first Biggerplate Unplugged event back in 2013, Craig returns to share with us some perspectives on the continuing evolution of the mobile mapping space, and the challenges and influences for App developers to work with.

Craig will talk about how his customers tend to use the tools he develops, and how this influences the development of new features and functionality. As a genuine industry leader in this field, Craig really is one of the best-placed people to give an insight into this fascinating and fast moving world!

Don't miss Craig speaking at the next Mind Map Conference, join us in London on March 19th for Biggerplate Unplugged!

> View event details

Mind Map Conference

Monday, March 2, 2015

iMindMap 8 launches with a bang!

It's been an exciting few weeks in the mind mapping world, with our friends over at ThinkBuzan launching the much anticipated iMindMap 8 for both Windows and Mac! As always with iMindMap, you can not only expect to see a number of tweaks to the overall user experience but also the addition of some new and funky software features, like a brand new brainstorming mode! Here's a quick review of what's new, but to discover for yourself, why not go ahead and get a free trial of iMindMap 8 now!

Perhaps the biggest and boldest addition to iMindMap in version 8 is an innovative new brainstorming mode, which aims to help you gather ideas in an unstructured (non mind map) form, before organising and converting them into a mind map.

Not only does this new feature look great, but it's also a fantastic and intuitive way to get your ideas down in their basic form easily. The ability to then group ideas and convert to a mind map is a great example of the team at ThinkBuzan clearly giving great thought to where mind mapping fits within a brainstorming process, and how best to enable more effective brainstorming!

One of our favourite features in iMindMap for several years has been the wonderful presentation mode, which seems to improve with every release! iMindMap 8 continues this trend, with yet more functionality organised into ever-simpler menus. Using the Auto-Create option turns your mind map effortlessly into a smooth flowing presentation, with numerous options to then personalise as you wish with easy to use zoom and pan options. The resulting presentations have all the structural benefits of a mind map, combined with a wow factor usually only found within dedicated presentation applications!

Elsewhere, there's a continuing effort to provide an ever-simpler interface to help users create mind maps more easily than ever before, with improvements to the branch creation tool, which has also been designed to work on touch-screen devices, and simplification of menus and libraries within the software. A feature that many people will not necessarily notice (but will certainly benefit from) is the creation of contextual menus, which helps to keep the number of options visible on screen down to a manageable level, and ensures you're only seeing buttons and options when they are relevant - sounds easy and obvious - but it isn't, and it's a great improvement within version 8!

Overall, iMindMap 8 continues to build on the impressive development trajectory established by the ThinkBuzan team over the last few years, with a great balance of core functionality improvements, and wow-factor new additions that will certainly please existing and new users alike! We love it, and we're sure you will too, so go check it out! Visit ThinkBuzan.com

To learn a little more about iMindMap, and the company behind it, take a look at our recent Q & A video with founder Chris Griffiths!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mind Maps in Action: Mapping in Education with ExamTime

This 'Mind Maps in Action' post is courtesy of Andrea Leyden from the ExamTime team. ExamTime is a free elearning platform which includes a free online Mind Mapping tool designed to enhance the learning experience. Norman McBrien from ExamTime will be speaking at Biggerplate Unplugged in London this March.

David Bayne is a Religious Education teacher currently at St. Robert of Newminster RC School in Washington, Tyne & Wear. He decided to pursue a career in teaching after working as a computer programmer and technical support with the Department of Education. After his mid-life career change, David has now been teaching for 13 years.
Embracing Mind Mapping in Education
The benefits of integrating Mind Maps into your learning strategy are substantial. Mind Maps can be applied to a vast amount of learning situations; organising, planning, creativity, collaboration and comprehension.

Originally, David discovered Mind Mapping as a way to engage his students and to give them access to resources both inside and outside of the classroom. He acknowledges how online Mind Maps can easily be sculpted and dissected which is an integral part of the learning experience, “I start the Mind Map process with students, we discuss it and then they continue on their own or collaborate with others”.
The more David and his students have been using Mind Maps for learning purposes, the more they recognise how they can improve understanding and develop their learning skills. “Mind Maps help students commit ideas to memory more easily especially with the use of colour and images. Online Mind Maps are excellent for encouraging students as independent learners.” He also highlights how he uses Mind Maps to develop links between ideas and concepts to reinforce a topic with students.
A major stumbling block that students hit is motivating themselves study. Many students think of the overall picture which can be overwhelming but Mind Maps provide an easy way to digest and break down what needs to be done.  “Mind Maps make topics more manageable as students can easily see what they need to learn in one place”.
To summarise, Mind Maps improve the learning process by helping you:
  • Develop the ability to link ideas and concepts
  • Commit ideas to memory more easily
  • View a topic or area of work as a cohesive whole
  • Encourage students to be independent learners
  • Allows students to work collaboratively
Mind Mapping can be used in many ways but David’s experience using ExamTime demonstrates why they are the ultimate study tool.
Using ExamTime’s Mind Map Tool
Most of David’s teaching colleagues were using PowerPoint to create Mind Maps which they shared with their students. This didn’t work for David who searched for an alternative to satisfy his needs and came across ExamTime.
ExamTime is a free online learning platform where you can create, share and discover Mind Maps online. Along with Mind Maps, you can also create Flashcards, Quizzes and Notes and access other tools for communication and collaboration.
ExamTime have developed an innovative Mind Map tool which encompasses the benefits outlined in this article. Like most tools, ExamTime allows users the freedom to edit text and nodes plus facilitate the upload of images. The addition of “Play Mode” introduces a way to bring your Mind Map to life. The great thing about this feature for learning is that you can focus on pieces of information.
Having used ExamTime with his students, David recognised the different ways Mind Maps can be used to engage students in learning. One way he did this was by creating revision sessions via webinars where he could incorporate Mind Maps he made using ExamTime. “Using ExamTime in this way generates excellent questioning and analytical skills in students as they explore links between ideas.” These resources could be shared in real-time with the class using the Groups feature.
This opens up many possibilities for using Mind Maps to teach and learn. “My use of ExamTime and webinars was absolutely central to my revision strategy for my students last year. I’m convinced it contributed greatly to our excellent results which were our best ever. I have always had extremely positive comments from students.”
See an example of a Mind Map created with ExamTime below:

Importance of Technology in Education
Technology has developed in a way that we never thought possible and it was always inevitable that this would reach the world of education. Like many teachers, David understands that technology is more than important, it’s essential. “We use technology to great effect in every area of our lives and education should be no different.” Just take a look at the amount of education blogs dedicated to using technology in the classroom!
As David acknowledges, students embrace technology as a natural part of life, so should teachers. Why do we ask students to leave their tech devices at the classroom door?
Using an online tool not only allows you to develop your Mind Map with time, it means that you have access to the information your need quickly and all in one place. In education, using a tool that fulfils these needs is an essential part of the teacher toolkit.
If you want to learn more about using Mind Maps in education, check out ExamTime. If you'd like to see Norman from ExamTime talk more about mapping in education and using mind maps for studying, why not join us for our Annual Unplugged conference in London this March. Find full event details here.