Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mind Maps in Action: Teaching Students the Art of Mapping

In this "Mind Maps in Action" article, we talk to teacher and mind mapping advocate Daniel Weinstein about his experiences of teaching students the art of mind mapping.

Could you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
My name is Daniel Weinstein. I teach English 11, AP Language, and Creative Writing at Great Neck South High School on Long Island. I love to share my ideas for teaching creativity - through my book, my website, and my personal appearances. In the end of Nov. I am doing a presentation on "Mind Maps and Other Language Art" at the National Council of English Teachers national conference in Washington DC. It's my second year in a row doing a presentation on mind maps in education!

When and how were you first introduced to mind maps?
I was first introduced to mind maps in the summer of 2001. I was taking classes at "The Leadership Academy" at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts - this program is designed to get teachers accredited to become administrators. I noticed a woman next to me kept taking notes in class using magic markers, creating webs. I was fascinated. Her name was Anne and she taught me the basics and suggested I buy Tony Buzan's books. I started to borrow her markers and make my own mind maps for class notes and I immediately was transformed: I was taking better notes! I was re-reading my notes again and again. I was adding drawings and new ideas to my notes all the time. I've always been a mediocre student, but the combination of magic markers and mind-mapping unlocked a superior student in me. I promised myself that I would teach every student I ever have about this amazing art form - and I have!

How do you now use mind maps in your personal and professional life?
The greatest benefit of mind-mapping is that it can be used by any student for almost any reason. I've seen everyone from the Harvard-bound to the Learning disabled to the English-As-A-Second-Language student enjoy mind mapping and access it's therapeutic and educational benefits. It is so amazing how flexible it is, too. I use it to plan lessons, distribute notes, and brainstorm ideas with a class. My students use it for a plethora of reasons: organizing notes, planning an essay, brainstorming goals, reflecting on memories, dissecting literature, and so much more.

How do your students tend to respond when introduced to mind maps for the first time?
I first taught mind-mapping twelve years ago, and it immediately took hold with my students. Through Facebook, I'm still in contact with many of those kids and they STILL acknowledge that mind mapping was a vital tool they learned, used through college, and employ in their careers. During these dozen years I have taught mind-mapping to EVERY student who has come through my classroom, regardless of the course title. I'd say 99% have had a positive experience with it and found it to be a unique and valuable educational experience with it.

Do you think there is scope for greater adoption of mapping in the education sector and, if so, how can we encourage it?
I encourage every teacher I meet to utilize mind maps in their classroom. I have spread the word through my book (The Creativity Core) and website ( I have presented my students' mind maps at several conferences and classes. Next week I'm doing a one-hour presentation for teachers in my district on Election Day (Superintendent's Conference Day). I feel compelled to encourage educators to use this amazing technique because I know it helps all students, inspires creativity, and turns even the dullest classes into an interesting experience. I think I would have been a better student throughout high school and college if I had known about the transformative powers of mind-mapping and taking colorful notes.
Visually engaging mind map notes, taken during a science class
Would you like to add anything else?
It is important to note that mind-mapping is one aspect of the bigger picture: teaching creativity. My workshop method is a product of studying with the National Writing Project and reading Nancy Atwell's seminal book, In The Middle -- these two influences showed me how to run a classroom so it is hands-on, enjoyable, and intensely educational. Integrating mind-mapping into the workshop is my special twist on this classroom method. My students write and create art (memoir, poetry, mind maps, and more) all year long, meeting the "goals & deadlines" I set for them. The experience culminates in a portfolio due in June. These portfolios are chock full of amazing "authentic" art, including 15-20 mind maps created by each student. 

This blog entry includes four short videos of students talking about their mind maps:

A huge thank you to Daniel for sharing his story with us! You can see a whole host of terrific hand-drawn mind maps by Daniel's students on his website, by clicking here. Do you have a "Mind Maps in Action" story you'd like to share with us? Get in touch by commenting below or via Twitter.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mind Maps in Action: Time Management

As we focus on Productivity this month at Biggerplate, we talk to Paul Klipp about his use of mapping as a time management and organisational tool.

1. Could you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?
I own a software company in Krak√≥w, Poland, as well as an event management company that organizes conferences and training. I also own a web-based project management company that produced I'm a frequent speaker at conferences, mostly on project management topics, but also on other topics that interest me. In my free time I run and read. I'm currently training for an ultra marathon. 

2. In a nuthshell, how do you manage your time and workload on a weekly basis?
I have big goals posted on the wall, like learn a language, buy a bigger house, own a horse, just to keep my long-term goals in mind when planning the short term stuff. I plan every week using a mind map with nodes for every important area of my life. Then I use personal kanban to focus on doing each week when I'd planned on Monday.

3. How were you introduced to mind mapping?
When I worked as director of a competitive intelligence group in South Africa, my mentor introduced me to mind mapping. He had been a student of Tony Buzan. 

4. How would you have previously managed your time, and what made you adopt mind mapping as one of your organisational tools?
I've tried everything, starting with lists, then evolving to value grids adopted from Steven Covey's first books, then through GTD and finally I developed my own system that is a mix of all of them.

5. What do you perceive to be the greatest benefits of mapping, both as a time management tool, and in general?
Mind mapping makes the big picture digestible. That's what I think makes it so useful. You can see relationships even as you're focussing on details. 

6. How do other people respond to your personal organisation technique and to your use of mind maps?
I've spoken about my technique in open spaces at conferences, and the response is overwhelmingly positive.

7. What could be done to encourage wider adoption of mind mapping?
It's just a tool. There are many good tools. I wouldn't advise anyone to use every good tool, but they are all worth trying. I'd love to see more published mind maps. They can be a great communication tool. If proponents of mind maps used them to disseminate their ideas more, their value would be more apparent to others.

8. Would you like to add anything else?
Perhaps only this, If you're using productivity tools because you're overwhelmed, you might also consider cutting back. The biggest problem is rarely not getting enough done; it'd doing things that don't bring you joy and fulfilment. If all you accomplish is doing more things that don't need to be done, you're not doing yourself any favours.

Thanks to Paul for sharing his experiences with us! Want to find out more? Why not follow Paul on Twitter?

Do you have an example of mind maps in action? Get in touch via Twitter or comment below!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Amazing line-up for Berlin mind map conference!

We're getting ever closer to the next Biggerplate Unplugged mind map conference, taking place in Berlin on 16 October, and which will soon be upon us faster than you can say "ich liebe Deutschland"!

The Berlin conference looks to be our most international gathering of mind mappers to date, with confirmed speakers and attendees coming from the UK, the Netherlands, Poland, France, Austria, and even South Africa! Not to mention a great selection of experts and mind map users from the local German community! It looks like a great gathering already, and with only a few weeks to go, we're delighted to confirm a fantastic line-up of speakers and sessions for the next #BPUN instalment!

Take a look at some of the names and faces that you can expect to hear from in Berlin, and then act fast to get your ticket for this exciting event!
> View event details

Confirmed for #BPUN Berlin:

Liam Hughes (Biggerplate)
Liam Hughes (Biggerplate) 
The Home of Mind Mapping?
Biggerplate founder Liam Hughes will outline how innovation and investment at is aimed at creating a genuine home for mind mapping online. Liam will discuss the challenges that come with trying to achieve this goal, and why we think this objective is essential for the overall success and adoption of mind mapping.
Jamie MacDonald (MindGenius)
Jamie MacDonald (MindGenius)
Details to follow...
Raphaela Brandner (MindMeister)
Raphaela Brandner (MindMeister)
Where do we go from here?
MindMeister's Marketing Manager, Raphaela talks about developments at MindMeister, and explores what the future may hold for online mind mapping, and how we can bring the mind map experience to the next level. 
Lucas Calabro (Mindjet)
Lucas Calabro (Mindjet)
Difference between Mind Mapping, and Business Mapping
Mindjet's international presales consultant will show a variety of innovative use cases for mind mapping in business applications. From first idea visualisation up to a professional project management tool, Lucas will give examples for Business mapping in complex processes, and demonstrate ways of combining existing enterprise structures with new and best practices.
 Christian Foltin
Christian Foltin (Freemind) 
Open source mind mapping: The goals of Freemind
In this presentation, Christian will outline both the history and future of Freemind as an open source mind mapping tool, and discuss the key goals and challenges facing an open source project of this type. Featuring use cases, and a discussion of the Open Source limitations, Christian will provide an invaluable insight into the fascinating world of open source mind mapping. 
 Marion Lercher
Marion Lercher (Lerchertrain) 
MindCooking - A visual approach to cooking!
In this pre-lunch session, Marion will show how easy cooking can be when recipes are written in the form of a mind map! Taking the traditional recipe approach and turning it into a mind map, Marion will show how MindCooking can be used to easily prepare classic recipes!
 Wojciech Korsak

Wojciech Korsak (Explorer Consulting)

Details to follow...
 Jeroen Grit

Jeroen Grit (GriDD Consultancy)
Managing stakeholder input using mind maps
In this presentation, user experience expert Jeroen will present a method for translating ideas to tangible requirements within a mind map, based on his own experience of managing large internet projects in multinational companies with numerous stakeholders and inputs. Jeroen will show how mind maps help to keep information in context, whilst providing both detail and big picture viewpoints. 
Faizel Mohidin
The evolution of Using Mind Maps Magazine
How changes in social, technological, and economic forces are influencing people's behaviour online, making it possible to reach and teach everyone, even in the remotest and poorest areas. This presentation will focus on the Mobile Revolution and how you can take advantage of this. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Mind Maps in Action: "Mind map addict" - using maps for just about everything!

In this edition of our 'Mind Maps in Action' series, we talk to Maneesh Dutt about his journey to becoming a mind map addict; using maps for any and everything!

1. Could you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?
I am a freelance trainer & consultant on the subjects of Creativity, Innovation & Project Management. I am running my own venture Inlighten Consultancy with a mission to Enable Ideas, Innovation & Individuals in organisations & institutes. I rely heavily on Mind Mapping for all my assignments. I am working on two axises of spreading mind mapping to school/college students and of course to the corporates. In fact Mind Maps has been
the single most important reason for me to quit my regular job & work dedicatedly on the subjects of my interest using Mind Maps all along.  Though based out of India I am eager to spread my workshops beyond the boundaries of my country.

2. When and how were you first introduced to mind mapping?
Around 4 yrs ago purely by accident I stumbled upon a book on "Mind Mapping" by Mr. Tony Buzan which changed  the direction of my life forever. I started experimenting with Mind Maps with very encouraging results and finally decided to pursue the Thinbuzan Licensed Accredition to become an certified trainer on Mind Maps and more importantly got the lifetime opportunity to learn about Mind Maps from the inventor himself.

3. How do you utilise mapping in your day to day life, now?
I am a mind map addict ! I have mind maps on my refrigerator,my cupboard, my kids library, my wash room mirror, my phone, my laptop, my study table & have multiple scrap books solely for mind mapping.The range of application I use mindmaps is multiple and include weekly planning, workshop designing, article writings, notes taking, teaching my kids, problem solving etc etc.. 

4. What do you think are the greatest benefits of doing so?
There are multiple advantages of using Mind Maps however the greatest benefit  of Mind mapping, as per me, is that it gets you engaged in the subject on hand as a result of which you are able to achieve results almost effortlessely and much more that your expectations.
Few additional benefits include:
  • Enhanced creativity while solving problems using Mind Maps.
  • Greater sense of control while using Mind Maps for planning related activities thus allowing for better management of the event/project on hand.
  • Allows for focus on the big picture while writing an article.
  • Helps to listen better while using Mind Maps while taking notes.

5. What's your best example of a mind map providing some kind of breakthrough where other methods had failed?
I was having a tough time taking a decision about quitting my organisation and start my own venture when I decided to use a mind map to help me decide. What followed was an frentic but inspired 15-20 minutes exercise of putting the pro's & con's of either path and at the end of the mind map I had absolute clarity about the direction that I wanted to take: which was to start my own venture focused around Mind Maps. This was wonderful breakthrough and a life changing mind map for me.
Mind Maps for Enhancing Creativity in Projects

6. How would you encourage others to start mapping?
The proof is in eating the pudding hence would suggest to everyone to start experimenting with Mind Maps and discover its potential on your own. Looking at Mind Mapping success stories from around the globe can inspire you further to make the shift to Mind Maps based thinking as against the conventional thinking which our education system has handed over the years to us.

7. Would you like to add anything else?
In today's complex environment Mind Mapping is no longer an optional but a mandatory thinking tool to be adopted by everyone on this planet.It is equally important for school children and employees of organisation to start adopting this methodology for enhacing both their effectiveness and efficiency. Websites like are a wonderful inspiration for people who are new to mind mapping and I urge them to have a look at some of the wonderful maps available on this website under the topic of their interest.

Thanks to Maneesh for sharing his experiences with us! You can see more maps from Maneesh on his Biggerplate profile by clicking here.

Do you have an example of mind maps in action? Let us know! Feel free to get in touch via Twitter or by commenting below.

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!