In my class, I often have students brainstorm ideas and then share them as a group to the whole class. One of the ways we do this is through mind maps. I have a love / hate relationship with mind maps due to the fact that they can be quite effective in visualizing ideas and information, but that image can get quite muddy and messy if you have too many items or are using paper and pens with lots of scribbles and changes.
To overcome some of that, I like to use computer-based mind mapping tools, especially if the creators are able to share that with others and they can then add to it or simply view it. Either way, it makes it much easier to expand the discussion beyond the people in the room.
One of the online mind mapping tools I like is the simple and minimalist approach used by Text2Mindmap. Instead of a flashy, all-in-one approach, the designers of this site have gone with a clean, easy to use look, even down to the lack of registration requirement. It works on almost anything and users don’t need to do much more than simply type in their mind map as an outline and the tool does the rest. Here is how it works:
- Go to www.text2mindmap.com and a sample map will appear showing the months of the year along with the seasons.
- Click on ‘New’ just below the box on the left-hand side of the page to get a clean slate to work from.
- In the box labelled ‘Outline your text’, type in your outline of the map using indents (the tab key) to create branches and sub-groups.
- To view what you have created so far, click on the ‘Draw Mind Map’ button at the bottom of the box. Your map will appear on the right-hand side of the page. You can now click-and-drag the items around. If you want to continue editing, simply continue typing in the outline box and clicking on the draw button to refresh.
- At the bottom of the outline box is an options tab. Clicking on this brings up options about locking the position of the items, fonts, colours of the items (I like the level instead of branch option), and line colour.
- Below the box are the ‘New’, ‘Save’, ‘Download’, and ‘Zoom’ buttons.
- New – Creates a blank outline. Be careful with this one since it will erase your current work without warning.
- Save – Will ask for a title and an email. You can use a fake email address in this place. Once you have done that and clicked on the ‘Save’, you will get two links to share: one for editing and one for viewing only.
- Download – This will give you the option of downloading your map as a PDF or JPG image.
- Zoom – This is actually two buttons, one for zooming in and one for out.
- To remove the box on the left, click on the ‘Text2Mindmap’ title in the top-left corner and you will be left with only the mind map visible. Click on the title again to make it re-appear.
Yes, it is pretty simplistic in that you can’t add any documents, images, links, and so on, but it does provide a nice clean interface that is familiar for users who are not as tech saavy. I work with adult learners and sometimes the added ‘benefit’ of more options is actually more than some of them can handle up front. A tool like this gives them a place where they can develop and share ideas with others without the steep learning curve. It is also easier for some teachers to understand as was the case in one of my tech sessions that I gave. One such teacher was drawn to the ease of use for her as she often felt nervous trying to get students to use something she didn’t feel totally comfortable with herself. In the end, she gave a short session to the others in her group on how to use it and she felt like she had something she could take to her class in confidence.
Let me know what you think of it and ideas of how you may use it in your classroom. Thanks!