Mapping the potential of the human mind
Ajay was sitting in the economics class. Prof Bhushan was delivering a lecture on market structures. His lecture was interesting, informative and interactive.
Ajay was stimulated by the ideas being proposed and discussed and he began actively participating. Four weeks later, when internal exams were over, the results surprised both the Professor and his student. Prof Bhushan called Ajay to his cabin and gently asked "Ajay! I expected you to be in the top ten in the class! What happened? Any problem?"
Ajay responded, "I am surprised too sir! I thought I had understood all you said. I do remember many examples you have given as well. But as you have pointed out in my paper, my answers were not balanced between theory and examples. I had many new ideas in the class. I was confused. I guess there was too much information and too less time to think and answer."
The daunting task of note taking for a student involves several challenges outlined below:
n There is too much of information to handle from various sources. It’s often required to systematically organize information to write an exam or to participate in a discussion.
- There is often the question of focus. Where should the student focus in the class? On writing notes or on listening to the lecture!
- How can one keep track of one's own ideas and questions?
- How can one keep updating the information as and when they find new information, new links and add new ideas throughout the learning period?
These challenges usually make the student to resort to short cuts such as memorising and reading from handbooks. As a result learning becomes routine and boring. These practices in the long-run erode the teacher-student relationship. What is needed, therefore, is a tool that can keep the creative potential of the student alive and at the same time be useful for note taking.
Tony Buzan, in 1970s', introduced the concept of mind mapping for taking down notes in a quick manner. The technique was to begin with a central idea written down at the center of a page. Various thoughts about the core idea are then drawn as branches.
Thoughts and ideas about a specific branch are recorded as sub-branches leading out from the main branches. Associations across branches can be made to allow for forming relationships amongst various thoughts.
So, by being skilled in the art of mind mapping, students can capture key information in the class, while being focused on listening and participating. They can follow their own line of thinking and continue expanding on it after the class. They can connect different concepts and help themselves to discover new knowledge. Their discussions with their teachers and co-students can be much more meaningful and satisfactory.
The process of mind mapping
A mind map usually begins with a "Central Idea" or "Theme" with branches flowing out of it. Each branch represents a distinct sub-theme of the central idea. For example, the teacher might have started the class saying, "Today, we are going to talk about job analysis and its utility."
So, the map would begin by writing "Job Analysis" in the center of the sheet and then circling it. Then as the class progresses sub-themes are added.
The teacher might have given the components of the job analysis, discussed the steps required to carry out Job Analysis, and its applications in organizations.
To capture the above information, a branch from the central theme is drawn and labeled "Components". The branch line is thicker when it begins on the circle and gradually thins out as it ends. All branches and sub-branches follow the same pattern.
Different colours for different branches can be used to make the map more meaningful and creative. Coming back to the example, as there are many components, each component can be represented on a sub-branch, flowing out of the main branch.
To capture more information about each component, further sub-branches can be drawn. Similarly the “Steps “and “Applications” can be drawn as main branches and sub-branches can be added to extend more information. More branches can be added to capture new ideas, questions and other information.
Now, you may find that a concept that is presently being discussed is related to some other concept discussed earlier. To capture this, the two linked concepts are identified and are connected with a dotted line. A label is added to that relationship to describe the nature of relationship.
To add more meaning and creativity to the map, different colours can be used. Pictures that are descriptive of the key-words can also be added. Though, there is actually no end to when a map can be complete, it can capture enough information to use for reference, not only to do preparatory work, but also for exams.
Other uses for students
- Exam preparation: Once the mind maps of your subjects are ready, its easier to prepare for exams. To master the content, simply re-drawing the mind map and comparing it with the original will clearly show where gaps exist.
A question paper can be taken and the map can be examined to see if it contains information required to answer all the questions.
If not, such information can be added from various sources. There is no need to carry heavy notes and books to the examination centre.
- Preparing presentations: Mind maps can be used to bring in originality and creativity to presentations. Apart from the content, branches that outline key notes about the audience, the time to be spent on each topic, the goals of the presenter, and much more information can be captured.
Original ideas and points of discussion can be brought out on separate branches. As the discussion progresses during the presentation, it can be dynamically added to the mind map.
Who Uses Mind Maps?
Managers use mind maps as a tool to document brain-storming sessions and managing long meetings. Writers capture their plot ideas for their stories.
Lawyers and doctors have extensively used this technique for capturing their analyses and diagnoses. Teachers use it to plan their classes.
Other Uses of Mind Maps
Mind maps can be used for several purposes apart from taking notes. The following are some of the uses that people around the world have found for mind maps:
- Problem solving
- Outline / framework design
- Anonymous collaboration
- Marriage of words and visuals
- Individual expression of creativity
- Condensing material into a concise and memorable format
- Team building or synergy creating activity
- Enhancing work morale
Free Mind Mapping Software
Mind maps can also be drawn using software. Using software makes the map drawing process simple, easy and shareable.
You can export your mind maps to image or pdf format and then carry them wherever you go. If you use a smart phone, you will be free from carrying any kind of books and notes to your examinations or presentations.
The following are some of the popular programs available for free download over the internet: XMind - www.xmind.net, Freemind - freemind.sourceforge.net, Mindomo - www.mindomo.com, EDraw Mind Map - www.edrawsoft.com/Mindmap.php, iMindMap - www.thinkbuzan.com
(The writers are associate professors, PESIT Bangalore South Campus)