Mind maps (the term is attributed to Tony Buzan although the idea is much older) are a useful tool to organize knowledge visually and deepen understanding. When drawn on a piece of paper or whiteboard, the maps are easy to create and change, yet provide a clear and shareable record of thinking about a subject.
When the maps are developed using an app or web-based service, mind mapping becomes even more powerful and portable. I’ve used various apps over the last few years and thought they might be an interesting addition to the annual BCcampus 12apps for Christmas event. But how to choose an app?
The 12apps event has a simple set of attributes:
- free (or at least an option to try for free so everyone could try it easily)
- cross platform (iOs or Android – bonus if it works in a web browser too!)
- has potential to support teaching and/or learning.
I added a few additional characteristics to help me choose:
- visually attractive (without a lot of fussing)
- easy to save or share (even if the saved version couldn’t be edited in other apps)
- collaborative (a big bonus and only available with some)
I chose SimpleMind first as I thought it scored reasonably well and I had used it in the past as an iPad app and liked it. But after initial testing and review of features, I found they had restricted what I felt was an essential attribute of free use – you could no longer save your mind maps in any way – not even with a screen capture!
So I went back to check out Bubbl.us, Freemind, Mindomo, Mindmup, Mindmeister, Popplet, Lucidchart (not technically a mind mapping app). Some were open source and required installation on a server (or didn’t have an app option for mobile devices; other apps had a free or trial version but were expensive (comparatively) if you wanted to continue and expand your use.
I finally settled on Coggle – it was cross-platform, easy to use, produced visually appealing maps without a lot of fuss, and could be used collaboratively. Although the free version had limitations, the price for a basic subscription was in line with other apps.
Mind maps are useful for various knowledge building activities and Coggle makes it easy to use to engage learners in online classes:
- creating a visual map of course themes, topics and learning objectives to help students manage their learning or to help an instructor develop or refine a course;
- creating collaborative maps to summarize highlights of a week’s forum postings or to share final reflections on learning as a course draws to a close;
- for individual learning as a way to take meaningful notes during presentations or while reviewing research reports;
- to support collaborative knowledge building activities by having small groups create and share mind maps of their research and analysis of a relevant topic; and,
- to support a blended learning activity beginning from individual to small group discussion using a paper-based graphic organizer to capture and refine brainstorming (face-to-face) and then moving the discussion into an online session where small groups shared digital mind maps of their analysis to contribute to a final summary of critical perspectives on an important theme or issue.
- And I had some fun by completing my own “What about Christmas?” mind map!
There’s not been too much participation (at least visibly) in this year’s 12apps event but the daily app blog posts will stay visible throughout the year so you can easily refer back to find a new app to try.
If you’re curious to learn more about the potential of mind maps and other visual organizers and analytical approaches, check out some of these articles:
- Coggle Knowledge Base – https://coggle.help/
- Creating mindmaps – https://coggle.help/category/92-creating-mindmaps
- Creating flowcharts – https://coggle.help/category/91-creating-flowcharts
- Reviews of mind mapping software / tools
- Eppler, M.J. (2006). A comparison between concept maps, mind maps, conceptual diagrams, and visual metaphors as complementary tools for knowledge construction and sharing, Information Visualization, 5, 202-210. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/
Jones, Brett D.; Ruff, Chloe; Snyder, Jennifer Dee; Petrich, Britta; and Koonce, Chelsea (2012) “The Effects of Mind Mapping Activities on Students’ Motivation,”International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Vol. 6: No. 1, Article 5.Available at: https://doi.org/10.20429/ijsotl.2012.060105
- Novak, J. D. & A. J. Cañas, The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct Them, Technical Report IHMC CmapTools 2006-01 Rev 01-2008, Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, 2008″, available at:http://cmap.ihmc.us/Publications/ResearchPapers/TheoryUnderlyingConceptMaps.pdf.