The Power of Mind Maps: A Creative Way to Simplify Learning
The Power of Mind Maps: A Creative Way to Simplify Learning
To better understand what a mind map is, we need to start with its origins, or rather its creator: the psychologist Tony Buzan, who dedicated his life to researching learning methodologies by studying memory, speed reading, and intelligence development. Buzan introduced mind maps in the 1960s as a "note-taking method" and created a unique model of mind maps with specific characteristics. To do this, he meticulously studied great minds of the past, such as Leonardo da Vinci. Buzan discovered that their notes contained concepts connected through associations of thought and drawings. We can define these as the "ancestors of mind maps".
A mind map is a tool that graphically represents thoughts, allowing for the simplification of any topic not only in a hierarchical manner (from main to secondary news and so on) but also associatively (using keywords, making the map text-poor). The dominant characteristic in a mind map is creativity: through images, drawings, and the use of many colors, learning becomes personalized and fun for the student, breaking down the topic to facilitate memorization. Like the concept map, although different in many aspects, it allows for customized learning for the student.
Difference between mind maps and concept maps
It is often mistakenly believed that mind maps and concept maps are the same thing. The two types of maps are often confused, although they actually differ in many aspects. If you are interested in how to create an effective concept map, you can find a guide on our blog.
Based on the structure of concepts, the concept map (graphically identified as an inverted tree) uses a hierarchical and schematic order, starting from the main news and descending to include secondary news; the mind map, on the other hand, has a radial structure and more dynamic structure. In mind maps, we find the main topic in the center and various concepts branching out, following an emotional association and imaginative association, not only hierarchical, allowing them to branch out.
The customization of the concept map is less and is based more on associating colors with various concepts (e.g. green for main ideas, pink for secondary ones) and moderate use of images. In the concept map, the focus is more on the hierarchical order of key concepts. The mind map, on the other hand, is by construction a true display of drawings that extend the inserted concepts, with colors that can be contrasting or harmonious with each other, used to the maximum because there is no rational identification but only emotional (e.g. the keyword is love, and the color I decide to associate is red).
Brevity is a characteristic that both types of maps have in common, but while concept maps usually use a short phrase, in mind maps, keywords dominate, and they are enough to associate the notion being inserted.
In conclusion, according to the inventor Tony Buzan himself, mind maps allow for collaboration between brain hemispheres.
The effectiveness of mind maps
Buzan defined mind maps as a "visual representation of thought." The reticular structure of the mind map is identical to that of neurons, so the mind map is structurally identical to the process of thought creation in human beings, especially because it relies on the process of free association of the mind. This last point is the key advantage of mind maps because it makes the topic even more personal and the memorization more effective. Furthermore, it allows for the development of creativity and stimulates the student by encouraging them with new solutions to learn, simplify, and consolidate concepts. Mind maps can be used in any context for their versatile nature; in the educational field, they find their greatest expression because they help students in memorizing topics that become increasingly complex year after year and require simplification and a more personal understanding. It is worth noting that mind maps, like concept maps, are identified as an effective method for students with Specific Learning Disorders (SLD) and Special Educational Needs (SEN) due to their characteristics, which include visual stimulation, synthesis, and personalized adaptation for the student.
How do you make a mind map?
If you are convinced that this can be your ideal method for dissecting any type of topic you encounter, there are some guidelines to consider in order to build an effective and tailored mind map!
Use a landscape-oriented sheet and place the main topic at the center of your map to start from. It doesn't necessarily have to be a word; you can also use a drawing or an image that represents it. Once you have identified the main topic, start thinking associatively.
What comes to mind when you hear that word or think about that topic? What you think of initially will define the key concepts, from which your mind map will branch out. Typically, there are a maximum of seven of these key concepts, which should be connected to the word or image at the center as curved branches reaching outwards. Each concept will then have child branches that develop in the map.
This will be the process that characterizes your map, no matter how "absurd" the associations may seem because, in reality, you will only be expressing what are the natural connections of your brain.
- Use colors to highlight the key words you have used.
- Use as many images as possible related to the key words: associating concepts with images will make it easier to remember!
- There is no limit to the mind map; stop when no more associations between concepts come to mind. That will be a sign that your map is complete.
Although the old method of a blank sheet of paper and a pencil is the most commonly used and exploited by students, the use of digital technologies as support for students is spreading more and more, especially in recent years due to the pandemic. Buzan himself believed in this principle, to the point of creating software capable of generating mind maps.
Algor Maps, the web app within the Algor Education platform, comes to the aid of creating mind maps by making the process simple, automatic, and customizable. Through the "star layout" option, it is possible to generate a perfect mind map with vibrant colors, inserting images, all of which can be modified. Furthermore, to speed up the process, it is also possible to create maps from digital books and, with the new automatic map function, create concept maps with Algor's automatic suggestions based on text or even a simple sentence.
To start creating mind maps, register and log in to Algor Education.
Article by Rosie Spiniello, content creator.