Mind Mapping

“Do I need a mind-mapping program?” My finger was poised to click “Download Now” when my rational self (the one who pays the bills) intervened. “What would I use it for?”

“Use it?” I replied, finger itching to click. “It’s just cool to play around with.”

“What could I do better with a mind-mapping program that I don’t already do with some other software?”

I retracted my finger. “Well, a map is more useful than an outline. Outlines are so linear. A mindmap is visual, spatial – it’s creative. And look at all those features! I can make straight or curvy lines, boxes or ovals. They can be any color I want. I can drag images into them!”

“And what would I put in all those boxes and ovals?”

Clearly, I wasn’t convincing my rational self. I had to come up with a better argument.

The fact is, I like maps. As a child (and an adult) I have spent many happy hours drawing maps for the fantasy stories I wrote, putting little inverted-cone mountains and rivers branching like veins, writing the names of towns and roads in runic script.

When I first heard of mind-mapping software, I imagined electrodes hooked up to my head, turning my thoughts into rivers and mountains. Kinda cool idea, but not practical. I wouldn’t want to have to hook my brain up to my mac everytime I go to the grocery store. Easier to make a list.

If I was going to buy this mind-mapper, I had to think of ways to use it.

  1. I could use it to plan my curriculum. I imagine blobs called “Vocabulary” and “Grammar” with sub-blobs for ‘methods’ and ‘topics.’ I imagine lines connecting these to rectangles named “Stories” and “Assessment.” Would this make me a better teacher, more organized – or is it just a way to waste time?
  2. I could plan a novel. I’ve done outlines before, but always seem to go off of them at some point in the story. Would a map help me better see where it’s going? Or would I spend more time deciding what color each character’s blob should be?
  3. I could do visuals for my classes, graphic organizers of sentence structure, case functions, stems and inflextional endings. Would this help my students to understand grammar any better? I draw a lot of arrows and blobs on the board when I’m teaching something new.

I could use mind-maps for all of these things. I can do all of them without a mind-map. The question is, would a mind-mapper make them easier?

Personal computers hit the market when I was an adult. At that point, I had no money, so buying a computer was out of the question. Besides, I couldn’t imagine why I would need my own computer. What would I use it for?

“Recipes,” one person told me. “You can organize all of your recipes.”

I don’t really have recipes, I thought. I just read the box. And am I really going to turn on a computer just to figure out how much butter to put into my macaroni and cheese?

“There are computer games,” someone else told me, and proceeded to explain this game where a gorilla throws a banana at skyscrapers.

Fun, I thought. But it didn’t seem worth it to buy a computer just so I could make a gorilla throw bananas.

“It’s like a typewriter, only you can fix mistakes without correction tape. And you can save your documents.”

This sounded better, and finally persuaded me to give up legal pads. I bought a computer and began filling up floppy disks with my novel (when I wasn’t wasting time playing Minesweeper).

A paradigm shift had to happen in my mind before a computer was useful to me. I had to stop thinking of documents as pieces of paper and think of them as information that could be stored as binary code.

Since that epiphany I have found several paradigm-busting programs that have changed the way I do things, but mostly I’ve just found programs that do the same things a little better. And I’ve found lots of ways to waste time. More than I could ever imagine when I was writing on legal pads and eating macaroni and cheese every night.

Does mind-mapping software bust any paradigms?

You guessed it; I clicked. I’m not sure it was the right decision — but I like maps.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ian g
    Mar 31, 2010 @ 00:08:07

    You lost me wayyyy back, dude…

    Reply

  2. ian g
    Mar 31, 2010 @ 00:08:49

    i liked the irrational/rational side, and then… my brain might have lost oxygen for a minute!

    Reply

  3. Florea
    Apr 14, 2010 @ 07:13:07

    Great article ! Thank You !

    Reply

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