Wouldn’t it be great if lecture information was transferred to your memory instantly and have it there to recall whenever you need it. Unfortunately, this isn’t how it works. In the real world you need to find a way for that information to go from your teacher’s mouth, the textbook, the PowerPoint presentation, whatever the medium may be, and into your brain. Different people will have different techniques in which they will do this. One effective way is to use mind maps.
What are Mind Maps?
Mind maps are an excellent way of organizing your notes. They are particularly useful for visual learners and they allow your brain to interact with the material being studied. Like all learning tools, different people will find them useful to varying degrees. Some people may choose to use mind maps from the beginning, whereas other may take more traditional notes first and use a mind map to consolidate the information. Each individual will develop their own, preferred technique, but if you are new to mind maps below you will find some simple steps to help get you started.
Creating Your Mind Map
Mind maps are a great visual learning tool, but they can look overwhelming initially. Don’t be afraid to draw and re-draw your mind map until you come up with something that works for you. Start by following these steps to get a basic understanding of mind maps, and make minor adjustments accordingly.
You will need a large piece of paper to begin with. An A4 sized notebook will work nicely, especially if you spread your mind map over a double page. Using a notebook is convenient if you wish to mind map your notes straight away, during your lessons. If you are re-organizing your notes an A3 sized piece of paper is ideal. You can always fold it away to store with your other notes, or pin it on your wall or noticeboard where you will see it often. It is best to use blank paper as lines will distract you and can make your map look confusing and messy.
Begin your mind map from the center of the page. Write down the central theme or main topic that you will be covering. Make sure the topic or theme is not too broad as you will run out of room for the rest of your mind map. Conversely, if the topic is too specific you will not be able to break it down effectively.
Jot down key phrases and sub-topics around the outside of this main theme or topic and connect them with a line. Make sure you leave enough space around each sub-topic to add further details.
Continue breaking topics down and connecting them with lines. You may find that some sub-topics are connected, so draw connecting lines as you see fit.
Extra Tips and Advice
In order to make your mind map more effective, try out a few these extra tips to create your own personal style.
- Use colors – mind maps are already great for visual learners, but by using colored pens or highlighters the mind map will become even more of a visual aid. You can use similar colors to show relationships between sub-topics or to highlight key and important information.
- Use shapes – like colors, shapes can add to the visual aspect of your mind map. You can put different shapes around each sub-topic, perhaps the same shape to connect similar-themed sub-topics.
- Create a draft copy first – most good pieces of work will come after several drafts, and a mind map is no different. By creating a draft (or two or three drafts) you will be able to fine tune your information and arrange in a neat and orderly manner that you can easily view later. After some time and practice you may find that the need for a draft is eliminated and you may even be able to mind map information as you sit in class.
Benefits of Mind Maps
Just like any other method of learning, some people will find mind maps easier to create. Even though they are more likely to be useful to visual learners, all types of learners can gain a valuable study technique when using mind maps. Some advantages of using mind maps are as follows:
- A mind map is unique and individualised to the learner who has created it. You are able to clearly write down what is important to you, what key points are relevant to you. You also have the ability to arrange the information in such a way that makes sense to you, and you alone. When you look over your own mind map, the key points will be clear for you to see. This is very useful in helping create the ability to recall the information you have learnt.
- A mind map is easily imprinted on your mind. As the name suggests, you are creating a map of your information that you can store in your mind. When you are in an exam, or other situation where you need to retrieve the information, you may not be able to recall the facts exactly, but the location of them on the mind map can help to jog your memory.
- Mind maps are adaptable and flexible. You can create a mind map directly from a lesson, a text book, existing notes and more. If you learn more information later on, you can easily add it into your mind map without disrupting any kind of order (as you would with traditional notes). Mind maps can be used as revision notes, an essay plan, gain a deeper understanding of a topic, or simply organize your thoughts. Once you have a good understanding about how to create a mind map, you will be using them everywhere.
- Creating a link between ideas and facts is easy with a mind map. Rather than just listing facts and figures, you will gain a much more insightful perspective on the information. This allows you to become familiar with the content rather than learning by rote (learning by memorization based on repetition).
Mind maps are an incredibly useful way to promote learning and higher order thinking. Not only are you able to establish relationships between ideas, but you will also be more likely to recall the information when the time comes. Mind maps aren’t limited to note-taking and revision – they also make great plans, whether it is for an essay or group presentation. Like any other learning method, there are some disadvantages to mind maps. They may not be all that useful for those who like to work logically and methodically, you cannot write a lot of text on a mind map, and they can be quite time-consuming and labor-intensive to create. However, if you experiment a little and find that mind maps work for you, you have opened up a whole new world of learning. Use colors, shapes and images to personalize your mind map and you will find you can recall information, relationships and ideas whenever you need to!
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