I don’t consider myself an expert on mindmaps or concept maps in any way but I have used them in the classroom with my 16 year olds. I have the luxury of working in a computer room and was therefore able to model the process to the students. The content for A Level ICT is quite dry and students are asked to prepare notes from text books on a certain chapter we would be exploring the following week.
mindmeister was on a tweet (http://twitter.com/daibarnes) and I decided to use it as an alternative to note-taking. After a couple of students lost the maps they had started through some network blip, I shared mine with them so as to keep them engaged. Then I sat back and watched my screen as the map started to build with the students determining their own area of the map to work on. I asked them all to share their maps with each other and then complete overnight. The next lesson the students came in singing mindmeister’s praises and flaws. From around the school site they had been collaborating on their homework via mindmeister and hit some obstacles when too many of them had tried to edit the same node, and the node had deleted. There was a buzz going on surrounding the conversion of textbook material into their material.
This is the original screencast that shows students building the mindmaps over a 14 minute period.
On Mindmeister you can rewind the mindmap to see how contributions were made. You can analyse exactly who did what. You can make contributions of your own.
I was aware, however, that the learning wasn’t improved. So, looking a little deeper into this web app, I discovered the facility to add URLs and icons to each node. This prompted me to develop the mapping one stage further, and, once the bare bones of the material had been mapped (this ensured students had read a section of the material in depth and typed it out), set another activity to develop the mindmap by sourcing, on the web, relevant examples and images for the nodes. I would have to co-ordinate this so students would develop the map for a different section to the one they had originally built. This caused them to become more intimate with the material. It meant another type of visual memory would be engaged hopefully improving the capacity to recall the material in an exam answer.
The students are not 100% happy with mindmeister but they tried mind42 and bubbl.us as well. Neither of these services had the muscle of mindmeister to support collaboration. They didn’t work on our network when individuals found they were logged in as another classmate after using it for a few minutes. The other didn’t offer collaborative editing features. However, there are many mindmapping tools out there and it is possible they might have more functionality than mindmeister.
The important things to learn here were the introduction of real collaboration into the classroom. It engages and motivates the students. It presents a different platform for them to develop their material and thinking. It’s easy to assess work has been done, who made what and when. Mostly I am impresssed by the dynamic nature of the work and how it enables me to shift the culture of working in and out of the classroom.