Mindmaps, also called graphic organizers, allow students to manipulate information in a visual, graphical way. Whether students are planning an essay or working to understand a complex topic, mindmaps allow them to work with information in a more flexible and visual manner. Many web-based mindmap tools also provide the ability to collaborate on a single map from any networked computer.
There are many online platforms that allow students to create and collaborate on mindmaps. While there are slight differences in each, the basic concept is that students can create an mindmap of text, identify topics and subtopics, make links between details, and (in some cases) add images. Most mindmap platforms allow work to be printed if desired and save the map as an image for embedding. Some allow an interactive embedding feature, allowing the map to be utilized on a classroom site or wiki. Teachers should check each platform thoroughly before using it with their students, as many platforms are commercial in nature and may involve a fee. Many sites also have social networking capabilities, with tagging, contacts, online communities, and messaging. All platforms require authors to create an account with an active email to login. Teachers may choose to create a group login for collaboration, and some platforms have class subscriptions for educators with secure sites.
From the makers of Inspiration, the granddaddy of mindmapping software, Webspiration allows users to view their mindmaps in graphical or outline form, incorporate text, links, images and stock clip art (including history clip art), and edit shapes, colors, lines, and font. When sharing with others,partners can chat as they work together on a mindmap and leave comments if the collaboration is asynchronous. All changes are tracked. An online help center provides assistance if needed. Documents can be saved as Websiration documents, converted to Word, or transferred to Google docs.
A beginners mindmapping site, it allows users to insert text, change the size and colors of topics, make links between different entries, and navigate around the mindmap or “sheet”. Users can share sheets with their contacts for collaboration, and thewir work can be printed or saved as an image (.jpg or .png).
A very powerful mindmapping platform, it allows users to enter text and organize ideas into subtopics. MindMeister also allows for images and URLs to be embedded in the mindmaps. The platform allows users to import other mindmaps with an .mm extension, embed mindmaps on another site, and export or print the mindmap. When the mindmaps are shared, collaboraters can include icons or enter their information in different colors to track the sharing of ideas. The platform comes with a four minute video tutorial, online help, and a default mindmap for first time users. The platform can be integrated with social networking sites for sharing and publishing.
A free account provides pre-made, web based “Thinking Guides.” Use the categorized templates to organize ideas. All templates can be customized or an original template can be created. Projects can be shared and edited by other users.
Mindomo Maps can be public or private and password protected. Number of features include: multimedia (image, audio, youtube video), formatting & topic relationships editing & unique mindmap URL.
Inspiration is terrific software. Both teachers and students can use it creatively and efficiently to organize ideas, illustrate themes, explore relationships between all sorts of objects both imaginary and tangible - and many other things, as well. Students can learn the basics quickly, then take time to poke around in the menus and really take it out for a ride, step on the gas. The ensuing journey might be a little bit bumpy, but it will also be thrilling: who doesn't enjoy creating gorgeous graphics the help illuminate sharp ideas?
Much like the web based tools, Inspiration allows students to create visual maps, outlines, and presentations. A great tool for students to use to brainstorm, take notes, and organize information, it can be purchased for individual computers or in volume. For younger students, the same company also produces Kidspiration.
To get started, let the students create something simple such as a family tree. With this concrete example, they can begin to explore tools such as how to use Rapidfire, the uses of the shapes in the menu at the bottom of the page, the Symbol Palette, and formatting. In addition to creating tree-like structures, the software is excellent for presenting a time line.
Dozens of tutorials and help files exist for getting started with Inspiration. The list below is just the beginning.
- Internet4classrooms: Inspiration
- 50 Uses for Inspiration and Kidspiration
- Inspiration in the Classroom: Created by Teachers
- Make a Timeline with Inspiration
- SCORE Graphic Organizers
- NCREL Graphic Organizers
- Holt Interactive Graphic Organizers
Maps can be a great way for students to collaborate as they work to make connections about a particular topic. For example, students can share web links, images, and information as they prepare a project or research paper.
Rick Byrne wrote a great post on his blog (http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2008/05/free-technology-for-teachers-mind.html) about integrating MindMeister that includes a sample map. You can also find ideas for bubbl.us in the classroom at TeachEng.us.