Mind Maps di Lara Fortugno

Mind maps in teaching and studying

Tony Buzanís The Mind Map Book, BBC Books, 1993 [I11] [F12] [ES11] contains a specific section about the uses of mind maps in all the phases of teaching, from the planning stages down to assessment. Right below you will find a brief description of the things you can do through a mind map inside the class or even before entering it, and a few linked examples of activities of different subjects for students of different levels.

Planning:you can plan day/term/year activities. Put relevant time divisions, topics to deal with and types of activities in your map, this will allow you to have an overview of, for instance, the frequency of certain activities as opposed to others, or even the global amount of time devoted to a topic. That means that as you plan your work you can also monitor it, spot weak points, make sure that all the variables are well balanced.

Preparing lecture notes+giving classroom lessons and presentations:this will allow you to keep the general picture in view as you speak, to make sure that all the relevant aspects of the topic are illustrated and correctly ordered; if you project the map (or simply hang it on the wall, or stick it on the blackboard, if it was drawn on paper) the audience/students as well will have an overview of the subject, at all times. You might also choose to "unveil" the map gradually, branch by branch, allowing time for prediction of secondary branches, in order to hold interest and make your listeners participate more actively. Skeleton mind maps can be distributed to complete or colour, to check understanding or predict developments. Or else, you could choose to draw the map while speaking, to provide what Buzan calls an "externalised reflection of thought", which will clarify the progression of your reasoning and the relationships between the facts you are mentioning. This way you will also be sure about balancing structural clarity and a freshness of exposition

Examinations and Tests:the example from The Mind Map Book is at University level: the School of Management of the Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia, proposed an exam task in their Organisational Behaviour course, that required students to illustrate the basic theories of motivation or leadership through a mind map including their own ideas. The marking scheme adopted awarded a maximum of 20 marks distributed as follows: 10 for Content (5 for Breadth=range of concepts covered, 5 for Depth=coverage of details), 4 for Personal Ideas, 6 for Use of Mind Mapping Strategies(2 for Colour, 2 for Symbols, 2 for Arrows). According to Buzan testing through mind maps allows a teacher to grasp a studentís strengths and weaknesses in the knowledge of a subject at a glance, as well as localise where error occurred (i.e. where the chain of association went amiss).

Brainstorming/Problem solving:whenever you need to discuss a topic in a class, pre-teaching some vocabulary about it and activate/check previous knowledge, you can brainstorm [I12] [F13] [ES12] the topic and organize ideas into a mind map. You can do so open-class, using the blackboard to draw the map, eliciting words for the branches of the central idea, calling single students over to choose and draw representative images and symbols. You can also ask the class to do that autonomously in groups or pairs. The several mind maps will then be shared: they could simply be exchanged and commented on/expanded/criticized by the other groups, or they could be presented to the class by each group, taking turns (which takes you more rapidly to a stage where all the information that was generated is socialized). Brainstorming may be the initial phase of a more accomplished problem solving [I13]. The class may be called to study a problem (which will be the central image of the map) and come up with all the possible manifestations, causes and solutions they can think of (which will branch out of the central picture). Each branch will then be detailed into sub-branches.

Studying methods for your students: (the following practical steps are derived from Lana Israel's booklet Mindmapper, coming with the video "Learning with Lana", Buzan Centres Ltd.)

Mind mapping literary texts

  • look at the chapters (novels)
  • leaf through the pages (short stories)
  • the title becomes the central picture
  • different elements become the branches (characters, setting, theme, plot, symbolism, authorís biography etc.)
  • add information to the branches as you read
Taking notes in mind-map form
  • the topic talked about becomes the central picture
  • draw a main branch whenever you think a main idea is mentioned and keep adding details to it
  • distribute the information as makes sense to YOU
  • listen for KEY WORDS (words that are essential to understand the information, both now and when you later go back to your notes)

Writing a paper

  • the topic of your paper becomes the central picture
  • ideas that come to your mind become the branches (information from the classroom, from readings, newly made up ideas, opinions, anything)
  • pick out the points you want to use and: 1.circle them; 2.number them; 3.connect them with arrows and symbols
  • go back to your books, notes, sources of information to add details to the map
  • turn key words and pictures into sentences (main picture=your paperís focus; main branches=main ideas; sub-branches= supporting details)

Special Education: Tony Buzan points out that mind mapping can allow a "far more natural, complete and accelerated self-expression" in those children that are affected by such disorders as dyslexia [I14] [F14] [ES13], or some learning complications of cerebral palsy [I15] [F15] [ES14]. Children affected by cerebral palsy may have a problem understanding spoken words, or articulating speech, according to what area of the cerebrum is damaged (they may have hearing difficulties or be unable to control throat muscles). As far as dyslexia, instead, Margaret J. Snowling (2000) says it has become widely accepted that "in cognitive terms, it is the consequence of a phonological deficit.", complicated by a lack of metacognitive awareness, which implies people affected cannot monitor their reading comprehension, adjust their reading rates, consider the objectives and so on (Chapman, J.W., & Tunmer, W.E.,1997). Read more about mind mapping and dyslexia in the following sources: Mind mapping can help dyslexics and The STAR Project

Self-analysis: among the everyday personal uses described by Tony Buzan, this one may be interesting to teachers. The teaching profession is largely based on relationships: to students in the first place, to colleagues, to headmasters, to families. This requires a good knowledge of oneself and others (strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, tastes, life directions, priorities etc.), and a clear view of some interpersonal dynamics that can help or hinder communication. To mind map a conflict or a problem relationship, you can give your map as many centres as the people involved, use arrows as "force lines" to represent the interactions, and write key words along those lines, for feelings and emotions, use colours and images to symbolize projections, contrasts, defence mechanisms etc.

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