Using mind maps to enhance social media

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Mind maps are great... Honest, they are...
You may not be their biggest fan, but you must recognise that all evidence based practice tells us that mind maps, graphic organisers and brainstorming activities offer unique insights in to how our brains work.
In this section we will be considering the benefits of using mind maps to plan, manage and create collaborative social media driven work. There will be a little bit of science involved, but this is not to lecture you of the merits using mind maps, rather to reinforce how useful they are in this form of teaching and learning.


This section is not designed to extol the virtues of using mind maps as an approach to idea formation, idea creation or notetaking, but rather to discuss how mind maps can be used in the planning, production and developing of collaborative pieces of work for both you and your students. Having said this, I think it is relevant to discuss the science behind why mind maps work so well.

It is also relevant to consider how the brain works in terms of learning and retaining information, in order that you may decide how this approach will best fit the aims of your social media project or usage.

Here comes the science bit...

A mind map has a number of advantages over the linear form of note taking and idea formation... for example:

a list oflists

1. The centre or main idea is more clearly defined.
2. The relative importance of each idea is clearly indicated. More important ideas will be nearer the centre and less important ideas will be near the edge.
3. The links between the key concepts will be immediately recognisable because of their proximity and connection.
4. As a result of the above, recall and review will be both more effective and more rapid.
5. The nature of the structure allows for the easy addition of new information without messy scratching out or squeezing in, etc.
6. Each map made will look and be different from each other map. This will aid recall.
(Buzan, 1984, pp.91-92).

When Buzan originally wrote his book in 1974, he spoke of advances in technology and how these could illustrate the way that we understood the brain, and specifically the registry of images in the brain. Unfortunately this was 1974 and technology was not quite as it is today. Buzan referred to the introduction of the hologram as a way of understanding our own perception and mental imaging.

Although written 40 years ago, the point that he makes is still true. The brain is able to absorb far more information when presented in a mind map of any kind as compared to viewing ideas through the use of a list.

Buzan highlighted the problems often noted when using an ordered list. These are:
the problem with ordered lists

· order
· logical sequence
· beginning
· ending
· organization
· time
· distribution
· emphasis of ideas
· mental blocking
or rather-->

The image above, showing a list of lists, demonstrates a small range of ideas that are often formed within an ordered list, however all of them may be altered and made more appealing and useful by forming them in to a mind map. For example, the shopping list might be categorised in to areas of a shop so that you can remember all of the items you wanted to buy from the frozen foods isle, the pros and cons of a project, application or activity could be weighted so that the important points are made more clearly instead of becoming blurred with minor issues.

But why is this useful in social media?

Social media is a constantly changing paradigm, with new applications, websites and uses popping up at a steady and constant rate. The mind map below demonstrates just some of the applications available for use, many of which are suitable for use within the classroom environment.

social mediaby category

Social media offers an enormous range of opportunities to share, collaborate, create and discover information without losing sight of our educational goals.
Mind maps can be useful in many aspects of this process.
Firstly, in the planning stage:
As you begin to plan the creation of a collaborative project it is important to have in mind the kind of media that will be used to present or produce the finished article.
This is even more relevant when using social media, and even more reason to use a form of mind mapping when planning the process. In the creation of most projects ideas will develop, outcomes will change and the finished look of the project will alter. This occurs on a scale beyond all else when you decide to use social media within the project.
Social networks by their very nature are a fluid and constantly changing media. At the beginning of your project, idea or concept stage, you may believe that the most appropriate media to use is Twitter or Facebook. Even within the lifespan of a small project it may become apparent that these are not the most appropriate media to use, or even not the only media to use. At this stage however, it is often the case that you have started to build the project and therefore find it difficult to shift focus to a different network or time consuming to add another media to the project.
This would not however be such an issue had you planned the outline of the project within the confines of a mind map (or brainstorm, or graphic organiser, etc). Why is this? This is because, from the outset, the mind map would have urged you to consider other approaches to completing your project. It would have allowed you to think 'larger' covering more ideas (even smaller less significant ideas that would otherwise have disappeared in to the ether).
Fail to plan, plan to... Well, I am sure you know the rest of that saying.
Secondly, in the creation stage
Once your project has been planned there is no reason to leave mind maps alone. Again, as explained above, mind maps give us a far closer realisation of how our brains work and therefore this approach could be something that learners will find useful in creating their work, demonstrating their skills and presenting their finished project.
The section below offers some ideas of how this might work in different contexts.

The uses of 'infographics'

Information graphics or 'infographics' are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends.
London UndergroundTube Map designed by Harry Beck in 1931

Perhaps the most famous infographic of them all (created long before this trend began) is the map of the London Underground created by Harry Beck in 1931 and copied around the world for similar transport systems.

This is essentially an enormous mind map, offering perhaps the most comprehensive information for navigating around one of the largest cities in the world.

The video above was created in Educreations, which at this point does not support embedding within a MediaWiki site, however, you are able to embed any creation from the app in to other formats such as WordPress or Moodle.


Using Prezi as a collaborative mind map

example of a Prezi presentation

Prezi allows you to create a 'zooming' presentation that links information in an interesting and visually stunning way. You can create presentations that move from monologues to dialogues. Prezi has moved the traditional linear presentation of applications such as PowerPoint in to a more collaborative and dynamic field. In all license types there is an option to not only share your Prezi to be viewed by other people, but also to edit your Prezi together.

Prezi Collaborate is an online collaboration feature that allows up to ten people (co-located or geographically separated) to co-edit and show their presentations in real time. Users participate in a prezi simultaneously, and each is visually represented in the presentation window by a small avatar. Although Prezi Meetings can be done simultaneously that is not the only option. Participants can be invited to edit the Prezi presentation at a later time if they wish. A link will be sent and the participant has up to ten days to edit the presentation. Prezi Meeting is included in all license types. (Source: Wikipedia)

A series of shared Prezi's

The screen capture to the right demonstrates how this can be used as a collaborative tool for developing presentations amongst learners. The link below shows a Prezi that was created for an IT class discussing online safety. The learners were given individual topics to research and the end result was an amalgamation of ideas created in the style of a mind map, linking relevant topic areas.
Online Safety Prezi

Online Safety


Activity One: a piece of paper and a pen

Don't be afraid to use paper and a pen
Just because we live in a technological world with access to computers, tablets and smart phones, don't forget - paper still works...
Before touching technology, map your ideas out on paper.

Activity Two: Prezi

Create a Prezi on any given topic from your specialist area, but leave the details out... Then allow learners access to edit this and add content/ideas to your work.

Activity Three: Educreations

Ask learners to map out their projects using Educreations. With this they are able to present a dynamic example of a projects' structure, a critical path or GANTT chart style presentation that may be referred back to at a later date.


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