Posted by: pkab | 30 May 2008

Get Inside Their Heads with Mind Mapping

By: By Anna Adam and Helen Mowers
School Library Journal, 9/1/2007

Whenever you’re working out an idea, it always helps to picture it. Whether they’re called mind or concept maps or idea bursts, these visual tools are invaluable when it comes to planning a piece of writing or other project. Graphic representations of ideas and how they connect to each other can help students through that brainstorming process, helping them organize their thoughts in a visual, nonlinear way before taking pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

Inspiration and Kidspiration are two popular graphic organizers for K–12 students. Both are powerful, multi-platform tools that offer large libraries of symbols and curricular templates. An open-source (read “free”) alternative is FreeMind. Compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux, FreeMind lends itself to use by upper middle- and high school students.

A number of Web-based applications provide the same kinds of nonlinear, graphical planning, but with the added benefit of portability and the potential for collaboration. With these tools, teachers and students alike can connect to their work anywhere, anytime, on campus or at home, via a compatible web browser. And collaboration? Multiple users can access and edit a mind map at the same time. Most applications provide tools for real-time communication and log the changes made by each user. Thus, students working in groups can share their ideas without having to wait for their “turn.” Because one document is shared via the Web, users no longer have to worry about which version is the most current.

One of our favorite online tools is MindMeister. The site has a free service that allows the creation of up to six mind maps, which can be collaboratively shared. A premium version is very reasonable—less than $5 per month—and allows for an unlimited number of maps. The application is simple to use, providing a number of keyboard shortcuts as well as drag-and-drop capability. MindMeister, like other Web-based services, also provides a publishing option.

Publishing a file provides a global audience for your students and is a great way to share and discover new ideas. While a published mind map becomes open to searches and requires no password to view, editing still requires a user ID and sharing privileges on the document.

Mindomo, another web-based mind mapping service, offers both free and reasonably-priced premium subscriptions and includes tips for using the software with students. It functions similar to MindMeister with keyboard shortcuts and drag-and-drop functionality. Mindomo allows users to upload images to a mind map, either directly or via a URL. Some features in Mindomo, however, are not quite as intuitive as MindMeister. For example, sharing with Mindomo requires that the user know the username of the person they are sharing with, while MindMeister uses email addresses to invite non-registered users.

While all web-based applications allow you to change fonts, styles, colors, and the format of your mind map, their options are considerably more limited compared to software geared specifically toward K–12 students such as Inspiration. There are also no educational templates (such as Venn diagrams or cause-and-effect templates) available online. But web tools do provide a viable alternative for schools with limited funds, as well as the invaluable features of portability and collaboration. Check out these powerful tools and start connecting those thoughts.

Author Information
Both educators with Killeen Independent School District in central Texas, Anna Adam and Helen Mowers are the creators of the podcast series Tech Chick Tips.

Source: School Library Journal



  1. Picturing an idea in mnemonics always helps keeping it in mind, but you also need to revisit it constantly, preferably from different points in the context or even from different contexts, to make it grow and find its place in your thinking. I have always been a bad student at school and college. So when I finished that, I decided to develop what I had been searching for all along, as a life long learning program!

  2. Dear Ron,

    Have you read this article “Using concept maps to develop lifelong learning skills: A case study” at
    Life long learning in Bahasa is Pembelajaran (learning) Seumur (long) Hidup (life).

    Perhaps you can share your development in life long learning program, thanks.

  3. Dear Pkab,

    Forgive me when I was wrong, but I assumed that lifelong learning could also be applied to an individual’s life-long learning. In this case, my own. I have always had problems with learning, until I developed my own methods out of the blue. It started when I thought the new method could get me better grades. Well, if they did, it was hardly noticeable. Later on, I experienced something unexpected [1] which meant my ability to absorb all the knowledge I had so long wanted to absorb but was never able to, had now grown into an effective format. I capitalized on it and now it is an application and a ‘philosophy’ of mine [2].


  4. Dear Ron,

    Nice theory. I would like to have your permission to publish it at PKAB. It resembles multimap mind map and the long term memory (right brain capability) to record all information. Mind Map or Concept Map help our brain to structure the knowledge.

    Talking about spiral and contructivism, please read
    (in English)
    (in Bahasa)

    Thanks for sharing the knowledge.


  5. Dear Sur, I see it is already on there, but you do have my permission. I will read and comment the articles you referred to.


  6. Sur,

    I could read the page in English but not the one in Bahasa since I am not Indonesian and Google cannot translate it automatically yet!

    I fully agree with the first, since I believe Piaget was ground breaking with his theories on accommodation and assimilation.


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