A mind map is defined as “a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central keyword or idea.” A mind map is hierarchical and shows relationships among pieces of the whole.
Educators and students have been drawing concept maps and mind maps on paper for years. Visual software applications, in particular mind mapping tools, have automated this process, making it more efficient to brainstorm concepts as ideas or branches. This allows for the creation of much larger mind maps, and the ability to easily re-organized branches by dragging and dropping them around the map.
A study conducted by The National Reading Panel (NRP) in 2000 (Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and its Implications for Reading Instruction) showed that the use of visual organization tools was one of the 7 most effective ways to improve students retention. Also, The Institute for the Advancement of Research in Education (IARE) at AEL conducted a research study in 2003 entitled Graphic Organizers: ‘A Review of Scientifically Based Research’. The study concluded that Graphic organizers:
- Improve reading comprehension
- Benefit students achievement levels
- Enhance thinking and learning skills
- Increase retention
- Support cognitive learning theory.
Mind maps are ideal teaching aids as it leads the student from the known to the unknown. The teacher begins at the main concept or idea and gradually connects it to details revolving around the idea. The learning process in this process is gradual and organised. The beauty of this technique is that the pace is dictated by the students and not the teacher. This is a huge advantage as even slow learners can benefit from this style. Too much information can often be distracting or overwhelming to students. By focusing on a single branch at a time, students can explore a particular idea without letting other ideas get in the way.