Create mind maps for learning

Mind maps help you to prepare effective learning notes. In a two-part series we look at the concept of mind maps and how to go about preparing them.

TODAY IS a Monday. How many of you can recall what you had for breakfast last Monday, unless of course you had the same menu such as bread, butter and cornflakes or idli-sambar on all seven days of the week? This is because there is a limitation to your memory. One of the significant elements in effective learning is the process of committing what you have in short-term memory to long-term memory. As a handy memory crutch, you make use of well-prepared brief notes. A valuable style of preparing notes is the use of mind maps.Mind maps make use of key words and images. The visual nature of mind maps makes them easy to remember. The non-linear profile of mind maps enables them to easily link different elements of the map.

Brain and mind maps

Our brain functions may be divided into two - the left handles reason and logic, while the right deals with emotion and creativity. Mind maps make use of both. They take care of sequences and indicate causes. They offer visual patterns that simplify recall of verbal and non-verbal content. Since relationships are shown in a visual style, they appear before us vividly and accurately.Those who have not used mind maps are not likely to appreciate their value because of sheer inexperience. After all, the father of mind maps, Tony Buzan, renowned British psychologist, evolved the style only in the Sixties. Most of your teachers and parents may not be very familiar with their application. But you can use them to your advantage.Usually you make notes by listing things under different items. Each item may have sub-items, and some of them may have sub-sub-items or even sub-sub-sub items. This constitutes a ladder-like profile. You may run some arrows to link one sub-sub item with a distant sub-item and so on. Further, you may add some sentences here and there, not adhering to the finer aspects of grammar. This is the style followed in your notes.Let us try to know how a mind map represents a set of ideas, concepts or pieces of information. The easiest method is to learn this from an illustration. Here is a mind map representing the aspects to be considered while contemplating a `presentation.' In order to prepare for a presentation, you should apply your mind to several aspects. There has to be a lot of long-range planning and effort to sharpen your presentation skills. Developing diverse aspects of language including grammar, pronunciation and right choice of words are important. Practising the right movements and expressions is also vital. Then there is the phase of short-term preparation on a specific topic that you have to present. You may have to browse through diverse sources such as book and journals and the Internet and consult experts for garnering relevant information. You may end up with too much of information. Here, the question of prioritising comes. This should be done wisely. No presentation would be enjoyable to the listeners unless you add some spice in the form of quotes or anecdotes or sparks of fine humour. This also should be identified and blended judiciously to the main body. The sequence in which all these are to be presented, an appropriate introduction and conclusion are other points you should plan. You have to put the prepared material in an interesting, presentable form using Microsoft PowerPoint or other software. The diagram indicates the important steps in the preparation of a presentation.

Graphic technique

Now let us go into some more of details. A mind map is a graphic technique for representing ideas, using words, images, symbols and colour. It reflects better the pattern of thinking in the human mind. You need not be a gifted artist to draw mind maps. Anyone with a logical mind can easily draw them, and use them with ease. Also, they enhance the quality of thinking and gives better insight of the subjects of your study.Mind mapping, sometimes termed concept mapping, involves writing down a central idea and thinking up new and related ideas that radiate outwards from the centre. It is a tool that encourages creative thinking and generates creative solutions to problems.You do away with the concept of sentences and paragraphs. You look at keywords and symbols. You start with a blank non-lined paper and a pencil with an attached eraser. Better keep the paper in the landscape orientation (width longer than height). Write the most important word or short phrase at the centre of the paper and circle it. You may alternately mark a symbol at the centre, if you feel that it serves better.

Relocate words

Post other important concepts around the circle. Edit the phrases, if an,to make them shorter, or think of substituting words with symbols or forms. You may have to do a lot of erasing. If necessary, relocate the words or symbols, taking into account their logical relationships. In each of the concepts marked, there would be subdivisions. Go on marking them, and repositioning them as required. In other words, you would be gradually working outwards from the central circle. As you work outwards, you should label the lines appropriately. A complete map will have lines radiating in all directions from the main topic at the centre. Sub-items will branch off, like branches and twigs from the trunk of a tree. You may have to modify your markings as a part of editing the diagram. As you expand the map, you go into the details and reach sharper specifics. You can use colours to add to the effectiveness of the mental picture. This map comes out as your learning document. B.S. WARRIER

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