Mapping Strategies for Thinking Through and Accomplishing Tasks
“Mind Mapping”-sounds like something out of Star Trek, doesn’t it? It’s actually a twenty-first century tool that helps visual learners grasp and retain a quantity of information that is all interrelated. Remember when you used to diagram sentences on the blackboard? The subject and verb were both written at the top of the board and then lines were drawn beneath them to show the relationship between adjectives, adverbs, and the main parts of speech. By the time you were finished, you had a visual map that helped you conceptualized how each word in the sentence was related to the rest of the sentence.
Mind Mapping carries the same idea, but it’s much easier to do than diagramming a sentence. It is a way of organizing pieces of information that are interconnected and at the same time showing how each sub-idea fits into the big idea. Mapping is a way to help visual learners conceptualize and remember the relationship between a central theme and its corollaries. Unlike a sentence diagram that uses only words, mind mapping involves the use of numerals, letters, colors, shapes, and words.
Suppose that you have a half-an-hour appointment with a nutritionist to get some tips on how to eat healthier. You hear a lot of information about “food groups” and are provided examples of the kinds of things that you can eat in each group. You even receive a hand-out that talks about the importance of eating healthy. But when you get home and start looking in your pantry shelves, you cannot recall whether legumes are high in protein or rich in vitamin K. And how many servings did the nutritionist recommend of leafy vegetables? You have numerous bits of information and some disjointed facts, but are at a loss as to how to use what you do know, let alone fill in your memory gaps.
Using the idea of a mind map, you can begin to draw a visual recreation of all the key ideas you want to remember using words and symbols. You might start in the middle of the piece of paper, with one central idea-eating healthy. Then you could create a pictorial representation of each of the food groups and show them as “spokes” all around your main theme. Foods that share the same nutritional value might be vividly illustrated and clustered around their corresponding spokes showing their relationship to each of the food groups. Your goal would be that, once finished, you would have a visual rendering of all the nutritional information, as well a depiction of how you should incorporate what you have learned into your daily eating habits.
Mind Mapping carries the same idea as a familiar tool used in the business world called “flow charting.” In mind mapping, however, the focus is less on “process” and more on “conceptualizing.” You are free to create a map that takes you where you want to go using your own thoughts and ideas. If you are truly a visual learner, when the mapping is complete, you will have significantly improved your recall of the information you have learned.
One of the theories behind the effectiveness of Mind Mapping is that the exercise allows you to use both left and right brain processes. If this is true, then numerous regions of the brain are being stimulated. Studies are suggesting that stimulating multiple neuro-pathways may help keep the brain healthier. Who doesn’t want a younger brain?
Whether you are diagramming a few basic ideas or strategically mapping something more intricate like a thesis statement, Mind Mapping is an excellent way to brainstorm with pictorial representations. If the payoffs include better memory retention and a clearer understanding of the big picture, this is certainly a learning technique that is worth investigating. What’s that old cliche? “A picture is worth a thousand words?” As a visual learner myself, I couldn’t agree more!