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Mind Mapping in Education, by Biggerplate Intern, Pete Tillotson

I’m Pete Tillotson; a sixteen year-old from Kent who’s taking part in work experience with Biggerplate in London. My task over the next week is to help Biggerplate understand and explore the prospect of mind mapping in schools and universities, an area in which I think the community would thrive.

I’ll be honest, mind maps were never my speciality. I used to think that they were only good for making things look unnecessarily attractive on a page and weren’t useful for much else. However, within just a day of using a piece of software I discovered how beneficial mind maps can be, not only in business environments but also in educational ones. It’s a universal skill that can apply to almost any working situation, not least in schools and universities. This is where my efforts have been and will be focussed for the week while I’m working with Biggerplate, hopefully to good effect.

There is a massive opportunity, in the form of education, for mind mapping as a community to expand into, which has yet to be fully explored. Having just finished my GCSEs, it is clear to me how much of a difference mapping would make to students and teachers alike in schools worldwide. Personal organisation, for example, becomes an increasingly large responsibility as a student progresses through the education system. However, this task can become overwhelming, as I witnessed during my exams with some friends and classmates struggling under the pressure. GCSEs are, in terms of knowledge, shallow and broad. Therefore, organisation is paramount as you try and cram for eleven or so subjects at the end of a two year course. Something as simple as mind mapping can help to collate this vast collection of knowledge and convert it into easily digestible chunks. Memory is dramatically improved too as maps can be tailored to each individual’s preferences in terms of presentation and content. If mind mapping were available to my school as a recognised system, as a student, I believe it would have made a huge difference to my confidence, and knowledge of my subjects.

At university, when the timetabling and systemising that was once performed by the school is removed, you are left to fend for yourself. Here, mind mapping has the potential to make even more of a difference to students. If the universities and revision sites were to actively advocate the use of mind maps, students would be able to make better use of their time and learn more effectively.

So, how can Biggerplate build a bridge to education?

I think teachers are the key. In the classroom, students are surprisingly receptive to the knowledge they need to pass their exams. In my experience, good teachers, whilst passing on this knowledge, use a variety of presentational techniques that keep us students alert and interested. Some use video clips, others discussion, but I find it most beneficial when a teacher uses and/or recommends a website. This is because I can access it in my own time and use the website in a way I personally find beneficial, unlike a video where it’s the same for everyone. More often than not, these websites are linked with larger revision sites that branch off into specific topics. Mind maps, whilst used in the classroom from time to time, hardly ever feature on these websites; websites that are used daily by hundreds, even thousands of students. If teachers were to recommend either these revision sights that did involve mind maps of some form, or Biggerplate’s library of mind maps directly, there would be an immediate flow of new members coming to the mind mapping community, creating and sharing ideas. If a connection could be made with the teachers and get them involved in the mind mapping community, the interest would filter down to the students who would benefit as a result.

“But why not go straight to the students and get them interested in mind mapping directly?”

From my own experience, every school has a range of abilities and motivations levels to match. A select few students would possibly give mind mapping a go if they were approached by an external body (Biggerplate, for example) because they could possibly see how it would benefit them without having tried it. Yet the large majority, of which I was a part, would be pessimistic and frankly stubborn about how mind mapping would work, seeing as they don’t use it now so why would they start using it? “I’m doing just fine on my own” sort of thing. But when a teacher, the source of all of the student’s key knowledge, tells them that this will help their grades and boost their overall learning capacity, they will listen and react. Whenever a teacher recommends a website at our school, we all use it as a resource because our teacher said it would help. The knowledge comes from the teacher, so if a teacher uses a website to teach, then that information has technically come from the teacher too. So, more students will be exposed to mind mapping if they are made aware of it by their teachers as opposed to someone else.

The prospect of mind mapping becoming a common theme in education is a real and optimistic one. The challenge now is to make it a reality.

Thanks to Pete for his hard work and for sharing his valuable insights with us! We want your opinions on the uses, benefits and potential pitfalls of mind mapping in education. Feel free to comment below or get in touch via Twitter about your own experiences.

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Barney is Community Manager at Biggerplate and shares user stories, mind mapping tips, and other news and updates from our global member community!
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