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Mind Maps in Action: Teaching News Reporting

In this instalment of 'Mind Maps in Action', we talk to David Wallace about his experiences of using mind mapping in an educational context, as a teacher of news reporting!

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

After nearly 20 years as a technology and business news reporter, I waded into the world of teaching news reporting. I’ve been an adjunct professor at Emerson College, a regional 4-year school in Boston specializing in media/communication and Boston University.

Most of my news career was spent as a freelancer -- for Reuters, The New York Times, various trade magazines and websites -- so I was exposed early to things like remote work as a free agent, Bluetooth and WiFi, knowledge management, analytics and bring-your-own device issues.

I’ve lived in Philadelphia, South Florida and New York before settling in Boston a dozen years ago and traveled extensively for work and play. Some of the more interesting spots were political, Jamaica and Honduras (pre-Internet); Cuba in the early 1990s just as Web access/email was spreading and trade shows in Germany and Taiwan.

Where did you first come across mind mapping?

Since 2005 I’ve had a marketing/communications consulting practice for emerging technology companies called Gamechange LLC. We’ve worked for IT companies like SAP and for start-ups ranging from sustainable energy to travel. While working for innovation training companies, including Doblin and Imaginatik and their clients, I experienced mind-mapping and wall-drawing during meetings to capture information, actually show the thought-process trail so people could follow the path of a presentation -- or conversation -- in an explicit way and use that item later as a reference tool.

Can you describe your experience of introducing mind mapping to your students?

News reporting and writing is all about making efficient decisions and finding the best information in the least amount of time. Then you have to assemble the pieces into a clear script, article or memo. Over time, the practices can become routine but showing the students a step-through process that says “We know Fact A and need a comment, who are three people you should contact” That makes a list and you can show the next action steps.

You can use mapping to show the process of researching -- identifying sources, ranking best options at the top then going through all the choices to least-likely to be helpful. Keep notes of emails, calls and times or results. And you can save that ‘thought process’ and see where decisions may have been right or wrong. I use a white-board to diagram it for a classroom of 12-15 students, but they can use mind-mapping to set out a series of actions for themselves.

How would you encourage other educators to utilise mapping in their teaching?

Especially in the arts, the law or medical training where students do independent work and need to explain their actions to others -- or detail their influences or thoughts. Giving the students a tool they can customize and find new ways of using is another way of “teaching students to learn from each other.” Chances are good that each student finds a unique approach.

The maps can store or compare visual, not just text information. Search for images has improved but mapping can be used to detail what features of an image or style refer to others as inspiration, composition etc.

What do you think is the greatest barrier to wider adoption of mapping in education and in general?

I can’t speak to “education in general” but mapping is both a very personal and a fairly social/collaborative tools for working. A lot of US students work alone and don’t ask for help because they don’t want to ask questions in front of peers or fear the impact on their grades.

Mapping isn’t part of the usual software that people are exposed to in earlier education. Perhaps, if they see it as a study aid or in-class note-taking method they’d be inclined to use it more widely or apply it in different circumstances.

What's the most unusual and/or innovative use of a map that you've come across?

Sorry, I got nothing to add. I’m mightily impressed by even basic applications of mapping!

Thanks to David for sharing his story with us! You can follow David on Twitter by clicking here. Why not get in touch with your own mind maps in action story? Leave a comment below or get in touch on Twitter to share your experiences with us.

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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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