Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Don't Worry, Hand-Drawn Mind Maps, I'll Defend You

Something happened this week that made me think of the hand-drawn mind maps that I use in an educational presentation propelled by some snazzy technology. My presentation has been well-received, and I have a few engagements coming up in the near future. The content was there first: mind maps, other visual organization tools, and how they can help a person get to higher thinking and deeper learning. The snazzy technology (especially Prezi, a visual organizer itself) was carefully selected afterwards in order to highlight the content. My concern is that this is not always the case, and too often the content serves the technology rather than the other way around. The zeitgeist of education is changing and there's less pedagogy, less intellectual curiosity, and an emphasis on technology.

I use technology in all of my presentations, or I would run the risk of appearing extremely dry. I've endured the paper-presenting-conference scene and hope to never have to do that again. (For the uninitiated, this is where you write a scholarly paper, submit it to a conference, and if selected, show up at the appointed time and literally read the paper to a captive audience.) Today's more engaging technology-laced presentations are a better use of time, as long as the technology serves the content. Prezi, the popular presentation software with which I have replaced PowerPoint, looks cool with its zooming and spinning, but it also serves as an organizing device. Animated Xtranormal videos and Glogster posters get the "listener's" attention to be sure, but the content has to be ready to take over.

My content is mind maps, content maps, knowledge maps and other examples of visual organizations and explanations of information. Most of these are my own, and most of these are hand-drawn. One of the points I make in my presentation is that these tools are extremely helpful for visual and kinesthetic learners. I believe I am a combination of these and that the very act of drawing these maps and assigning colors helps me remember, organize, and make connections.

My goal is to help my listeners and readers find ways to organize, remember, and schedule and attain higher-level thinking and deeper learning with these tools The hand-drawn techniques will work better for some. The problem is that I perceive, especially through the "perfect storm" of events this week, that there is an aversion to non-electronic learning objects and ideas. The pendulum of teaching has swung to the extreme, a focus on technology rather than learning. I'm hoping that pendulum will come to rest in the center where the focus will be on using these snazzy technologies to create more effective teaching and learning.

Here's a piece of visual technology with a pendulum in it because this post has no other pictures.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Article with No Mention of Mind Maps Specifically in the Title

Notification just arrived that my short how-to article on using visual organization tools has been published on this British website. I've expanded the techniques described, and because of this I thought the mention of mind maps in the title would be misleading. Sometimes concept maps, knowledge maps, and other tools fit the content better. Mind maps are still my favorite, and I use them more often than the others. What do you think? What's your favorite technique?