Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"My Life In Graphs: A Guided Journal"

"My Life In Graphs: A Guided Journal" (created by Knock Knock and distributed by Who's There, Inc.!) is the title of a book I received for my recent birthday. The reader is prompted to reflect on her personality, goals, friends, and many other aspects of life and then represent these thoughts in various graphs. It's the perfect gift for me, really, (Thanks, Sue) since I delight in visual organization tools so much. There are no mind maps in the book so far, but bar graphs, venn diagrams, flow charts, and pie charts.

I have only completed three charts--I'm tackling one per day--and some require more reflection than others. Yesterday's pie chart asked me to estimate how much time I spend on each task in my morning routine. It is no surprise that my commute takes up almost half of my time. It was illuminating to look at this budgeted time represented in colorful pieces of pie. I had to think mathematically, too, to fit my ninety minutes of morning preparation into a pre-drawn circle marked in equal divisions of ten. Also, those ninety minutes have to add up to 100 percent. Tricky.

Today's bar graph had me think of four childhood dreams and then plot on the graph how close I have come to attaining them, if at all. This was an interesting exercise, because my natural inclination was to list current bucket-list-type goals. That's not the task, though; I had to come up with childhood dreams. Also, taking stock of what I've accomplished as an adult and then listing them as childhood dreams would create a colorful chart but would not be realistic.

As the cover says, the book is 76% reflection and 24% naval gazing. So far I find that to be accurate, but I have also found it to be 60% fun and 40% thought-provoking, and 100% perfect for us mind map types.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cool New Tool: spiderscribe

I presented my new and improved mind mapping (etc.) presentation four times this academic year, and I always get the same question: "What about software?" I've blogged before in this space about my preference for making hand-drawn mind maps because I feel that I get more out of that process. For me, the drawing (and coloring) of a mind map helps me get to the synthesis, the deeper learning, and the flow of a concept easier.

That said, I do understand that mind maps can be used for other purposes: presentations, memory aids, organizing notes, and pulling together assorted media. Until very recently, I didn't have a favorite electronic way to organize this stuff. It seemed that since I started paying attention, mind mapping software has disappeared from cyberspace, has gone from free to not-free, and is just plain clunky. Tony Buzan's iMindMap is super, but you have to pay for it. I'm just not comfortable recommending an expensive tool like that (however snazzy and useful) to educators who will be using it with students.

Today in my inbox was an email from a friend with just a simple link in it: http://www.spiderscribe.net. This might be the one. I watched the short introductory video and then toyed around with it. It's simple to use, and can bring together photos, text, Word docs, and even maps easily. It would work an effective presentation tool, but without the established path function that Prezi has. There aren't many color, shape and clip-art choices, but the spiderscribe is designed to be visually apealling without those bells and whistles. There's not an embed option, so I can't plunk my sample into this blog. However, here is the mind map I created this morning to test out spiderscribe: Cape May Lighthouse. Maps can be public, private, or findable only if a viewer has the link.

I like it. I like how it reminds me of Evernote for organizing data and images but Prezi at other times when considering presentation. Try it!!