Saturday, September 29, 2012

Where can we find CONFIDENCE?

Confidence: the word has been popping up frequently in my work. I find confidence comes from preparation, learning the vocabulary of a thing plus analyzing its parts and how they relate to each other and other things. While analyzing the curriculum requirements of a small college recently, I convinced the other members of the task force (committee) that one of the tools students need to emerge with is confidence. Students need to be confident communicators, and confident in their acquired knowledge, whether they go on for more education, enter or move up in the workforce, or live as educated people.

Learning the vocabulary of a thing is straightforward. I have always used flashcards to learn definitions. My mom spent countless hours with me drilling vocabulary words. We'd put the learned word cards aside and focus on the difficult terms. This method worked: I was a confident student. I still use flashcards now, for foreign languages, new words, and subject matter for work and intellectual curiosity. I still use index cards in many colors, but I am currently exploring the possibilities of electronic flashcards. Take a look at Quizlet and the mobile app Flashcards+. I'm creating decks on each of those for the Medieval Literature course I'm taking and the Opera Appreciation course I will be teaching.

Learning about the parts of a thing (analysis) and then fusing them together (synthesis) to understand the whole is a bit more complex. Mind maps are my favorite tool for this, but I understand they don't work for everyone. I can separate the parts of a book, for example, study them, and then put them back together to get a deeper sense of the story or the author's argument. I mind map things constantly to better understand them: books, courses, and data of any kind.

In order to make sense of the mountain of reading and video sources for that task force (committee)from the first paragraph examining curriculum, I mind-mapped each item, but I also made a separate mind map of the concepts that seemed important. 'Confidence' was one, but many writers and speakers discussed 'balance,' 'innovation,' 'informal learning,' 'creativity,' and others. I included notes on which authors discussed which terms and found overlap. That little mind map in purple ink on a half-sheet of paper is very handy for discussions with the task force (committee). That little mind map gives me confidence. Here is an electronic version with links to videos and articles that I made with SpiderScribe, my current favorite electronic mind mapping tool. You can move around in this smaller version or click in the upper right to see the larger view.

Mind maps work for me, but I understand they don't work for everyone. There are skeptics in every "Mind Mapping with Margaret" audience. I don't try to convince them that mind maps are better than outlines or whatever linear organization method they might use. Instead, I ask them to simply remember the image of a main idea in the center with radiating subtopics and sub-subtopics. And so, it happened again yesterday: my colleague is faced with chairing a new action team (committee) with a multifaceted charge: "What's the best current, free, electronic mind mapping tool?" "SpiderScribe," I said. His mind mapping epiphany had begun. Off he went to analyze that charge and all its parts, and he created a lemon-lime-colored SpiderScribe mind map that will boost his confidence as chair of that action team (committee).