Thursday, July 17, 2014

Brainstorming with Mind Maps

Dean Timby of the Business Department at Bucks County Community College asked me to appear at their department's summer retreat to show the faculty the technique of Mind Mapping. The goal was two-fold: to learn about a new tool to brainstorm ideas for the department's future, and to make the point that Mind Maps would be a fun and effective tool to use with their students. This was a different kind of Mind Map presentation for me as the emphasis was really to get the 27 faculty members to brainstorm ideas for their department, and Mind Maps were just a means to an end.

Members of the BCCC Business Dept. take a break from their hard work to pose for a photo.
(Photo by Linda McCann)
I started with an abbreviated version of my typical Mind Mapping with Margaret presentation, emphasizing that Mind Maps are a great way to organize information instead of using lists and outlines. I showed some samples of Mind Maps I've actually used for reading, writing, and speaking. (Yes, I was using a Mind Map for this very presentation.) One of the participants beat me to this point: many K-12 students already use Mind Maps or similar techniques. When they get to college, many already know how to put their ideas down in a mind map or other configuration, and the rest catch on quickly. Why not let them know this is a perfectly acceptable and effective way to start a project? It's the perfect tool for visual learners because they can draw pictures and use colors to "own" the information and make their Mind Map reflect their own thinking. Here's a screencast ( of the introductory Prezi I used:

In many of the workshops I've facilitated, participants have a hard time going from a blank sheet of paper to a simple first Mind Map. I thought I'd circumvent that here by supplying this group with the beginning of a Mind Map (including branches for the five areas their dean wanted them to brainstorm) that they could add their ideas to. I made sure they knew that I wouldn't be insulted if they flipped the paper over and made a list of outline if they just weren't feeling the Mind Map thing, but most went ahead and completed the Mind Map. Here's what I gave them to start:

Participants used these Mind Maps as they worked in small groups. At this point, they had launched into lively discussions about their department, and it was no easy task to bring them back so that we could create some electronic Spiderscribed Mind Maps that they can continue to use for departmental planning. At this point I was just listening and typing. Here's a piece of one of those (I don't want to give away all their secrets):

Whether they use Mind Maps in the future or not, we enjoyed a successful brainstorming session today! I like to think that Mind Maps and thinking about how we think and learn sparked some of the exciting ideas they came up with!


  1. MagicalPad is a productivity app that allows users to take Visual Notes. It is an ALL IN ONE- Mind Mapping app, Outliner app, Visual Notes app and Visual Task Manager app. It allows users to Visually manage notes, ideas, mind maps, outlines, checklist and tasks for school, personal and business needs. We want to promote the mac app first, the iPad second (70% mac 30% iPad) just because of the price we charge, we get higher ROI on mac. But depending on the forum and keyword we link to the iPad app.

  2. In order to understand our selves, we must first understand Mind Mapping. In depth analysis of Mind Mapping can be an enriching experience. While it has been acknowledged that it has an important part to play in the development of man, there are just not enough blues songs written about Mind Mapping. Inevitably Mind Mapping is often misunderstood by those most reliant on technology, obviously. Complex though it is I shall now attempt to provide an exaustive report on Mind Mapping and its numerous 'industries'.