In the present economic climate, people’s induced thirst for innovation and knowledge has increased the practice of information mapping, to encourage them to think and learn new skills as they adapt to new roles.
The concept of mapping information isn’t new, and is thought to date back to the third century, when noted thinker, Porphyry of Tyros, visually captured the thoughts of Aristotle. Since then, visual information maps have been used throughout the ages by students, individuals and businesses to brainstorm, plan, project manage, set goals and improve productivity.
“Information maps (or mind maps) look a bit like the spider diagrams everyone drew at school, but despite their simplistic nature they are a very powerful tool to help to unlock our brain’s potential,” explains Mindjet regional VP for Northern Europe, Middle East and Africa, Chris Harman.
“Taking notes and presenting information to students in traditional linear form – by scribbling down line after line – broken up only by the occasional numbered list, underlined heading or bullet points, is an inefficient way to learn because our thinking minds don’t work in neat columns like this.
“The fact is, diligently jotting down pages of notes in linear text constrains our creativity and allows our brains to become bored and disengaged, making retention of information more difficult. You can probably remember many lectures or meetings attended yet you can’t remember even one sentence of those events because you effectively switched off as you scribbled down indecipherable and unimaginative notes.”
According to Harman, brains process information much more organically and dynamically using patterns and associations to create thought pathways, which ignite new or connecting ideas that learners can then visualise and remember.
Capturing lesson ideas through visualisation, in the form of an information map, thus stimulates both the right and the left sides of the brain so that people are much more engaged and interactive, he explains.
Furthermore, numerous studies have proven that displaying information in this way improves the ability of memory recall as it relies on key trigger words, which means that students have more time to absorb the information given by the teacher, rather than having to hurriedly write down full sentences.
“There are very few rules to visualising information as the whole concept is based on creativity and freedom. There are, therefore, no wrongs or rights.
“When using a concept such as mapping to visualise information you generally start with a central idea and draw up to about six branches with connecting ideas, usually depicted with just one word or picture. From here you form sub-branches, which again contain connecting ideas and so on. Using colour and drawing simple pictures are also encouraged as it helps to engage both left and right brain activities.”
Information maps can be hand drawn or created on the computer. There are now many software programs that allow businesses and individuals to capture data, create training schedules or track projects.
Computer versions are, in principle, exactly the same as drawn ones, yet they can include many more features, such as being able to insert hyperlinks and images to be able to include graphs and work collaboratively and remotely with mind mappers in real time.
The programs are ideal tools to take notes for lectures or business meetings, brainstorming for coming up with new ideas, project planning, goal setting, writing preparation and organisation, productivity and story-telling.
In the e-learning arena, visualisation software tools come into their own and are proving to be invaluable for both trainers and students. Both parties are able to lay out complex subjects quickly on one page through information maps and add semantic depth to concepts with images and colour, plus videos, photographs, graphs links to documents and even to other mind maps.
Detailed information or teaching can also be included underneath the branches using hyperlinks to documents or Web pages. This enables students to drill down as far as they need. Also because the main concept headings are kept to just one page it allows people to easily make connections between points or come up with creative ideas of their own.
This gives students a richer and more interactive learning experience than other study aids such as PowerPoint or text. Collaborative online visualisation tools also allow students and teachers to work on a map together in realtime. This can be invaluable for project works, keeping up to date project plans or simply virtual brainstorming.
For students, visualisation software is very useful for essay and project planning and revision. Having the information laid out in visual map form makes it easier for students to both retain information and revise as it makes it easier for them to identify and pull out the central themes and concepts and visualise them in their heads. This is particularly constructive in long distance learning when a teacher or trainer isn’t present.
“In a world where innovation and advancement are travelling at a breakneck pace with the help of technology, being able to visualise information makes the process of learning highly interactive, engaging and visual, whatever the subject. It has also proved to be especially helpful in assisting in the education of individuals with special needs and learning difficulties.” Harman concludes.