Best Mind Mapping Software

I’ve fiddled with the software called Freemind from year to year and, while being impressed with its abilities, never got around to using it with any kind of regularity.

That changed at the end of last year. I created a mindmap of everything needed in 8th grade social studies (check out the fun here).

Then I left the classroom for this new position and find myself using Freemind for everything!

I keep track of meeting minutes, to do lists, idea storming…even tennis matches. Once I got down the shortcut keys, I found I could fly through the program. It could actually keep up with my thoughts.

For that matter, it works like my brain.

In the end, you can export mind maps as pdfs, flash, html, pngs word…basically any format you want! And the maps contain a certain elegant beauty. A butterfly of connected thoughts.

A Mind Map of 8th Grade
A Mind Map of 8th Grade

I highly encourage teachers to check it out. It’s certainly not for everyone (it can get a bit messy…although I think it’s more of an organized messiness), but some might find it quite useful.

And, of course, it’s opensource and free!

The Program Freemind
The Program Freemind

Wait – Carrots and Sticks don’t Work?

Daniel Pink gave an interesting TED talk on the science of motivation, particularly motivation in a world that places high value on right brain conceptual abilities.

To lift the main idea:

As long as the task involved mechanical skill, bonuses worked as they would be expected: the higher the pay, the better the performance. But once the task called for “even a rudimentary cognitive skill”, a larger reward “led to poorer performance.”

At issue is the age old dilemma of intrinsic vs extrinsic rewards.

What implications and questions does this raise for online education?

At least in the business community, Pink asserts that personal autonomy produces better results. I’m not certain how relevant this is to younger minds (which work differently than adults), but online learning certainly grants a larger degree of autonomy.

There’s also the question of how this plays out in my new job (which is considerably more reliant on “right brain conceptual abilities” and functions under a good degree of autonomy).

MultiTasking Bad for the Brain

While teaching in the classroom I was used to being pretty sequential. Focus on the task on hand, execute it, reflect, move on. This new job is an intellectual helterskelter. I’m constantly juggling 5 or 6 ideas in my head (and trying to follow up them) at once. Multitasking the follow through.

Bad idea.

Concrete studies support the fact that multitasking is costly. From Stanford University:

The researchers are still studying whether chronic media multitaskers are born with an inability to concentrate or are damaging their cognitive control by willingly taking in so much at once. But they’re convinced the minds of multitaskers are not working as well as they could.

Our brains just aren’t built for juggling lots of things at once.

What implications does this have for online learning?

There is a higher temptation to multitask with online learning. You can have facebook open in a tab, email in another, Pandora running in the background, Tweeter on the side, etc.

How hard does it become to execute a task? Or execute with thought?

Very hard.

How can teachers influence their students to focus on ONE thing? Certainly build awareness at the beginning of a class helps (I personally think running some exercises that demonstrate WHY multitasking is bad). To some extent this a self-control issue (something all teachers wrestle with – in and out of the classroom).