These days, teachers of all subjects expect students to find, if not to create from scratch, quality graphics for class projects. An English teacher might ask for a web / cluster prewriting assignment on the motivations of characters in Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” while a social studies teacher wants his class to diagram the amendments to the Constitution. The science teacher wants students to understand the similarities and differences between different classes of invertebrates.
Students can draw out these maps freehand, as has been done for decades, or teachers can ask for this kind of rough draft plus a more stylish, techno-savvy version of the diagram to embed in a Word document or include it in a presentation.
Text 2 Mind Map is a relative newcomer to the Web 2.0 field. It’s currently free and works from a single screen–no extra clicking needed, which is great for teachers who are wary of gadgets and for students who don’t like anything too complicated when it comes to school work.
A sample “mind map” greets users at the main URL, which requires Adobe Flash Player to run. Delete the example, months of the year, in the entry box on the left, which defaults to the Text option, and start typing your own information. I decided to put together a map of some major characters in William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. The item that isn’t indented / tabbed at all becomes the central node of the map (the main idea), while the next level of topics get one tab, and so on. Basically, if you’re familiar with outlining, you can use this Mind Map software.
Once your text is in, you click on the large button that reads “Draw Mind Map,” and a spidery text web pops up in the larger right-side area. Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you–everything is moving, slowly. You can drag and reposition the branches somewhat, and when you’re happy with your map’s appearance, click from “Text” to “Options,” with the tiny bucket icon, on the bottom left.
This is where you can change the colors, text, lines, and so forth, and also freeze or lock all the elements in place.
With everything in place, it’s time to save. I am very impressed with the array of SIMPLE options to get the Mind Map off of the web site and onto my hard drive. Text 2 Mind Map allows downloading as a PNG file, which allows you to make it smaller or larger without losing any of the sharpness of the image, for easy inserting into a Prezi, PowerPoint, or GoogleDoc. The site also offers exporting as a PDF, which can then become a snazzy worksheet with the full version of Adobe Acrobat…or teachers can just tweet the Mind Map as a homework assignment: examine the image and write a paragraph explaining how you would add Character X to the mix.
While I’m personally not a fan of webbing / clustering as a prewriting activity, I do know it works for a lot of folks, to help them visualize and organize a complex topic. A well-done visual can be the perfect assessment tool, combining critical thinking (what do I include? in what hierarchy?), synthesis (how are these topics related?), and technology (I made a map online!). I can see myself teaching this tool in Technical Writing, where students learn to create effective graphics.
Check out Text 2 Mind Map. I think you’ll like it.