Mind Mapping in my Classroom with MindMeister

Reposted from: Voices of the Learning Revolution

Mind Mapping is one of the hot buzzwords being thrown around in the world of pedagogy. What exactly are Mind Maps? Well, in simple terms, they’re those old bubble brainstorming maps that we were all forced to draw in the 8th grade. If you were especially artistic, yours may have looked something like this:

Personally, mine were always much less colorful and dynamic!

However, Mind Mapping has come a very long way in recent years, especially with the assistance of technology. No longer are Mind Maps stagnant and immutable images – they are malleable, dynamic, and even collaborative. People are using Mind Mapping for organizing their personal life, developing business ideas, and in a variety of educational environments.

In this post I want to highlight my favorite Mind Mapping software – MindMeister — and talk about several ways I use mind maps in my classroom. If you think you might like it as much as I do, you may want to participate in an opportunity (I’ll describe it at the end of my post) to get a free professional account for a year.

There are many similar products out on the market today (both free and fee-based), but what sets MindMeister apart (in my mind) is that it provides simultaneously collaborative brainstorming and visualization tools using cloud technology. If you would like to see how MindMeister works, check out this brief video:

As you can see, MindMeister has numerous features and allows a great deal of flexibility and creativity. MindMeister also allows for portability with its “Mobile Apps” for iPad, iPhone, and Android devices. You can take your maps on the go!

MindMeister has many different plans and pricing tiers, from its basic Individual Account, which is free and allows three individual maps, to its extensive Business Pro accounts that provide broad technical support and an array of tools. They also provide deep discounts for educational institutions and non-profits. All of these plans come with a 30-day free trial so you can find out what works best for you and your organization.

MindMeister in the Classroom

While MindMeister has been successfully employed in many sectors, my greatest interest is utilizing it as a tool in education. I have been using the software for the past year both for my own planning and development and as a classroom tool. As an educator, I use it to plan my lessons, organize my writing, and to even blueprint some personal things in my life (perhaps outlining that novel I’m writing…).

The classroom, however, is a different story. For me, the best aspect of MindMiester its ability to promote collaborative work (and its availability on nearly every platform). My students can access maps from their mobile devices or any computer with an Internet connection. I have used it in the classroom for students to brainstorm a discussion, to begin to organize their ideas for papers and projects, and even to help them study for tests and quizzes. I have had dozens of students simultaneously editing the same document for all of these exercises – a key feature in my experience, as it opens the way to innovative discussion and teamwork.

Last year, I had students proudly share a map with me that several of them had been using at home to study for their final exam in my history class. I recorded it in my blog: “Students Using MindMeister as a Study Tool.” More than a dozen students, in different class sections and in their own homes, produced this impressive map using the review sheet!

Mind Mapping class discussions

I like to use MindMeister to help organize class discussions. My students recently finished a unit on the Code of Hammurabi. I divided the class into four groups to focus on laws related to class and status: Civil Law, Criminal Law, Family Law, and Other, which dealt with anything that didn’t fit into the other three – a hodgepodge. (Click to enlarge the map.)

The whole class had access and ability to edit the document. Each group (using their smart phones) edited a section, listing off the ways that different laws treated individuals based on their class and/or status.

I gave them 15 minutes to edit, then we returned as a group and discussed. We even made a few additions and edits together. This is one of those activities where I’m telling students to get on their phones instead of get off of them!

How would you use MindMeister?

So, now comes the most exciting part of this post. How would you use MindMeister in your classroom? Do you think it would fit well into a lesson plan? A group discussion? As a planning tool? The field is wide open.

Not long ago, MindMeister contacted me and asked if I’d like to give away three, one-year professional accounts (a $120 value). What better place to do so than here at the Voices blog, where educators are always looking for ways to blend good technology into strategies that can deepen student thinking and learning.

These Pro accounts allow unlimited mind-maps, automatic backups, sharing tools, extensive technical support, and much more. The three best ideas will win the coveted prize!

To get started, if you do not already have one, go to MindMeister and sign up for a free account (or a 30 day free trial of a paid version if you would like play with all of the bells and whistles). If you have a blog, write a post describing at least one bright idea about how you might use this mind mapping tool in your teaching or professional learning. Then leave a comment here that includes the link to your blog post. If you don’t have a blog, post your idea in the comments section of this post or send it to me via email. I’ll post the best ideas and announce the winners. All submissions are due no later than October 15. Any school-based educator is eligible.

I can’t wait to see what you all do with this!

1st image: Creative Commons, Wikipedia

12 thoughts on “Mind Mapping in my Classroom with MindMeister

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  4. Kellie

    Hi Jen,
    What a terrific tool this can be for the classroom. I was directed to the MindMeister site through my Educational Technology class at University of Michigan-Flint and think this could be useful to not only me but the 100’s of teachers I reach out to. In my work environment, k-5 art, I’m thinking I can use it with my 4th and 5th grade classes. We can map media and materials usage, art movements and examples, the elements and principles of design with examples and historical dates, critical analysis of masterworks with Visual Thinking Strategies, we can do so much that my list could go on and on. I’m also thinking about taking this to my PLC group to help organize and plan for our team outcomes. I can see each of us utilizing this tool in multiple ways.
    Thanks for posting and sharing this terrific program!
    Kellie Determan
    Visual Arts Educator, K-5

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  8. Cesar Brod

    What a wonderful article! I am also a big fan of mind maps and I wonder if you would allow me to translate your article into Portuguese. Of course I will provide a link back to your original article. Thanks!


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