Skip to main content

Mind Maps and Other Organizers

The thoughts for this week are in response to:
In your blog: how might you digital note-taking tools (see links on the wiki) to have your students take notes/engage in prewriting activities? Create a digital map using Inspiration (use a free trial download: about your potential final project topic; reflect on how you could use digital mapping for helping students exploring relationships between different topics/images.
I have to admit that I need more time to experiment with Inspiration 8, as well as other tools, because I am fairly set in my own note taking ways. Until I gather my thoughts a bit more, I can at least explain my own habits and my personal views on software tools.

Before I start, I'll make a pitch: If you use a Mac, the Omni Group makes some of the best organizational tools I have used. ( I like the fact Omni applications do not “feel” like PC software ported to the Mac — these are OS X applications from top to bottom.

I love Word's “Notebook View” on the Mac.
I use the Notebook View in Word in every course I take. I tried adopting OmniOutliner, which is a great program, but there are some Word features I use so often that not having them in OO was annoying. On Windows, the Notebook View would be analogous to OneNote, which comes with Office for Students, I believe.

There are times when OO is a better choice than Word. You can configure multiple columns with special features in OO, which is a really slick ability. I use checkboxes, pop-up lists, and even attachments.

What? Attachments? Yes, you can link OO line items to files! So, if I have a point that refers to an Excel file, I can "attach" the file to my outline. That's a great tool.

If only I could mix the best of Word and OO, I'd be set.

Notes help me a lot, even when I am planning a project. I take a lot of notes, make lists, and consider what will and will not work.

OmniGraffle and Visio are good if I must be graphical.
I'm not into random "clouds" or maps — I like linear organization and nice, neat lines. Anything random upsets me, literally. OmniGraffle, which is like Visio in many ways, helps me create perfect flowcharts and diagrams, aligned with a grid and connecting items via “snaps” that are always on corners or centers of sides.

Other Thoughts
I am not one for “freewriting” or other forms of brainstorming. I like to think slowly, carefully, and develop my thoughts internally. I think that is what makes me a decent writer and a good programmer. Maybe free associations and random thoughts work for others, but I need to pause and reflect on every thought. Even the nature of blog postings makes me uncomfortable at times; I like to edit my words multiple times, revising word choices and sentences.

To assume that mapping, clouds, freewriting, and other tasks will help students is to assume a great deal about the nature of human thought. I often wrote stories, and then outlined them, to please teachers. I would do this because they insisted you could only write if you had completed the various pre-writing tasks. Nonsense, for me, and I have my earliest notebooks from elementary school and junior high to show that wrote complete stories without such tasks on paper.

This does not mean that I did not pre-write in my mind, but it means that putting the thoughts on paper needed to be done in completed story form. If I tried their approach, I would waste hours trying to get circles and lines perfectly placed on a page. I'd spend so much time with the need for visual perfection that my anxiety would overwhelm me.

Software tools for planning my writing have had much the same result. I end up trying to perfect designs in the applications instead of getting to work. There's little benefit in being frustrated and overwhelmed by “planning” when I already have a completed story or most of a paper outlined in my mind.

Then again, not everyone can “see” computer code executing in their mind, either...


Popular posts from this blog

Comic Sans Is (Generally) Lousy: Letters and Reading Challenges

Specimen of the typeface Comic Sans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Personally, I support everyone being able to type and read in whatever typefaces individuals prefer. If you like Comic Sans, then change the font while you type or read online content. If you like Helvetica, use that.

The digital world is not print. You can change typefaces. You can change their sizes. You can change colors. There is no reason to argue over what you use to type or to read as long as I can use typefaces that I like.

Now, as a design researcher? I'll tell you that type matters a lot to both the biological act of reading and the psychological act of constructing meaning. Statistically, there are "better" and "worse" type for conveying messages. There are also typefaces that are more legible and more readable. Sometimes, legibility does not help readability, either, as a type with overly distinct letters (legibility) can hinder word shapes and decoding (readability).

One of the co…

Let’s Make a Movie: Digital Filmmaking on a Budget

Film camera collection. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
June 5, 2015 Deadline
July 2015 Issue

Every weekend a small group of filmmakers I know make at least one three-minute movie and share the short film on their YouTube channel, 3X7 Films.

Inspired by the 48-Hour Film Project (, my colleagues started to joke about entering a 48-hour contest each month. Someone suggested that it might be possible to make a three-minute movie every week. Soon, 3X7 Films was launched as a Facebook group and members started to assemble teams to make movies.

The 48-Hour Film Project, also known as 48HFP, launched in 2001 by Mark Ruppert. He convinced some colleagues in Washington, D.C., that they could make a movie in 48 hours. The idea became a friendly competition. Fifteen years later, 48HFP is an international phenomenon, with competitions in cities around the world. Regional winners compete in national and international festivals.

On a Friday night, teams gathe…

Edutainment: Move Beyond Entertaining, to Learning

A drawing made in Tux Paint using various brushes and the Paint tool. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
November 2, 2015 Deadline
December 2015 Issue

Randomly clicking on letters, the young boy I was watching play an educational game “won” each level. He paid no attention to the letters themselves. His focus was on the dancing aliens at the end of each alphabet invasion.

Situations like this occur in classrooms and homes every day. Technology appeals to parents, politicians and some educators as a path towards more effective teaching. We often bring technology into our schools and homes, imagining the latest gadgets and software will magically transfer skills and information to our children.

This school year, I left teaching business communications to return to my doctoral specialty in education, technology and language development. As a board member of an autism-related charity, I speak to groups on how technology both helps and hinders special education. Busin…