Mindmeister – First thoughts

I love it when a plan works well! You’ll notice from one of my recent (well not that recent) posts that I’ve been struggling with my creativity in the classroom and trying to think of innovative ways of getting students learning and I still feel that it’s been a struggle for me. I’m really keen to get students working on things that have a real life purpose – things that can be useful or interesting to others. However, with my senior PDHPE classes I find that aspect of my teaching a little more difficult and have been trying to find new ways of getting the students organising or the information that they have learned. I’ve tried getting them to create podcasts knowing that my students are never far from their mobile phones and therefore would have a great revision tool they could use anywhere, but quite frankly what they created was boring and basically needs more time for me to think about how we can create interesting and engaging podcasts.

However, I recently stumbled upon Mindmeister, which is an online, collaborative mind mapping tool and thought that it had great potential for use with my senior classes. It gives the students the opportunity to create mind maps that they can share and collaborate on in real time and, when complete it can be downloaded in a number of formats including PDF to print and put in their study notes. There’s also an iPhone App that means those of my students with an iphone can take their revision notes with them! (I must check if there is an android app too!)

Knowing that many of my Year 12 students use mindmaps to organise their information for revision I thought I’d give it a crack. Initially, when I told them about it a number of them were hesitant and I heard things like “I use mindmaps but I much prefer writing them by hand – that’s how I learn”, and “having more than one person working on something at the same time makes things too confusing”. I cast those comments aside and went ahead. To make it easier I created enough mindmaps on my account to have 2-3 people working on each one, and invited them to collaborate on it. The advantage of this, is that I also have access to what they create so that I can easily check what they’ve done.

I’m really pleased by how the lesson went. The first 5 minutes the students spent talking among themselves working out how to using mindmeister and once someone worked something out, they showed the others so that before long they were all working on their mindmaps. They also overcame the problems of becoming confused by delegating parts of the mindmap for each other to work in, and what sections of the information to work with. Well within the time I’d allocated the students had completed the first stages of the mind maps (I plan to work on adding working examples to each of the sections in the next few lessons).

I’d recommend if you are going to use it, that creating the mindmaps yourself and sharing them with the students works well. Not only does it allow you access to their work but allows you control over who will work together in groups so that the groups can be balanced.

There does seem to be some limitations to Mindmeister that may limit it’s use – ie with the free, basic membership you can only have 3 mindmaps on the go but it does seem that you can get an educational license quite cheaply for 12 months if you are going to use it regularly. However, these limitations aren’t so significant that you wouldn’t use it. Also, for every 10 people you get to sign up you get 3 months premium free! So, if you create the mindmaps for your class you get the free bonus!!

The advantages as I see it are the collaborative nature of the tool, the ease of use for the students and the fact that it can be downloaded in a variety of formats (and even ebbeded after publishing) to add to their physical study notes or to share with others. On top of that, the class were engaged and worked solidly for the whole lesson hardly stopping to take a breath. That’s never a bad thing.

My first experiences of mindmeister will certainly have me coming back for seconds and I encourage you to have a go too.