If you are looking for an alternative to the linear method of taking notes and organizing your thoughts then consider using mind maps. A mind map is a visual diagram of thoughts and ideas. This visual tool can help with the organization and structure of ideas. The term “mind mapping” was coined by Tony Buzan, who talks about the importance of images to the way in which the brain works. Multisensory strategies can stimulate learning because they incorporate more than just the auditory system. Note taking using mind maps allows the user to create a visual representation of a lecture or reading by using nodes or branches that connect concepts and ideas. Also, the use of symbols and images and the ability to manipulate font shape, size and colors can be useful to all learners. They may be especially beneficial to those with dyslexia or anyone who experiences difficulties with concentration or processing information quickly. However, each learner is unique and it is important to experiment to determine what tools work best for you.
Mind maps are well suited for radiant thinking, another term coined by Tony Buzan and used to describe the various ideas that are connected to, and branch out or “radiate” from a main idea. For example, lets say that I am a university student taking notes on a lecture about ethnography, a particular research approach. I could create a mind map (see below) with the topic “ethnography” in the center. Radiating from that topic would be the main ideas from the lecture. I have used FreeMind in this example. It is a free, easy to use downloadable tool which allows the user to add, delete and connect nodes or small chunks of information. It also provides the user with a variety of options for manipulating fonts and colors, as well as adding images. The maps can also be saved and added to other documents.
If you have never used a mind map, it may take some time to learn how to use them effectively. You will also need to determine if they will be beneficial for you. You can create a mind map using blank paper and colored pens and pencils. Alternatively, there are a variety of online mind mapping tools available for use on your laptop, tablet or smart phone. Some are free (or free for a limited period of time) and others are fee-based.
Mind mapping tools can be great for taking lecture notes and also for organizing and structuring your thoughts for essays and presentations. If you would like to learn about the features offered in a variety of mind mapping tools, visit Mashable. They provide a description of 24 popular tools.