Digital mindmapping tools: my choices for connected visual organisers/presenting

I’ve had loads of fun lately I must admit just trying out mindmapping/ visual organiser software. So much so that I’ve started incorportating them into my workflows both at school and home/study, and have even written a 2000 word article describing my journey. While its under review for possible publication old-printed-style, I wanted to at least post my conclusions/choices here. That way you can cut right to the chase and start downloading!

I’ve grouped my findings under ‘for students’, ‘for educators’, and ‘for advanced users’. Enjoy:

I aim in this section to overview what I concluded was best for use in my school, using these handles:

                Free, or at least has a free ‘lite’ version

                Easy to access, use and install – conditions that are vital for time poor, technician-starved teachers

                A good import/export capability – after all the point was to share maps

For Students – while today’s students undoubtedly could master any of the software I encountered, the one I ultimately settled on for working with them was the simplest. Bubbl.us (also its web address) was suggested by a discussion list colleague. It creates basic but good-looking maps, allows links and attachments, but best of all, is available anywhere there is a net connection (works exclusively online) and requires no registration or setup – teachers can just send students to the webpage and off they go. Students can get on with learning. Your maps can even be embedded into other websites. (Please note that bubbl.us does have a quick email signup to enable a few more advanced features if you so wish).

 

For Teachers – using digital visual organisers for your own planning and teaching probably requires software that will work when offline also – so for this category the one I chose was the free version of Xmind. Still fully-featured (it was a paid version until recently), it really jumped ahead of the others I was considering due to the fact that it works on PCs and Macs, AND has a special version for running exclusively from USB flash drives. I’ve now gone on to use this with our Head of Curriculum and Admin team to demonstrate what’s possible – and they were impressed, not just with the flash-looking end product, but with how powerful it could be for giving presentations to staff.

 

For advanced Users: That covers software for students, and for teachers/administrators who are new to digital mind mapping. However, beyond these tools there are some even more capable options that also plug into the possibilities of Web2.0 and the power of online/offline syncing. In this category, recommended for ‘power users’, or just any user that can count on regular internet connections and doesn’t mind registering for the (free) service – my choice was ‘Mindomo’. This was one that had been suggested through my learning network and I immediately found it very impressive. Not only was its import/export and graphical options very well presented, but it has a stunning ability work offline (using the Adobe ‘Air’ plug-in) while allowing you to use its extra sharing and collaboration features when you are online. Kind of like a combination of bubbl.us and Xmind actually!

 

Mobile, ubiquitous access to 1.5 million books

Any educators still doubting the power of mobile devices and web technologies really needs to see the following article. Not only is the around 1.5 million books that Google has scanned now available for searching and reading, but a new iPhone / iPod Touch / small-screen-optimized interface means it can now be done simply and easily from anywhere in the civilized (read cell-connected) world. Surely that must be useful for some students somewhere?
I was only discussing yesterday with my schools librarian about what he was planning to do about physical resources vs web-based (ie cheaper, less time and resource hungry) ones… TUAW.com link with more info:

Via TUAW.com

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Google & the Future of Books

In this technological equivalent of a time between times, when the digital world is growing, but still exists side by side with the analogue, this article from the New York Review of Books asks ”How can we navigate through the information landscape that is only beginning to come into view?”

This is in light of Google’s recent digitzing of millions of books and the challenge this has posed for publishers and copyright holders. A legal settlement has just been reached, and this link will take you to a long but fascinating overview of the current situation and what it means for what we’ve always thought of as ‘books’ …

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PocketPhonics an example of the opportunities a natural digital interface provides

Education apps for literacy in the lower primary school age bracket have been thin on the ground since the app store opened. However, a new program called PocketPhonics has just been released that looks set to appeal to just this market. I know of several teachers in my state of Queensland and across Australia who are experimenting with iPod Touch’s in the primary school arena – and this app takes a great drill and practice method to learning phonics and letter-sounds. 

 

More than this though, it harnesses the devices visual, audio and even motion-sensing abilities to engage students. It doesn’t hurt that research has proven that such a multiple learning-styles approach (visual, auditory and kinesthetic) is one of the key ways to increase early success with phonics. This app is definately showcasing just what advantages a natural digital interface (in this case multi-touch and shaking to erase) can bring to education, while at the same time making learning phonics mobile. There is even a lite version you so you can try it out. 

 

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