This summer the HPU Tech Blog will be featuring blog posts from professors at High Point University who are actively using technology tools in the classroom. This is the second in the series, written by Thomas Dearden. Thomas Dearden is an Instructor in Criminal Justice. Here is his post:
Organizing large quantities of information into easily understandable structures or documents is often not only difficult for students, but for faculty as well. Yet being able to see and understand connections between information is pivotal in our information rich environment. For example, organizational charts help us understand the relationships between departments and groups who all serve the interest of an organization. By connecting boxes and arrows we can readily understand how fragmented groups achieve something beyond what each individual could achieve on their own. Just take a look at the organizational chart of the Department of Justice. Even without significant prior knowledge, this massive chart provides some clarity to what the department of justice does and how different divisions, commissions, attorneys, and offices work together to create the United States’ organization responsible for federal justice. Now take away the chart and try and explain these relationships to a friend. In this case, the common phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words” may be understating the organizational chart’s value.
The Internet is full of tools that help us organize massive amounts of information. For this blog post, I wish to introduce you to MindMaps. These graphical tools allow the user to create a central concept and connect concepts radiating outwards. See what I mean often just showing you an example it better than explaining a MindMap. Below is a sample map one of my students created to illustrate the myriad of effects of being the victim of identity theft.
Starting with the central concept, identity theft, the student created smaller groups of those affected by such a crime. For example, the community may experience negative effects from identity theft including fear, economic loss, anger, etc. For this assignment the students needed to connect information from the prior 10 weeks of the course to consider all of the effects of a crime. To reduce the daunting nature of this task I showed the students how to construct a MindMap to help organize their thoughts and visually represent the concepts discussed in class. Pouring through their notes they can easily see if they missed an important group, such as the victim themselves.
In my own work I have used MindMaps to help add structure to my courses. Taking a course title as my central box I then created course learning outcomes as my second level. From here I was able to visually plan how I could meet these outcomes by connecting course assignments that directly addressed the learning outcome. This ensured that my assignments were appropriate for the class and specifically tied to my learning outcomes.
Are you sold yet? If so, here are some resources to get started. The programs
Think Tree ($0.99)
iMindMap Mobile Pro ($3.99)