Thursday, February 12, 2015

Using Mind Map Apps with Chromebooks, Marcia Mariscal, Goethe Elementary

I have been working on teaching research skills using Kids Infobits with my 4th and 5th graders.  We worked on research grids and were now ready to organize our information visually using mind maps.  I was excited that I would be able to have my students work with google apps for education on the new chromebooks.  Since I have not been able to be added to the Administration console, I had to review the apps CPS allows our students to download.  This would be a real scenario with any teacher trying to work with google apps.  I quickly downloaded some mind maps to help me work through the ease or difficulties my students would face working with these mind maps.  I explored two mind maps:  Mindmeister and Mindmup.

The first one I chose to work with was Mindmeister.  The app seemed very simple to use in terms of adding a main topic, then adding additional topics and subtopics by pressing the + button.  Other features that were easy to use were the three font sizes and various color fonts you could choose from.  At the top right side of the app are seven images that allows you to cut, add, undo, add an arrow, and paste.  I couldn’t figure two of the images and their functionality.  There is also a red arrow that I found serves as a pointer and I couldn’t paste it to point to a picture or a specific text.  On the left side of Mindmeister is the map layout which includes default, text aligned, organized chart and a left and right aligned feature.  In creating a mind map I was able to  attach files, add a URL, and download an image straight from the web.  This is a nice feature since it allows you to download an image directly from the browser instead of having to save the image and then retrieve it from downloads.  Mindmeister also allows you to upload images from their library which contains 60 images.  For an upgrade of between $36 to $90 dollars you can upload your own image or draw your image.  Finally, you can add numbers, flags, smiley faces, votes, completion percentages, due dates, and about 60 other icons.

After reviewing Mindmup and Mindmeister, I decided to use Mindmup to have my student’s organize their information visually.  Mindmup  is a google app that you can download for free.  Like Mindmeister you can keep up to three mind maps for free.  The features that I liked on Mindmup is how easy it was to use the toolbar.  There are icons that allow the student to add topics, subtopics, cut, and zoom in or out.  I absolutely love three functions: the ability to change the node colors, attach additional information with a visual paperclip, and the collapse leaf.  When I was building my mind map I was able to organize my information by color.  You can choose 36 colors or none to have as your background.  This function is not available in Mindmeister.  When students have additional information, so they don’t clutter their mindmap they can attach it by clicking on the paperclip.  Images can also be attached.  Finally, there is a leaf button that allows students to click on and all their information is stacked up like index cards.

I found Mindmup to be easier for my younger students.  It didn’t have too much information to navigate through.  You do have to teach students what is meant by node, parent, child, and siblings. Usually these terms would be main idea, branches and twigs.  Another heads up, when students are adding images, they need to download images, then find them in downloads and select.  These are skills they need to practice before they add images on mindmup.  Also very Important!  The size that appears when students are adding images needs to be changed to between 100-60, then they click on the second box to the right and the size self adjusts.  If they don’t do this the image will take up the whole page.  After I showed them, it was easy for them to remember and apply.  The information on mindmup can also be moved to the right and organized in notecards in a feature called “Storyboard.” this can be arranged to look like an outline, and be exported to become slides.  Finally, Mindmup allows students to collaborate with each other in “Realtime”.  This is important when students are assigned a project to work in pairs or groups.  

In conclusion, in order for me to feel comfortable with google apps, I had to practice and practice so I could anticipate problems.  I didn’t feel comfortable the first time I taught students how to use mindmup, but if there were any difficulties, students picked up on the technology so quickly they were able troubleshoot the problems themselves.  The important thing is that they were exposed to mindmapping and were taught another tool to help them organize their research.  The best part was that it was saved to their google drive, and they were able to work on it at home.  That was pretty cool!

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