Mind maps as a study tool

Monday, September 13th, 2004
I recently blogged about MindManager, and how I have been using it for a variety of business applications.  As a technologist, I really enjoy evaluating new software and hardware in order to advise my clients. On the personal side, I am planning to teach our Jr. Robotics team how to use MindManager, ResultManager, and even OneNote to help them capture and manage their ideas for the competition. (More on this and a link to the girl's blog soon.)

For the past 8 weeks, I have been noting my progress using MindManager exclusively as a note-taking tool for a New Testament Survey course that I have just completed. I wanted to see if I could take an entire course, using only mind maps as my knowledge capture tool. I also wanted to see if the visual capture, representation, and retrieval of information could be accomplished in real-time, on my laptop, as efficiently as I have been able to do in the past by hand...

Mind mapping has helped me increase my understanding of the material that I studied; it also improved my ability to quickly recall information in context. It was easy for me to visually organize the topical relationship between my notes - both while I was studying as well as in review.

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I found that taking notes in class on my ThinkPad was easy, however, I was concerned that it might be distracting to the professor or to others in the room. (Michael Hyatt has addressed some of this in his post on why he bought a TabletPC.) Therefore, for the first part of this experiment, I primarily used MindManager outside of class to make maps of each book as I read and studied them.

One unexpected result
of making mind maps for everything that I read or studied, was that it increased my study-time. However, It also increased my ability to recall information, so it was well worth it. I attribute this to the ease with which it was possible to go into greater detail -- sometimes much more than was required for the course. I found that it is simply more fun to study a visual map of my knowledge rather than a page of notes in linear form. Ultimately, I did have to limit the scope of my maps, based on my available time. Again, this is not a flaw in the methodology or the technology -- just me, learning how to best adapt these tools to my needs.

I consider my experiment, creating visual outlines in real-time, to have been a success.

Both my note-taking and my studies of the Scriptures have been enhanced as a result. Mind Manager, as a capture tool, facilitated the process greatly. I am starting to add ResultManager into the mix so that I can capture assignments and actions in real-time.

In addition to the digital maps on my laptop, I now have a 3-ring binder at home with large fold-out maps on each book I have studied and its background. (Yes, I know, I could keep the maps on my computer, but I still like the feel of flipping through paper.) I'm sure that when I get a TabletPC, I will think differently. (Open invitation for Marc or Michael to respond.)

For the student in us all, I highly recommend visual mapping as a study aid;
MindManager is my tool of choice to create and manage my maps.


*The source materials I used for the course were, the New English Translation (NET Bible), as well as two reference texts: Survey of the New Testament, by Paul N. Benware, and The MacArthur Bible Handbook, by John MacArthur.

Discussion/Comments (7):

Mindmaps as a study tool

Eric: Bait taken. ;^)

There is certainly a tactile pleasure to looking through any study material on paper and if you find that it enhances your ability to retain information, I say go for it.

What appeals to me about the Tablet PC in this context is portability and searchability - two things that begin to break down when you start using paper as a repository. Binders of printed mind maps and other study material become increasingly burdensome as you add more information. Digital files don't make my Tablet PC any heavier, no matter how many I add.

I can find anything in my maps using MindManager's search capabilities in a matter of seconds by searching across a number of maps which I can load or unload using the multi-map function in the program.

But paper does have it's place - make no doubt about it. It's one thing for a discussion group to look up at the wall at a projected mind map and quite another for them to scribble their own notes and questions on a print out. Like so many things, context is a big deciding factor in what presentation medium works best for your mind maps.

Posted at 09/13/2004 12:28:36 by Marc Orchant

Agreed, a tablet is the way to go for mobile maps

Thanks for your response and feedback, Marc.

I have a new ThinkPad, so I need to start there. When I mentioned the binder of maps, that's not something I carry with me - I use the 1600x1400 screen on my ThinkPad to view the maps.

When I'm sitting upstairs on the couch, studying, then having something that I can hold in my hand works well for me. Of course, that's the whole point about a Tablet. I'm now sold on the concept.

More to come!


Posted at 09/13/2004 13:17:21 by Eric Mack

MindManager for Pastors and Teachers?

You know, I wonder how effective of a tool MindManager would be for a pastor preparing a sermon. You've mentioned that you occasionally do some teaching, Eric. Have you ever used it to prepare for a class? As a pastor, I would think that it could be a very powerful tool for mapping out sermons and lessons.

Posted at 09/14/2004 4:37:00 by Tory Larson

Sermon (or lesson) prep in 5 easy steps

Tory, I believe that MindManager, like any good outliner, would be an excellent tool for lesson preparation.

The advantage that MindManager offers to lesson (or presentation) planning is the visual element. I find that the ability to quickly and easily move branches and elements of thought help the development of ideas and make it easier to develop a presentation that flows naturally. The big shift (for me) when brainstorming is elimination of the need to think linearly. Rather, I can collect my thoughts as they occur and place them into context.

Here's how I would recommend getting started: 1) Write the key theme of your topic middle main topic box. 2) in subordinate boxes, write the supporting topics that you can think of. (No need to be complete at this time, as you can add elements as you think of them.) 3) for each of the subtopics, think about the supporting information (references, stories, quotes, etc.) that you may want to mention and add those elements. Repeat this process as needed until you have fully developed your topic. 4) Now working clock-wise, review and organize the material as needed. 5) Finally, export your MindManager map to Word or PowerPoint and edit to suit.

I hope this is helpful to you.


Posted at 09/14/2004 9:15:02 by Eric Mack


Good ideas, Eric. Thanks!

Posted at 09/14/2004 14:16:40 by Tory Larson

Mind maps as a study tool

This is very interesting. I am a seminary student who is beginning the transition to use of mind maps. I hope to use it in sermon creation as well as study.

Thanks for the help.

Posted at 10/13/2005 15:01:24 by Sherman Haywood Cox II

Mind maps as a study tool

I'm intrigued that you mind mapped your entire New Testament course. I've found mind mapping very useful in sermon preparation. I share my experience at Selah with Pastor Joyce ({ Link })

Posted at 10/15/2005 7:23:41 by Rev. Joyce Irvin Harris

Discussion for this entry is now closed.