The Good News:

There are many big things in the works for this school year.

The Bad News:

It’s awfully easy to lose track of all those big things in the busyness of teaching and learning.

The Need:

Find a way to map out what we’re going to do that will keep us organized and able to tweak and modify details as we go along.

The Solution:

Mind Mapping. Okay. I know the term “Mind Mapping” sounds like something Spock might do to a poor, unsuspecting earthling in a Star Trek rerun, but it’s actually quite painless and terrifically helpful. According to the Wikipedia entry, “mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.”

As I sat down to sketch something like a mind map out on paper, I began to quickly grow frustrated by the need to edit and modify the content. Sure, I could rub out my scrawls with a handy-dandy eraser, but my pristine map was rapidly reduced to a series of smudges and a pile of Pink Pearl dust.

My next approach was to use index cards, laying them out on the table and rearranging/adding as needed. Much better for rapid brainstorming and editing, but pretty awful for portability. If I wanted to put the index card mind map away to work on later, I ran into the problem of recording exactly what it looked like at the end of phase one. Sure, a quick digital photo would work, but then I’d have to reconstruct the map the next time I wanted to work on it.

This got me to thinking about software tools that might do the job. I went to my Twitter Professional Learning Network of teachers and techies and asked for a suggestion of a free, easy to use, web-based application that would meet my needs. Several products were mentioned, but I ended up with It meets the majority of my criteria and has the added bonus of being collaborative. I can add my friends as editors on a mind map I’ve created, and we can work on it together. Pretty sweet!

At the top of this post, I’ve posted an exported graphic of the mind map I’m working on as I plan our school year. You’re welcome to look at it and give me your feedback. It’s still very much a work in progress. Now, though, I get to do the work online instead of worrying about eraser smudges and lost index cards.

Not even Mr. Spock could diminish the joy in that!