Pictures on the Run: How to produce effective note-taking mind maps
One of the major problems that many students do have at university is keeping up with taking notes in class or seminars, even though many departments have notes available from the lesson online that people can read. Of course this does not compensate for what you heard in the lecture, as in many cases the words, overheads or jokes of the lecturer may in fact stimulate a new idea or tangent that may save or redirect you in the way that you want. One of the other things is that if you have dyslexia or have problems with immediate memory, or are a slow writer etc, you are side-lined the moment you walk into the classroom. Of course you can always use a tape recorder or a lap top which of course many students do, but some lecturers can get quite snotty about those who don’t have learning differences using the items.
As we are attempting for you to reduce the amount of writing, then using mind and concept mapping, can be invaluable within a note taking environment, and rather than trying to write everything down, which you will forget or miss out important things, then adopting a more visual approach is a great way of putting down what you thought was important, especially if you cross reference this later on with the notes online or any other hand-outs.
What has worked exceptionally well, with my own students is devising a way in which these notes can be used as a tactical weapon to aid both essays and exams. I found that students had none, or little notes, and that they did not have that extra data to assist them, which made them have to re-read their books and readings when it fact if they had gone through their notes regularly they would have just have had to have done specific reading to add that extra gleam to their knowledge on the subject. So, it was suggested that at the end of each week or even following the class, the student would draw a mind map in a A3 pad, (or online as I have done and save it to a subject file) one sheet for each lesson, with the pad representing that course. By developing their background to the subject in this way, and looking at, even re-writing the map on a scrap piece of paper they are reinforcing as Buzan stresses, several times until it is imprinted upon your mind. The student, builds up and up, going over these maps, every week, until they have a firm grasp of the subject, but more importantly can see the path that the course takes and its interlinking junctions of theorists or issues, and new paths where these lead.
Of course, common sense tells you that if you have done this kind of note taking, and let’s be honest revision every week, then you have in fact done most of the work in preparation before the exam without trying to cram everything in. Even for once a day for 30 minutes or so as part of your days routine, then you can enjoy the Easter holidays, and one less thing to worry about. What I have constructed above is a typical mind map for notes. In this case the class was on the Spanish Civil War. The map indentifies the flow of the class, and how each of its components fit together, with an overview at the front, and then an order of the conflict, its political players etc. Along the way I have put in key aspects that were mentioned in the class, and as such these can be looked up, and if I really wanted to, a similar map could be made of these sub points. All in all, I have established a familiar pattern for myself, that makes sense, but more important it is colourful and basic enough for me to recall very quickly. It would be wise to add theorists and other writers to build this up, so that it is comprehensive. Of course the other thing to remember doing is to read this aloud back to yourself or to a colleague so that you are able to make sense of the subject, and also to help jog your own memory.
Of course as I have noted in my article on research, by watching documentaries etc again as background information on your subject you are relying less on the reading aspect of your revision and putting more emphasis upon the strong memory element, namely listening watching and drawing. It is creating that ‘exhibition’ type learning environment answer as we can see from Dale’s cone that is the aim here. We want 60 % plus recall for this data. The drawing of mindmaps for notes comes into this holistic approach to research and recall, and your trigger on the mindmap will have more depth if you have watched lots of videos on the subject. I see my note-taking mindmap as a picture in a gallery, only you have drawn it, and the more you stare at it, the more ideas begin to sparkle in your imagination.
One of the more advantageous aspects of producing your lecture notes in this manner is that it can make it far more portable, taking the pad on the bus or into a cafe, and redrawing or adding more to the initial map. It is the mobility of this method and seeing how you are progressing by re-drawing it that of course helps to boost your confidence. Some students find that they are also increasing their study or revision time by undertaking these short moments of study, but of course it is a much more relaxed and fun way of doing it. As Peter concludes:
‘It’s all about saving time and being able to see what you are learning, and that isn’t done very often. I am studying medicine and in fact it is a very visual subject, and goes very well with mind mapping lectures. Of course what you have when this is done is a resource to jump to, producing further mind maps and greatly enhancing key areas of those original lecture notes. You are not creating just one picture but all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle’.