Wipe out the whiteboard, suggests David Jobbins, and start mind-mapping
Universities are increasingly adopting mind-mapping software as a dynamic way of generating ideas. Mind maps are similar to whiteboards but are far more flexible, offering opportunities to attach documents, notes, graphics, photographs, sound and video. They can aid research and administration as well as teaching.
Trevor Claiborne, a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, used mind-mapping from his first year. In his second year, he took a tablet PC into every class and made his notes on a MindManager map, linking to another map for support reading.
This software is not only for students. Andreas Busch of Oxford University's department of politics and international relations has used mind maps in research for 13 years.
The software helps him to take notes, develop his thinking and set out new ideas without losing an overview of his complex research topics. Now he uses MindManager for all his research. He says: "MindManager has allowed me to stay in control of a huge amount of information that includes everything from political party analysis to complex historical developments."
A study by the Learning Technologies Group at Oxford University's Computing Services, published earlier this year, found no consensus on the greater usability or usefulness of one graphical mapping tool over another. It evaluated the commercially available MindManager and the Visual Understanding Environment (Vue) program developed at Tufts University and available for free download.
Dustin Newport, Mindjet UK's managing director, says the software "frees up more time to focus on the intellectual process" by connecting ideas in a non-linear way.
Birmingham and Warwick universities and Queen Margaret University College in Edinburgh make MindManager available to staff and students. At Northampton University, it is available in lecture theatres, while Paisley University has adopted it to enhance staff responses to students with special needs.
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