Useful Links

It is the work. by shareski, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  shareski 

Useful links

All_Roads by vdowney, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  vdowney 

Converting ideas to a MindMap

It is that time of the year here. The end of year exams are looming for our year 12 students and some are looking for good ways to revise. and study. They want to put down what they know, how things connect and they need to be able to explain in their own words. Working with our senior students and trying to gauge what techniques might help them we came across Text 2 Mindmap.

There are many mapping tools but this offered some students a simple visual diagram that could act as a very good summary of ideas and connections.

It is a very straightforward tool and easy to use where you do the work/thinking then create the mind maps by simply typing out your ideas and using the tab key to create the different levels.

All you need to do is simply replace the text that is on the site (months of the year) with your own ideas.

Enter your ideas (3 levels) with :

  1. Main idea at the top,
  2.  Related but subordinate ideas below are indented using tabs
  3. ideas connected to these entered by using tab again.

Click on ‘convert to mind’ map and it is done. Choosing the options, you can change the position, font, colour and lines allows you to personalise the mind map.

You can the save the map, convert it to a PDF  and download it or share the image via Facebook and twitter very easily.

A second tool some students chose to use was Mind42. On this you can add icons, links, notes and other such attachments easily. It is more complex than Text 2 Mindmap and therefore allows you to create more complex maps. It is also a tool you can use as a collaborativel tool. These were good but I like the simplification of ideas in the previous tool. You can download the mind maps as JPEG, PNG, RTF and some other format files.

Another mind mapping tool that some tried and liked was Mindomo. They liked the option that lets you search YouTube videos, add images, videos or audio with the exist URLs, upload attachment, and add a lot of symbols. You can export these mind maps in PDF, Image, RTF and some other format files. You can also use it on ipads and android devices, windows and apple OS. # maps for free and after that there are paid versions.

A video I found useful for students to watch was the 3-minute video below. It also showed how Prezi could be used in a mind mapping presentation.

Visual Search Engine Instagrok is a learning tool too

After looking around for some more visual search engines, I decided to have a play with instaGrok. The first thing to note is that it does not work with Internet explorer so I used Google Chrome to do my searching (or you can also use Mozilla Firefox).

InstaGrok is designed to help learners find educational content.

It is not simply an alternative to others I have used in the past ie. Eyeplorer or Google’s old Wonder Wheel. It is a fresh approach which is very easy to navigate and offers so much more than a simple web of suggested search terms.

I tried searching “Tasmanian tiger” which was one of the research topics our year 8 students were given recently.

instaGrok searched this topic and quickly collected an assortment of useful and related content that is categorized and displayed under  lists of facts on the “Tasmanian tiger”. The screen is split into two main areas. On the left side of the screen you had a cloud showing the concept/keywords you initially entered into your search with other related terms surrounding it. Students often need help to refine their searches and this offers a visual way to see some of the topics that relate to the initial search. If you double-click on one of the related topics it offers another array of options but you original search also stays on the screen.

On the right side of the screen, under the heading “Key facts”, there were links to different forms of information on that topic. These change as you refine the search. Here you have the more usual type of information.

They options include:

  • key facts (great for students to get started on a topic new to them)
  • websites
  •  videos
  • images
  • quizzes on the topic and
  • concept cloud at the bottom for another way to refine the search

Decide what type of resource you want and open, for instance video or photo, and look in this area you get little thumbnails that are linked to their site. You can choose “more” and the screen changes to show the thumbnails to the right of the sites they come from and, on the left of this screen, there is a long list of themes and concepts you can “tick” to refine your search again.

Another nice little option is the slider. If the results that you find are too difficult to comprehend or are too basic, use the difficulty slider to change the results.

You don’t need to join to use the search but if you do you have some extra options. When you find materials that are useful for your research, you can pin them or add them to your instaGrok journal. You can add notes to the links in your journal as well. The journal can be emailled or printed

When logging in for the first time you have three options. You select whether you’re a going to be a regular user (General), teacher or student. Teachers can create a class code for their class (case-sensitive) and students can then enter that teacher’s code. Using this option allows teachers to check student’ journals and their searching history. This would help teachers to develop a better understand the researching capabilities of their students and assist them to help students improve with the most appropriate skills tips.

In short the things that I thought instaGrok offers students (and teachers):

  • It is easy to visualize concepts and their relationships
  • The key facts are simple and help users to gain basic information about their topic
  • Offers an easy way to explore websites,videos,images
  • Users can easily select the difficulty level of concepts/materials
  • Allows users to organize materials and links into an account
  • Students can test their knowledge with the auto-generated quizzes it creates

Useful Links (Weekly)

  • Technology in Schools Faces Questions on Value – NYTimes.com A long article that discusses the benefits of using technology in the classroom. “In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning. Advocates for giving schools a major technological upgrade say digital devices let students learn at their own pace, teach skills needed in a modern economy and hold the attention of a generation weaned on gadgets. Some backers of this idea say standardized tests, the most widely used measure of student performance, don’t capture the breadth of skills that computers can help develop. But they also concede that for now there is no better way to gauge the educational value of expensive technology investments. “   

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.