Why I Hated Mind-Mapping, And How I Overcame My Bias

Different people call them different things – mind-maps, webs, concept maps – but they really all refer to the same concept. The point of mind-mapping is to get all the information about some topic onto a piece of paper, and to use lines to connect them. It’s a graphical (pictoral) way of representing information. Of course, this is a good idea in theory, because the brain needs to make these connections in order for it to retain information. However, I always felt that mind-mapping is  for people whose brains work graphically. And mine doesn’t.

I am a very linear person. I like lists and outlines. When I take notes, I make lists of points, often with indenting to show sub-points. If I can, I actually go so far as to outline. (You know, the one with the Roman numerals, and the letters, and the numbers, that all have a specific hierarchy and lots of indenting. I love that.) I always assumed that mind-mapping just doesn’t work for my way of thinking.

To be honest, part of my prejudice against mind-mapping is probably due more to the fact that I’ve never been taught how to do it, than to it actually not working for me. I’ve never really done it. When I teach it to students at the tutoring center I work for, I glance over their work to see if they got the major points, then declare it “good enough” because I don’t really know what I’m looking for.

One of my classes this semester is a small Philosophy class. The professor runs it in a discussion-oriented format. We are reading An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, by David Hume, and we sit in a circle and talk about it. Now, how am I supposed to take notes on a discussion?

I tried lists of points, but the problem is that it’s impossible to know if I should leave room after a point to add more information, because of course I can’t tell if someone will say something useful later. One day, my notes were simply a list of disjointed points, that probably won’t help me at all when I go back to them to study for the midterm.

Yesterday, I had an epiphany. I realized that mind-mapping is probably the perfect way to record information in a discussion-formatted class. I flipped a piece of notebook paper over on its side and wrote the topic of the day in the middle. As the class progressed, I added relevant information on the sides and connected them to the parent topic with lines. My result has all the information regarding a (very short) section of the book on one page, which I can go back later an turn into an outline, if I want.

IMGP6797.JPGThis is the final result. I have a random point floating around in the bottom there because I wasn’t sure what to link it to. It’s not really related to yesterday’s topic, but it was important to remember for the future.

I know there are many websites and programs designed to facilitate this, but I don’t take my computer to class anymore. For one thing, I find that putting pen on paper goes faster than finding the right button to click to tell the computer what you want it to do (although I do type faster than I write). Also, as a general rule, if I have my computer, I’m not taking notes or even paying the slightest bit of attention to the class. Facebook and Twitter – they call.

I learned some things yesterday. First, I learned that I can’t discount a note-taking technique just because I’m not familiar with it. Second, I learned that sometimes new ways of doing things can result in better note-taking and, in turn, better recall.

Finally, I learned that it’s easier to draw rectangles around my points than the traditional circles. And it looks nicer.

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Quick Note

I just have a few things to say, so I’ll keep it short.

First, Happy New Year! Hope you’ve got some good resolutions, and if you’re going to get trashed tonight at some party, remember that I said not to drive home. Don’t call me for a ride, though, because I’m hoping to find a party and do the same thing. On that note, if you do know of a party (in Tucson, AZ), let me know!

Second, anyone who is not watching the Armed Forces Bowl today needs to be doing so. The Air Force Academy is playing, and my brother is in the Drum and Bugle Corps. This means that there might be a chance that the camera will pan quickly across the band, and my brother will be seen playing the big bass drum. My family is watching the entire 3-hour game for the slight chance that we might get to see him for a brief second. Actually, not only are we watching the game, we are having a party and inviting a bunch of people over. We haven’t seen much of him in six months, give my mom us a break.

Finally, I really am in the process of pulling together a series on study strategies and tips. I have a lot of material, and need to think about how I want to organize it. I’m hoping to have it started within the next week, and will probably do one post a week or so. If you have any thoughts on how I could organize this, or questions/issues that you’d like to see me address, please let me know by comment, or by emailing me.

Enjoy your New Year’s Eve!

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I Sound Like A Dying Cat

I went over to my friend’s house the other night, to get her help with the viola. She has been playing violin for – well – forever, and she has been showing me the techniques for playing stringed instruments. Things like how not to hold the bow, and how not to hold the viola with my left hand, and how not to pluck the strings, and how not to…you get the idea.

Unfortunately, I’m still squeaking. It’s annoying. Sometimes I’m just not pressing the string down hard enough. This can be caused by me not paying attention to that hand because I’m focusing too much on bowing, or it can be caused by my hand getting sick of staying in that position for so long and giving out on me.

The squeaking (dying cat) noise can, of course, also be caused by problems with my bow hand, like the bow not pressing down hard enough on the strings. But then when I focus on that, I forget to pay attention to what my other hand should be doing…

Am I expressing that this is hard? These are hard instruments to play. Why did I want to learn to play the viola? Why did I decide that playing an unfretted stringed instrument was a good idea? Why did I decide that playing the piano and the electric bass and singing wasn’t good enough?

Is it just that I’m a left-handed, red-headed musician, which automatically implies that I’m crazy on many different levels? Or could it just be that I’m a masochist?

Probably all of the above.

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It’s Been A While

I know, I know, I’ve been lazy lately. In my defense, I haven’t been lazy – I’ve been busy. I just finished a semester of 19 credit hours: 15 at my university and 4 more at the local community college. Why would I put myself through this agony, you ask? So I can graduate next semester. And, assuming I don’t fail anything in the spring, I will. I’ve got all the right classes added, and my advisor has checked everything out for me. I won’t get into the gory details of dealing with that one stupid class that I need and they decided not to offer next semester; we’ll just say an hour in an office with two advisors got everything taken care of.

Merry Christmas! Or Happy Whatever-Holiday-You-Celebrate! Have you started thinking of your New Year’s Resolutions yet? Just think, all the stores will have their fitness equipment on sale in the first week of January. That way you can accomplish both your resolution of saving more money and of losing weight! Two birds…

Personally, I’m in the process of learning a few things. (Clearly, I have too much time on my hands. Maybe I should have been blogging.) I realized recently that there is a list (in my head) of things I’d like to learn someday, and if I don’t start on that soon, I’m going to wind up in a real job with no free time and won’t ever get around to them. Because I have so much free time right now…but that’s a different story. My list looks like this: Read the rest of this entry »

Why It Never Hurts To Ask

I believe I’ve mentioned before that I’m a music student. One of the implications of this is that my major does not require me to take enough upper-division (300 and 400 level) classes to satisfy the university’s requirements. Right now, one of the classes I’m taking is Counterpoint, which is not required for my major, but looked interesting. Fortunately, it turned out that it actually was interesting, and since it’s a two-semester course, I was looking forward to taking it again in the spring. Read the rest of this entry »

The Perfect Browser?

I have spent a very long time trying to find the perfect browser. I’ve hated Internet Explorer for a few years now, and switched to Firefox on my old PC. After that crashed and I got my MacBook, I used Safari for a long time. I loved the way Safari looked, and how well it fit within the Mac environment, but I wished I had the ability to extend its functionality the way I could in Firefox. After Firefox 3 was released, I gave it a try again. I still liked it, but always went back to Safari. Then the semester started. Read the rest of this entry »

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Senioritis Has Hit…

…and hit hard.

This happened to me when I was in my last year of high school too. The apathy is the worst part. I just don’t want to do anything. I’m missing assignments in one of my classes, and I’m really not very concerned about that. Unfortunately, I really do have to do my homework because the semester’s not over yet. And when it does end, I have another one. I’m within firing range though! I can see the light of graduation at the end of the long, dark, tunnel of the Music Building, where the room numbers have no order and instruments can be heard at all hours of the day. Read the rest of this entry »

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