Using Mind Maps to Plan Curriculum Topics

This week I had a private training engagement. The course was a half day webinar on Drupal for project managers. We had some key topics that needed to be covered during the workshop, but not an overall structure to place the information into.

I started with the free software package xmind and created a free-form mind map (http://www.xmind.net/m/gmu8/) with the topics I wanted to cover. The mind map format was a wonderful way to collect relevant topics. I didn’t like adding extra details to it (e.g. links, images, or learning objectives). I felt it got too cluttered with the extra details (and I did want the extra details).

My next step was to get the information out f a mind map and into something I could use for a presentation. At first I started copying things manually into a slide deck tool, OpenOffice Impress (although technically I use Libre Office Impress on my primary computer). It felt like a let down after the context that the mind map had provided me. I threw out the slides and continued to think about how I could extract information for my presentation aids.

While I was thinking about what presentation aids I wanted, I realized I could easily linearize the mind map and create a script for the class. xmind will export to rich text format, but only as a paid feature (I hadn’t purchased the software yet); included in the free version is the ability to save the mind map as a Freemind file, which can then be exported to OpenOffice. With all of the headings in place, I simply had to write the text for each topic. It was the fastest 23 page handout I’ve ever made!

I decided to present from the mind map instead of using slides. I did purchase the pro version of xmind to get the presenter mode, but I ended up wimping out and just using the handout as my guide. Not perfect, but the handout was above and beyond what I thought I’d be giving the students, and I was much happier that they have a longer term resources than pretty slides that were meaningless within a few weeks.

After wrapping up the presentation, I did go back to the xmind mind map and play around with the formatting a bit. The summary view (“spreadsheet”) http://www.xmind.net/share/emmajane/drupal-for-project-managers-1/ and the logic map (http://www.xmind.net/share/emmajane/drupal-for-project-managers/) are two different and interesting ways of formatting a mind map.

I’ve already started using xmind for a new curriculum project that I’m working on (PHP for CMS Developers). I have a feeling I’ll continue to bounce around the new tools while I find which tool best matches valuable outcomes for what tasks.

Do you have favourite planning tools that you use when designing your workshops?