Mapping Success: Use Mind Maps to Get The Most Out of Note Taking

Use Mind Maps to Get The Most Out of Note TakingTaking notes isn’t just about hurriedly transcribing lectures or course materials so you can study them later. It should be an active part of the learning process--a chance to take important ideas and concepts and organize them in a way that makes the most sense to you. In reality, note taking is your brain’s first opportunity to size up new information and decide what to do with it.

It starts with an interrogation. What type of information is it? Is it important enough to store for later? Does it make sense considering all the other facts and figures floating around in here? It should come as no surprise that the way you take notes can have a huge effect on how your brain comprehends and recalls new information.

Mind maps represent an alternative method for taking notes that can help CTU’s students better organize and visualize information from a number of sources, including lectures, message board discussions, and Intellipath™ assignments. Here is a step-by-step guide for using mind maps to take your notes to a whole new level.

Why Mind Maps?

When you think about taking notes, you probably think about jotting down information from the top of the page to the bottom in the order that it was given. The student takes the role of a reporter who is trying to take down as much information as possible with the hopes that this will provide enough raw material for later review.

For CTU students pursuing degrees such as nursing or information technology, mind maps can provide a more sophisticated way for drawing connections between lectures, course materials and even different courses. Mind maps are essentially diagrams that allow students to present information visually and connect similar concepts.  There is really no right or wrong way to draw a mind map. The idea is to organize information in a way that makes most sense to you.1

Start By Thinking Small

Your first task is to stop thinking of key information as a series of long sentences that must be memorized and start categorizing larger pieces of information as small blocks that need to be organized. As educational psychologist Richard E. Meyer explains, “People learn better when a complex continuous lesson is broken into separate segments [. . .] The learner’s working memory is less likely to be overloaded with essential processing when the essential material is presented in bite-size chunks rather than as a whole continuous lesson.2

CTU students can identify key concepts in their online lectures and start to build a web of relevant information around those concepts. They can then continue to add new “blocks” as they read course materials, complete assignments and participate in online discussions. With mind maps, a complicated swirl of facts and figures can start to seem much more manageable.

Work Outward From A Central Idea

When building mind maps, start at the middle of the page and work outward, adding a new branch for each major concept and then using these to sort each bit of new information. A successful mind map starts by identifying the central idea of your material. Write this in the middle of the page and circle it. Your notes will build off of this concept, with the outermost legs representing the specific facts or pieces of information.3

Let’s say you wanted to build a mind map of CTU’s Project Management Degree Program. You would start by writing “Project Management” in a center circle. You could then connect that center circle to three subcategories: Degree Benefits, Required Courses, and Career Opportunities. As you learn more and more about the program, you can begin to fill out your mind map in a logical way. You’re not only presenting the overall concept in a way that makes sense to you right now, you’ve also giving your brain a map to follow when it needs to recall specific facts and figures later.

Use Colors and Pictures

Like a mind map, the brain is made up of smaller sections that each have a purpose. For example, the temporal lobe is responsible for memory and speech, while the frontal lobe handles problem solving. When it comes to memory and comprehension, it’s important to stimulate as many parts of the brain as you can, which is what makes mind maps so useful, especially if you incorporate different colors or draw images within your mind maps. Not only does it help with memorization and recall, but it also turns note taking into a problem that must be solved, as opposed to the passive act of writing words down on a sheet of paper.

Students shouldn’t view mind maps as a replacement for traditional note taking, but as an additional tool that can help you make sense of especially difficult concepts. It can provide an invaluable link between the raw materials you gather while listening to lectures or completing assignments and your ultimate goal of applying what you’ve learned in the world outside your chosen degree program.

Looking for more ways to maximize your study time? Check out CTU’s 5 Top Study Tips for College Students.


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