Assistive Technology - Mind Maps
This information refers to dyslexic people, but may be useful for all types of neuro-diversity.
Mind Map of this page. Click on the boxes below to travel to the various sections of this page.
- Low tech / low cost
- Mindmapping software
- High tech / low cost
- High tech/ high cost
- Mind Manager
- Mind Genius
Many students at university have certain gaps in their skills. This could include spelling, grammar and punctuation. Or it may be that organisation or time-keeping are not your strength. McLoughlin et al (2002) talk about three types of strategy to use to overcome difficulties at university:
- Skills Development - (learning new skills, for example learning how to spell)
- Compensation - (complementing your strengths and finding an alternative approach to do something, for example using a spell checker in Word)
- Accommodation - (where systems are put in place to accommodate difficulty, for example, someone struggling with spelling may ask someone to proofread their work).
This document will cover types of compensatory strategies that may help support the difficulties you experience. Some students who have had dyslexia, dyspraxia or other learning differences identified may be eligible for Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) in the UK. In such cases, support software and hardware may be made available to them. In any case, they should contact the University’s Disability Unit, Learning Support Team or equivalent.
This document will outline some of the technology available. In some cases, it is very expensive. Where possible, lower tech (and usually less expensive) suggestions will be given.
There are some simple steps that you can take, for example through using software already available to you. The following two pieces of equipment may have features that you can use:
Mobile phone – you could use it for a ‘to do list’ and to set reminders. Often, phones allow you to set an alarm to go off at a certain time. This could be used to remind you of appointments. You could also see if your phone allows you to store pictures, as you could use photographs for your contacts. This may be useful if you have difficulty remembering names.
Customising Windows - the latest version of Windows allows you to customise the desktop. For more information on this, see Abilitynet. The area entitled ‘My computer, my way’ has lots of information on how to adjust settings on your computer to suit your own needs. (www.abilitynet.org.uk)
Abilitynet have also produced a useful document entitled: ‘Dyslexia and Computing’ http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/content/factsheets/pdfs/Dyslexia%20and%20Computing.pdf
General outline of different types of software
Some examples of the software available:
- Mindmapping software
- Speech to text software
- Text read aloud
- Sound recording machines
For general information about how to produce a mindmap (see note-taking page)
The main uses of mindmapping software include:
- Planning your thoughts and ideas, for example for assignments
- Giving structure to your ideas
- Using colour and other coding to group information
- Using images to make information visual
- Note taking and recording information.
- Revision (you are more likely to remember visual information)
Low tech/ low cost
You can use paper to jot down your ideas. It may look something like this, a set of ideas about 'what I need support for' :
Mindmapping is useful software for dyslexic students and others who struggle with organising ideas and planning written work. It may be used to:
- help plan and structure essays
- create revision notes
- write up lecture notes.
Students can read an essay question, and then create an electronic mind map by brainstorming their ideas straight onto the screen, starting with the main idea surrounded by key points and then supporting details. These can range from simple one word responses to more complex phrases and ideas. In some software, single word ideas can then be transferred into a linear form and used as paragraph headings and prompts and focus points for essays. The headings may or may not be removed after the draft stage. It is possible to complete an entire essay by expanding each heading into a sentence and then a paragraph. By working in this way ideas can be kept in a logical order and paragraphs can remain focused on specific points. This avoids the writer going off at tangents as new ideas flow into their heads more quickly than the typing speed. Additional ideas can always be added to the mind map when they occur.
In addition to writing essays, mindmapping software can also be used for revision and other study purposes. When creating the mind maps, students can change colours to highlight different ideas and importance levels; they can create different-shaped boxes or introduce pictures from an extensive library of choices to help facilitate memory. This is especially useful for those who prefer a visual reminder of information. The extensive selection of colours and shapes are particularly helpful for creating easily accessible notes and/or creating a more visual method of writing up and recording lecture information. There are a number of alternative mind mapping programs available and much depends on preference of layout and ease of use.
High tech/ low cost
There is a piece of free-to-download software available called Freemind. This is available from:
Below is a very simple starting point, created in Freemind:
There are some very brief online instructions to getting started with Freemind. As it is a shared, internet resource, it is constantly being adapted and developed. At present (December 2006), it does not allow the facility to convert your ideas into a linear list of subheadings, but it does have all of the features of many mindmap pieces of software, for example adding links, colour coding and adding notes to each point.
High tech/ high cost
Other mindmapping software packages include features such as converting your mindmap to an outline document, which can be used as the basis for writing in word-processing software. They are easily exported to other software, for example MS Office packages. Generally, they cost between around £80-£180 for a single licence.
Some examples of commonly used assistive software are listed below with an annotated summary of features (based on comments available from www.techdis.ac.uk):
- easy program to use
- clear menus and short cut keys
- ideas held in chosen shapes which are linked in a spidergram appearance.
- transfers the graphical diagram to the linear format within the program
- updates occur in either mode.
- pictures can be imported or copied from other programs.
Mind Manager (business and education versions available)
- provides a method of brainstorming on the computer in a similar way to the Tony Buzan method by hand.
- Branches can be added using the right hand mouse button or keystrokes and menus with primary branches being larger than the secondary ones.
- many buttons providing several different ways of adapting the diagram to suit the user's needs.
- can be exported to other programs and/or copied as well as saved in different formats including HTML for use on the web.
- The latest version has more HTML templates with a demo to help in their use and its images can be copied as vector based images to Flash allowing for customisation, the text remains editable.
- MindManager Business Edition has a presentation mode, the ability to export mind maps to PowerPoint, a keyword organiser for mind-maps. Also includes a tool kit for map optimisation, conferencing "real time" over the Internet and VBA-compatible scripting for personalisation of the software package.
(there is no native version for MAC platforms)
Mind Genius (business and education versions available)
- Easy to use with many templates on offer.
- Main concepts are in a chosen box and then the ideas are made at the end of branches in a similar fashion to Tony Buzan methods, using the right hand mouse button or the menu bar.
- There is a left hand screen which shows the linear format of the diagram to be seen as it is being made.
- Each time an idea is made a text dialog box appears so that the word can be written with different fonts, colours and put into a shape if required.
- The entire mind map can be saved as an XML, Word, PowerPoint or Project document and in various graphical formats. The graphical section remains as a picture but the linear format can be edited in any of the formats.
- Pictures can be imported from files but not cut and pasted directly.
- Other files can also be added to branches and links can be made between mind maps.
- The menu bar provides options for branching formats, colours etc.
It is sometimes possible to download free trials of the software from the sites listed above.
Other sources of information about mindmapping computer software:
McLoughlin et al (2002) The Adult Dyslexic: interventions and outcomes