Archive for the ‘Information Skills.’ Category

Mind Maps

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Mind Mapping is a useful technique that improves the way you take notes, and supports and enhances your creative problem solving.

By using Mind Maps, you can quickly identify and understand the structure of a subject, and the way that pieces of information fit together, as well as recording the raw facts contained in normal notes.

More than this, Mind Maps encourage creative problem solving, and they hold information in a format that your mind finds easy to remember and quick to review.

Popularized by Tony Buzan, Mind Maps abandon the list format of conventional note taking. They do this in favor of a two-dimensional structure. As such, a good Mind Map shows the ’shape’ of the subject, the relative importance of individual points, and the way in which facts relate to one another.

Mind Maps are more compact than conventional notes, often taking up one side of paper. This helps you to make associations easily. And if you find out more information after you have drawn the main Mind Map, then you can easily add it in.

Mind Maps are also useful for:

  • Summarizing information.
  • Consolidating information from different research sources.
  • Thinking through complex problems.
  • Presenting information in a format that shows the overall structure of your subject.

What’s more, they are very quick to review as you can often refresh information in your mind just by glancing at one. In the same way, they can be effective mnemonics: Remembering the shape and structure of a Mind Map can give you the cues you need to remember the information within it. As such, they engage much more of your brain in the process of assimilating and connecting facts, compared with conventional notes.

Drawing Simple Mind Maps:

The original Mind Tools site was planned and researched using Mind Maps. They are too large to publish here, however part of one is shown below. This shows research into time management skills:

Figure 1: An Example Mind Map

To make notes on a subject using a Mind Map, draw it in the following way:

  1. Write the title of the subject you’re exploring in the center of the page, and draw a circle around it. This is shown by the circle marked 1 in Figure 1, above.
  2. As you come across major subdivisions or subheadings of the topic (or important facts that relate to the subject) draw lines out from this circle. Label these lines with these subdivisions or subheadings. These are shown by the lines marked 2 in Figure 1.
  3. As you “burrow” into the subject and uncover another level of information (further subheadings, or individual facts) belonging to the subheadings above, draw these as lines linked to the subheading lines. These are shown by the lines marked 3 in Figure 1.
  4. Finally, for individual facts or ideas, draw lines out from the appropriate heading line and label them. These are shown by the lines marked 4 in Figure 1.

As you come across new information, link it in to the Mind Map appropriately.

A complete Mind Map may have main topic lines radiating in all directions from the center. Sub-topics and facts will branch off these, like branches and twigs from the trunk of a tree. You do not need to worry about the structure produced, as this will evolve as you develop your mind map.

Note that the idea of numbered ‘levels’ in Figure 1 is only used to explain how the Mind Map was created. All we are showing is that major headings radiate from the center, with lower level headings and facts branching off from the higher level headings.

While drawing Mind Maps by hand is appropriate in many cases, software tools like MindGenius improve the process by helping to you to produce presentation quality Concept Maps, which can easily be edited, distributed and redrafted.

Improving your Mind Maps:

Once you understand how to make notes in the Mind Map format, you can develop your own conventions to take them further. The following suggestions may help to increase their effectiveness:

  • Use single words or simple phrases for information: Most words in normal writing are padding: They convey facts in the correct context, and in a format that is pleasant to read. In your own Mind Maps, single strong words and meaningful phrases can convey the same meaning more potently. Excess words just clutter the Mind Map.

  • Print words: Joined up or indistinct writing can be more difficult to read.

  • Use color to separate different ideas: This will help you to separate ideas where necessary. It also makes your Mind Map easier to remember. Color also helps to show the organization of the subject.

  • Use symbols and images: Where a symbol or picture means something to you, use it. Pictures can help you to remember information more effectively than words.

  • Using cross-linkages: Information in one part of the Mind Map may relate to another part. Here you can draw in lines to show the cross-linkages. This helps you to see how one part of the subject connects with another.

Key Points:

Mind Mapping is an extremely effective method of taking notes. Mind Maps show not only facts, but also the overall structure of a subject and the relative importance of individual parts of it. They help you to associate ideas and make connections that you might not otherwise make.

If you do any form of research or note taking, try experimenting with Mind Maps. You will find them incredibly useful!

Read more @

Encouraging Learning in the Workplace

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Helping Others Learn:

Opportunities to help others learn come up all of the time in the workplace. When you help a staff member deal with an angry customer, you have an opportunity to help her learn. When a team member comes to you frustrated by a recent change in a work system, you have an opportunity to help him understand why the change was necessary.

Whether you regard this as ‘training’ or not, this kind of learning doesn’t just take place in formal classrooms, seminars, or online courses. And you don’t have to be a trainer to want to help people learn new things, and better understand their roles within the organization. Many people, at many levels, train others at some point – and they have a role in creating a learning environment that affects the way work is done, and how their teams are taught new things.

So how can you help people learn effectively within your company or team? There are many ways to do this, some of which involve actual ‘lessons.’ However, the general idea is to create an environment where people are committed to learning, and in which they are supported in their efforts.

Motivating people to learn:

People aren’t always motivated to learn. Some simply don’t want to learn new things; they just don’t want to change. Others think that learning happens naturally, and that it’s an inevitable outcome of instruction. Clearly that isn’t always true, because you can teach someone lots of skills, and still not know whether the person will actually use and apply those skills.

However, you can’t make someone learn. You can have the greatest session prepared. You can have the most organized presentation. You can be charming, and know your subject thoroughly. But unless ’students’ are motivated, it’s unlikely that they’ll learn.

That’s why it can be helpful to know a technique for motivating people to learn. A useful model is ARCS, which stands for ‘Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction.’ This was developed by John Keller in 1983, and it’s been used and validated by teachers and trainers across a wide range of learning environments – from universities to the military.

Here are the basic components of the ARCS model:

  • Attention – Capture the learners’ attention at the start of the session, and maintain it throughout the lesson.
    • Ask the learners questions to make them think about why they should learn the skill.
    • Use role-playing or other activities to show the importance of learning the skill. For instance, you could play the role of an angry customer, and have the learner respond to you as a way of demonstrating the best way to handle a difficult situation.
    • Use specific examples, and ask learners to offer their own solutions, to stimulate their interest further.
  • Relevance – Explain to learners how important the lesson is, and how it could benefit them.
    • Describe the benefits. For example, by learning strategies for handling angry customers, your staff will be less stressed and anxious about dealing with them.
    • Relate the lesson to their current jobs and experiences. The learning materials, assignments, and projects should be applicable to their work, and to specific situations they face in their daily jobs.
    • Develop a connection between learning the skill and developing their careers. Discuss issues like increased satisfaction, higher pay, and promotion opportunities.
  • Confidence – Tell learners what is expected of them.
    • Set clear objectives for the session, and check in regularly with learners to make sure they’re not falling behind.
    • Design projects and lessons so that learners experience small successes along the way, before they completely master the skill.
    • Give learners enough time to practice the skills so they’ll be successful when they apply those skills on the job.
    • Make sure you’re teaching at the right level. Learners can lack motivation if something is too difficult – or too easy.
    • Allow learners to have input into their learning by helping them create their own learning goals.
  • Satisfaction – Reinforce successes and motivation.
    • Give lots of feedback. Make sure it’s specific, timely, and relates to how learners can put the skill into practice on the job.
    • Recognize learners’ successes. Praise often, and find ways to reward achievements. Let learners know that you and the company value and appreciate expertise and high levels of skill and competence.
    • Look at ways to increase motivation. Find out what learners are interested in and passionate about. And find ways to get learners to motivate one another as well.

Some guides:

As well as increasing the motivation to learn, there are many ways to make your sessions more interesting, enjoyable, and suitable for all learners. These ideas can be used for formal lessons, or for spontaneous learning opportunities that present themselves.

You can help the learning process by doing the following:

  • Use pre-instruction questions – These can get learners to think about why they should be learning this new skill, as well as to appreciate the benefits of learning.
  • Use conceptual models – These are often a useful way for helping learners to store and retrieve information. Mental models (which can be in the form of diagrams and charts) are often helpful for learning the details of a lesson.
  • Vary the learning material – This will help you deal with all learning styles. Some of the systems we use for learning are as follows:
    • Visual – Charts, graphs, or images may represent the idea being presented, as well as information in books or reports.
    • Auditory – Lectures, presentations, and group discussions allow learners to ‘talk through’ what’s being presented.
    • Kinesthetic – This is experience and hands-on practice that’s either real or simulated.

    We all have our own preferred learning styles. If you provide as many different learning experiences as sensibly possible, you’ll be more likely to connect with each learner.

  • Group learners of the same skills – Encourage learning and understanding by having people work with others who are learning the same skills. By helping one another, they can all reinforce what they’re learning. Everyone in the team will then benefit from the strengths of the individual members.
  • Provide opportunities for reflection and thinking – Learning journals are a popular and effective way for people to write down their thoughts about how the learning process itself has been helpful to their overall development.
  • Actively review the lesson at the end – What progress did the learners make, and what difficulties did they encounter? By revisiting the lesson, you have an opportunity to learn from the experience yourself – and hopefully figure out how to improve the content or approach next time. A review also gives the learners an opportunity to analyze their performance, and increase their commitment to continuous learning.
  • Use all of your emotional intelligence and communication skills – This means establishing a connection with learners, listening actively, using empathy where appropriate, being patient, and showing genuine interest in the people and in your teaching. Your attitude toward learning has a huge impact on the learners’ attitudes, so make sure you’re a good role model for continuous, active learning.

Read more @