Learning Technologies Newsletter
ISSUE 137 - March 2017
- by Phil Chambers

Welcome to the March issue of The Learning Technologies Newsletter.
This month I discuss an important aspect of Mind Mapping – Why you should use an unframed central image.

Time to Read: 3 minutes (Average Reader), less than a minute (Speed Reader) - Word Count: 716.

Milan Cathedral

What's Phil Up To?

I am continuing to produce a short free video approximately each fortnight on an aspect of thinking, learning, memory, creativity and related subjects. I would value your feedback. Please visit my Youtube channel, comment and subscribe here

Earlier this month I was in Milan helping to organise the Italian Open Memory Championships. Congratulations to all involved, especially the overall Champion, Silvio di Fabio.



An Open ‘Frame’ of Mind – Don’t Fence Me In.

Free range brain

“O give me land, lots of land, and the starry skies above
Don't fence me in
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don't fence me in”

~ Cole Porter (June 9, 1891 – October 15, 1964)

Your blank sheet of paper is a wide open country to be colonised by your thoughts. A large sheet gives you lots of metaphorical land that needs to be used as effectively as possible.

Many of my students start off Mind Mapping by writing a word in a box in the centre of the page, often in a single colour. They are usually easily persuaded that a colourful, unique image is far preferable to a word as it leads to better mental stimulation and boosts creativity. Some remain reticent to draw believing their artistic skills let them down. Bearing in mind that Mind Maps are largely a tool for your own thinking and do not always have to be shared or exhibited, you don’t have to be a talented artist to make a rudimental visual representation of an idea. The act of attempting to draw, even if you fail spectacularly, leads you to more closely observe the world around you. A very big part of learning to draw is learning to see. It is tempting to give up and resort to words or to switch to computer assisted Mind Maps, with the emotional comfort of clip art, but it is worth persevering to develop your drawing skills. You could even attend art or cartooning courses. Part of the enjoyment of Mind Mapping is adding pleasing, amusing and engaging little sketches on your branches and in the centre. It could also be argued that there is a ‘muscle memory’ associated with drawing.

One persistent misinterpretation of the ‘Laws’ of Mind Mapping is that people feel the need to enclose their central image. It is not always a rectangular box. It can be an oval or a wavy line but it still cuts off the centre form the branches connected to and emanating from it. A line that encloses your central image acts like a fence or barrier to the development of your associations. Your primary thoughts are corralled like sheep in a pen when they should be free to roam. Whenever you frame something you are indicating completion and imposing an outer limit. Your thinking has no limit and if you frame from the start you are immediately hindering development of your ideas.

The unique outline created by your central image is a powerful mnemonic device. Your eyes are attracted by irregularity of shape and form. A striking and impactful centre to your Mind Map creates a ‘von-Restorff’ effect (which predicts that “when multiple homogenous stimuli are presented, the stimulus that differs from the rest is more likely to be remembered.”) Boundaries, clouds and enclosures, especially three-dimensional ones, can be used in other parts of your Mind Map to add emphasis but these are deliberate and used sparingly. Your ideas should be treated like well cared for animals – free range.

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That’s it for this month. Look out for the next newsletter in April.

Best Wishes