Bev's adventures in ICT

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Thinking outside the box

Thinking skills are an ever growing and important part of classroom life. Mind mapping, brain storming, ideas explosion…whatever you call it it is increasingly being used in schools around the country. And there are great ideas out there, both free and internet based or bought in software packages, that help us cover this in our educational settings. I use a number of such packages and ideas in my lessons and everyone has their particular favourites. 2Connect, Dabbleboard and are the ones that many people generally flock to (and with good reason), but this week I’ve looked at two internet based tools to take mind mapping to a different level: Prezi and Spicy Nodes.

Prezi is something you may seen before. Some teachers use it in the classrooms (mainly as a presentation tool) and you can create shared ones on the IWB during thematic  sessions (e.g. when you’re bsgining to investigate a new topic) but the new educational options regarding licensing is going to lead to many more teachers using this with pupils in their classrooms. Recap or complete topics by creating mind maps showcasing images and information gained over a few weeks. Pupils can add video content while others can convert examples of their work (e.g. PowerPoint glossaries) and web pages they found interesting into PDF format so they could be included as well. There are lots of worthwhile ways you could use Prezi in school. From information scrapbooks on specific topics (created on the IWB and built upon from week to week) to using it as a self assessment tool to see how much pupils can remember and recall on a given topic.

Buoyed by people’s reaction to Prezi I decided to investigate Spicy Nodes: a new online tool still in the early stages of development. This was one of those great twitter finds that people flag up from time to time. Although I only looked at it briefly and had a bit of a play around with it I feel students would take to it and enjoy using it quite quickly. So much so that I’m going to try and use it more often so I can fully investigate the possibilities.

Get Better Connected

Thinking Skills are becoming increasingly important in Primary education. Mind Mapping, Brainstorming, Thought Explosions…call it whatever you like, it’s something that we are all using more and more in the classroom. Finding applications that are suitable to use with primary age children (and straightforward enough for them to us independently) can be a challenge. There are a lot of web based ideas and applications available online; some free (we’ll come to those later) and some incurring a charge, and it can be difficult to know what to choose. 2Simple’s solution to this is the brand new 2Connect. The application has a number of great features I’ve not come across in a mind mapping tool before and it’s well worth finding out about!

One of the  most positive aspects of this software is the ability to import images  easily: although you could do this using other ICT based methods they this program has the simplest method I had come across. There’s  also a thumbs up for the additional clip art that was included in the package.

Then there are the notes and attachment features: children can choose to attach relevant website links (see the image below) to their ideas or add a little note giving more information. The word bank feature is also fantastic; allowing you to use the mind map to assist in your word processing – how clever and inclusive!

Of course this solution might not be for everyone.  It’s not as colourful as some other mind mapping tools, like ,but the ability to include illustrations, notes and weblinks made up for this! That said, if you’re looking for a free mind mapping tool is an excellent alternative. Mind maps are saved online and you just need an email address to register for an account. Dabbleboard and MindMeister are also web based application that are worth looking at.

I have to say that,I am looking forward to introducing 2Connect to others. I think it will become an invaluable tool in the classroom for many people and will greatly enhance thinking skills activities.