Why Mind Maps are Better for Learning Than Taking Notes
May 19, 2017

Whether you are studying a new language, learning how to program computers or attending art history or biology classes – mind maps can help your brain hold onto new knowledge.

If you are integrating new information and you want to retain it, a mind map can be much more effective than simply taking down notes. Read on to learn why, as well as how you can use mind maps to accelerate your learning.

Most people are used to linear note-taking when taking classes. These notes might include headings and subheadings and even bullet points, but they are essentially a written summary of what you have read or heard in the classroom. In contrast, mind mapping is more of a visual representation of the information. With the main concept in the centre, a mind map is drawn outwards with separate ideas drawn in “bubbles” or “nodes” connected together with lines.

Disadvantages of Linear Note-Taking

So what are some of the limitations with traditional style linear note-taking?

  • These notes can be quite monotonous, which makes them boring and difficult to study and memorise.
  • Linear note-taking will encourage you to write in full sentences, which is unnecessary when simply conveying information or memorizing concepts is the ultimate goal.
  • You will usually end up with pages and pages of notes, containing only a small percentage of important information.
  • It’s hard to get an overview of the topic when you are using linear style notes. You end up having to hunt through the material to find the information you are looking for.
  • It is also hard to add information after the page has been written. There isn’t much room on the edges to squeeze in extra points.
  • If you are writing your linear notes on a computer, research has shown that you are likely just transcribing the lecture rather than processing the information. It is better to understand the material and then record after reframing it in your own words.

Advantages to Taking Notes With Mind Maps

The mind map itself mirrors the natural way that your brain works. Every piece of information that enters your brain is represented within a central sphere from which many small nodes are radiating. Each of these associations has its own infinite array of connections and links. When your brain learns new information it likes to find related knowledge to link it to so that it can compartmentalise ideas for easier retrieval.

Let’s look at some of the reasons why mind maps can be a more effective method of note taking.

  • Mind maps are incredibly flexible and they can be used in a wide range of ways. There is no wrong way to make a mind map, as long as it works for you.
  • They are especially useful for summarizing information. You can use the branches as your main concepts and then you can flesh out those concepts with the nodes around each branch.
  • This allows you to see all of the main points at a glance so that you can understand the hierarchies, relationships and connections between them. You will be able to see gaps in the information that require more research.
  • You can attach additional notes and links to the map and add a lot of information to it without diminishing the excellent overview it provides. It is easy to go back in and add more information in the right place, even if your professor or teacher jumps back and forth between topics when explaining something.
  • You can also draw a mind map to help you study for exams, as it helps you to connect all of the main concepts in order to understand how the material fits together.
  • Your notes will be more concise and easier to study because you will only include the essential information.

One of the most important reasons why mind maps are so useful for learning is this:

By creating the map and organising the information yourself, your brain is actively processing what you are learning rather than just mindlessly writing it down.

When you make a mind map you cannot simply “switch off” and transcribe a lecture – you are forced to think about the information so that you can redesign it into a visual form.

Plus – mind maps are fun! Taking notes while studying or attending a lecture can get boring, but drawing a mind map can feel more like an art project as you are using creative parts of your brain.

Using Mind Maps for Learning

So how can you use a mind map to improve your learning and note taking? First of all, you need to start with a blank canvas rather than lined paper. A piece of blank paper works well, or a digital canvas.

Or, you could use AR Mind Mapping so that you can create your mind map in a 3D space around you. This might just be the most effective method, because of the way it employs different areas of your brain. By building a “Memory Palace” in your mind and organising the information physically, you will be using your brain’s hippocampus for spatial awareness. This means that you are using more of your brain to learn, embedding the knowledge deeper into your grey matter.

Whether you are using a piece of paper or AR Mind Mapping, here are some tips for creating a mind map to help you learn.

  • Start with the topic you are studying in the center of your map.
  • Branch out with smaller nodes around the centre, representing each of the sub-topics within that topic.
  • There’s no need to write full sentences, just use individual keywords or short phrases and connect them to the center (or other relevant nodes) with lines.
  • For example, if you are learning about Mozart you might have sub-topics about his Life and Career, his Musical Style, his Influences and his Important Compositions.
  • Then, within each subtopic you can branch off with even smaller nodes containing point form notes. Again, you don’t have to write paragraphs – just jot down the essential information you need to know to help you remember the material.
  • Keep it simple and use strong words that have personal meaning and will trigger the ideas in your mind.
  • You can even use different colours and icons, which is playful and fun but can also help you to associate related information and remember things more easily.

By using a mind map rather than taking linear notes, you will be able to absorb and retain information more effectively and improve your learning – no matter what subject you are studying.

 

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