This is a guest post from Hélène Fyffe, an undergraduate starting her final year at Edinburgh Napier University, having spent a year on placement with Microsoft UK Education as part of her course.
Essays are a process that every student has to get to grips with at some point in their academic career, whether it's at school, college or university. For some lucky students essay-writing comes more naturally but for those who find it more challenging, there are effective strategies that can help simplify things. One such solution is mind mapping and as always, technology can help to make the process more fun and stimulating for students. Having been searching for good mind mapping apps to help me with my fourth year university essays, I fell across Novamind Mind Maps which I've been really impressed with and want to share.
5 ways Novamind can help unscramble essays
1. Visualize info
Firstly, Novamind effectively helps students to visualise their ideas. It's been proven that many students find it easier to make sense of their ideas when they can see them and unsurprisingly, the way we categorise and analyse information isn't in a linear 'essay-format'. The main initial challenge for many students is figuring out what they want to argue and how to make sense of literature and content for essays. Novamind provides a ready-made structure for students to jot down their thoughts, letting them focus on their ideas as opposed to structuring them. Once they're down, they can see the big picture and decipher important details.
2. Help establish a structure
You're probably pretty familiar with students uncertain and worried about how to structure their arguments. I'm in final year at uni and still find myself pondering over whether I've made the structure flow in a logical format. I believe one of the key benefits of Novamind is that once students have gotten their ideas down, they are then able to decipher key themes and see linkages between sub sections. In effect, being able to visually see connections in arguments can help students make good decisions on how to link paragraphs in their essays.
3. Idea-bomb at any time
The reality of creative work is that we don't always come up with our best ideas or even any ideas during the time we've dedicated to study. We've all seen the movie where a writer or film producer gets his 'aha moment' at a restaurant and scribbles his idea onto the corner of his table napkin. Luckily, times have moved on and when students get those unplanned moments of clarity, they can thankfully access Novamind from their phone, tablet or PC on all major OS's. And let's face it, people always have at least one device on them.
4. Rearrange thoughts and adapt ideas
Naturally, we often change our minds and think of new/better ways to argue an essay question but it's always useful to be able to refer back to the original idea and compare plans. Novamind's intelligence in storing a record of all the progressions of your mind map is a really useful little bonus. Students can revisit their ideas, compare them and then even reorganise them if they decide on altering their essay plan. This can come in particularly handy for longer pieces of work such as dissertations or for a vindictively nasty essay question that takes a certain amount of time to get to grips with.
5. Visual cues help group ideas and themes
Finally, Novamind's flexibility to annotate mind maps using colours and shapes can help students save time when they finally get down to writing their essay. The fun colourful tools enable students to clearly separate themes and sections and effectively organise their mind map into what I would describe as a summary plan for their essay. They can visually group ideas and signpost the themes or ideas that require to be backed up with secondary sources, culminating in an edible, detailed essay plan.
Make sure to share Novamind with your students - it's really fun, easy to use and ultimately helps save time!
If you're curious to see what other apps can be used in education, have a look at the flyer below: