Friday, 30 November 2007

Thinking Skills

"In our evolving world, the ability to think is fast becoming more desirable than any fixed set of skills or knowledge.  We need problem solvers, decision makers and innovators.  And to produce them, we need new ways to teach and learn.  We need to prepare our children for their future, not for our past."

Mike Fleetham, "How to Create and Develop a Thinking Classroom"

I have only just discovered the interest and effort being put into the education system to teach children how to learn and think, as opposed to just memorising facts, for instance.  It seems my own children are receiving some coaching in different approaches to learning.  I've found a collection of resources at Brainbox, from where I copied the quote that heads this post.

I'm also intrigued by this publication:

Here is a synopsis:

"Think you can't see someone's thinking? Think again! This book reveals what happens when the normally private, hidden and undefined act of thinking is transformed into one that is public, available and explicit.

Thinking Skills and Eye Q is the world's first lexicon of visual tools – once tooled up, you can transform teaching and learning in your classroom. Thinking Skills and Eye Cue is a breakthrough in thinking. Ironically, there has been lots of fuzzy thinking about thinking skills. Caviglioli, Harris and Tindall, though, are very clear about what thinking is. In this book, they link thinking skills with visual tools and the genres that pupils encounter in every lesson. "

I would love to hear from you if you have read this book.


Exporting to Word from MindManager

Recently I was asked my thoughts on potential improvements to MindManager.  I decided to focus on the MS Word export feature as I feel it to has the potential to be very powerful. In business I sometimes find an overall culture of mistrust and misunderstanding of things visual and it is of great help to be able to issue proceedings of a meeting or workshop both as a map and a set of notes - to satisfy all types.

I am beginning to understand the Word export option better now but still find it hard to imagine what the results of an export will be like before I do it.

So, the ideas I came up with for possible improvements were:

a) a preview option - based on the selected Word template options, a preview to be generated rather than having to run the export in full to see the results
b) the document created to use the Word template styles and not clones of them created by MindManager
c) I would like to be able to export embedded images in addition to icon markers
d) A faster loading of user defined Word templates - this is slow currently
e) a two way interaction with Word such that an MM template may be designed/derived/built by interpretation of a selected Word template - in terms of levels, heading, topic and note formatting
f) More control and options over how notes are exported.

What are your thoughts and experiences with this feature?

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Survey of Web-Based Mind Mapping Applications

My Photo

Chuck Frey has just released the findings from his latest survey.  He says:

"In September, I conducted a survey of users of web-based mind mapping applications, to learn how people are utilizing them and to shed some light on the advantages, disadvantages and future potential of this exciting new technology. The results of this survey are finally available (attached).

There's a lot of great data here, as well as many user opinions on what they like about web-based mind mapping tools, what needs to improve about them and where developers should focus their efforts in order to deliver the functionality that they expect."

Please follow the link here to find out more or go here to download the report for free.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Whiteboard Photo Software in Action

I have posted earlier about this remarkable piece of software which cleans up photos of workshop flipcharts at the press of a button.WorkshopResultsPhotoAnon WorkshopResultsChartAnon

Here is an example - the graphic was used to present the workshop plan and updated throughout with progress (the green ticks). The before and after images are included to demonstrate what can be produced quickly using Whiteboard Photo. This is great for getting a record of the workshop distributed to attendees at the end or very soon after.

MindManager and MS Office

One of the truly great features of MindManager is its integration with MS Office. I've long used the links with Outlook to manage my to dos and personal plans. Recently I've begun to use the Word export feature also.

Conceptually, I think there are two ends to a spectrum on how the Word link might be used. At the simple or 'quick and dirty' end is the approach which where a map is created, exported to Word and then the Word document edited to achieve the desired result.

Mindjet Productivity Pack for Microsoft® Office

The other approach is more considered and involves pre-planning to achieve a finished Word document at the press of a button. This is not a criticism merely a pointer to users - if you want great results first time from the Word export feature, then invest a little time first to 'design' you map and a template to match - and then check it.

Things I have learned are:

- ensure each branch of the map conforms strictly to the Word template hierarchy. Having a branch with an additional level, say one between what should be level 1 and level 2, will give corresponding results in the Word document
- design and save the Word template file (.dot) first. Remember to include any additional items such as: title page(s); document control; ToC; headers and footers, additional branding)
- check the leveling on the map is consistent with the template hierarchy
- select the correct options (template, mapping of levels to template styles, understand how deep the leveling goes, consider what you want to happen to notes and images)
- export.

Prove the map and the template give the desired result by testing with simple outputs - especially before using the feature live in front of an audience.

I think what also takes first time users by surprise is that MM creates "MM" versions of the template styles rather than use the styles as-is (as-are?). This is OK once you understand it will happen (maybe a future release can get around this?).

If anyone has any good/interesting Word templates that could be experimented with, modified and otherwise adopted by users (inc me) they would be gratefully received by all I'm sure.

It's also worth reviewing the 'Value of an Hour' presentation on the MindJet website. There is also a 'Microsoft Tips and Tricks' map to download here.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Pixid Whiteboard Photo

While at the IAF Europe annual conference in Edinburgh I attended a session on Graphic Facilitation given by Meeting Magic. One of the items they introduced was a great piece of software which automatically cleans up flipchart and whiteboard notes and drawings. This means you can photograph the work done, clean it up and send it electronically to the participants. The great advantage is that they are getting an exact record of what was produced on the day in the format in which it was produced - thus reinforcing their experience and memory.

WhiteBoard Photo, WinThe software is Whiteboard Photo. It lets you take snapshots of your dry-erase board, flipchart, chalkboard or document with your digital camera and convert them into crisp, perfect images in seconds. Whiteboard Photo uses proprietary image processing algorithms to correct the angle of your photograph, correct the colors, and clip the borders so that you get a perfect printout every time. You don’t need to worry about the angle of the camera, the lighting, reflections, or even small print. Whiteboard Photo can create brilliant hardcopies in less than 30 seconds.

You can see examples in my posting: Graphic Templates. More examples will follow soon.

Available from Publishing Perfection at $79.95 as a download

Monday, 5 November 2007

Graphic Templates

TemplateAn important tool in graphic facilitation is the visual template. Typically a template is prepared before the workshop and posted at the start of the exercise. The group works on their ideas with the template in mind and with the knowledge that what they produce will be used to populate the template. This helps them stay focussed on their objective. The completed template provides a memorable record of the achievements and conclusions of the group.

This example is based on one available from the The Grove Consultants.

Further examples of workshop graphics as templates can be found in these excellent books. The key thing to remember is that anyone can prepare these - no previous artistic skills are needed.