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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ten Terrific Mind Mapping and Brainstorming Tools

Today, I am running a workshop about using mind mapping and brainstorming tools to help students meet some of the Common Core standards in English Language Arts. Below are some of the tools that we will be using today. On a related note, if you're interested in having me come to your school or facilitate a virtual workshop, please click here for more information.

Popplet is a great service that combines the best of online sticky note services like Wallwisher with collaborative mind mapping functions. Popplet allows you to create a wall of multimedia sticky notes that you can share with others. Your stickies can include videos and images that you pull from other online services. You can also upload media from your desktop to your sticky notes. Popplet offers a browser bookmarklet that you can use to add content from other webpages to your Popplet pages. Invite others via email to collaborate on your wall of sticky notes. The mind mapping element of Popplet is the option to connect your notes. To do this just click one of the small circles that hovers near your note (Popplet calls them "Popples") while you're editing. Click those small circles will launch a connected blank note that you can edit. Popplet is available for iPads.


Text 2 Mind Map offers a great way to turn your typed outlines into mind maps. To create a mind map on Text 2 Mind Map type out an outline in the text box. After typing your outline click "draw mind map" to have your mind map created for you. If after creating your mind map you need to add more elements to just add them into your outline and click "draw mind map" again. Your mind map can be downloaded as a PDF or PNG file. The mind maps that you create on Text 2 Mind Map can also be shared via email, Facebook, or Twitter.


Realtime Board is a new online tool for hosting online, collaborative brainstorming sessions. Realtime Board provides a blank grid on which you can type, draw, and post pictures. You can connect elements on your boards through a simple linking tool. The boards that you create on Realtime Board can be shared publicly or privately. To help you communicate with your collaborators Realtime Board has a chat function built into every board.


Inkflow is an iPad app for visual thinkers who like to sketch to process what they're hearing, seeing, and learning. Inkflow can be used to sketch mind maps, draw pictures, write free hand, and just about anything else you might do with a pencil and paper. You can organize your Inkflow pages into books. There is a free version and a paid version of Inkflow. The free version allows you to use black ink only and your books are limited to twenty pages. But you can have as many books as you want in the free version. The paid version gives you more drawing tools and colors as well as more pages per book. The paid version is now available for volume pricing.

iBrainstorm is a free brainstorming application for the iPad and the iPhone. The app allows you to record brainstorming sessions using a combination of free hand drawings and sticky notes. You can share and collaborate with other users of iBrainstorm. Sharing notes and drawings between users in a local setting is a simple matter of "flicking" an item to another user.


SyncSpace is a collaborative whiteboard app available for iPad here and for Android here. You can use SyncSpace to create drawings and documents on your tablet. You can create using free-hand drawing tools, using typing tools, or a combination of the two tool sets. Your drawings and documents can be sent to and synced with other users so that they can comment and edit your drawings and documents.


Creaza Education is a great suite of tools that includes a video editor, an audio editor, a cartoon creator, and an excellent mind map builder. To access all of these tools create an account on Creaza Education then select "tools" after you sign in. Creaza Education's mind mapping tool is actually an installation of Mindomo. Mindomo is one of the most feature-rich mind mapping tools that I've used. The user interface is clear and intuitive as every important function happens through clearly labeled drop down menus. Mindomo allows you to include videos, pictures, and audio files in all cells in your mind map.


Pinball is a suite of fun tools from the BBC for organizing ideas and generating new ideas. In Pinball you will find tools for creating mindmaps, outlines, and simple slideshows. Pinball also has tools to help you brainstorm and generate new ideas. Each one of the six Pinball tools provides options for including text and images in your mindmaps, outlines, and slideshows. If you're struggling to think of new ideas, each Pinball tool has a "lucky dip" button that will serve up a random image or bit of text to prompt you.

Connected Mind is a free mind mapping tool that you can find in the Google Chrome Web Store. Using Connected Mind you can create free-form mind maps or use a template. A lot of mind mapping tools lock you into using straight lines between elements, but Connected Mind is not one of them. Connected Minds allows you to create mind maps in any configuration that you like. As it is a Chrome Web Store app, Connected Mind allows you to save your work online using your Google Account credentials.

Spider Scribe is an online mind map creation service. Spider Scribe can be used individually or be used collaboratively. I've reviewed a lot of mind mapping tools over the years. What jumps out about Spider Scribe is that users can add images, maps, calendars, text notes, and uploaded text files to their mind maps. Users can connect the elements on their mind maps or let them each stand on their own. You can embed your interactive SpiderScribe mind map into your blog or website. If you would like to see how SpiderScribe works, check out Russell Stannard's series of how-to videos or watch this two minute demo.

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