GCSE Mind Map

Detail of GCSE Maths topic map

Imagine covering a wall in a classroom with 154 sticky notes each labelled with a different topic in GCSE Maths, and encouraging students (or colleagues) to move the notes around, suggest links between the topics, argue for collapsing topics into each other or splitting others into several different topics. The sticky notes have colour coding according to module (Number, Algebra, Shape, Data) but related topics from different modules can easily be put close together. Collections of related topics can be surrounded by different coloured tape, and links between topics can be shown using string. The result would be a wicked classroom display, but would require a lot of effort, and considerable supplies of sticky notes, and would probably suffer damage fairly soon. The benefits would include finding links between topics in different modules, arguing over the topics and their relations with other topics, and generally being able to ‘see the wood for the trees’.

Software exists that can mimic sticky notes on the screen and allow you to challenge students to find the links between the topics and to define and defend groupings of topics. Inspiration (Mac OS, Windows, and PDAs) and Tinderbox (Mac OS at present, Windows version in development) are two packages that could enable you to produce such a mother of all topic maps. My preference is for Tinderbox for this project as the ‘sticky notes’ are actually documents that can contain arbitrary quantities of text and (bitmapped) images. Any notes you make to the map can be exported as a set of automatically hyperlinked Web pages, and the export can be controlled in great detail by the use of a template. A new version of Inspiration has just been released with improved HTML export of outlines and charts – the package is firmly based around the idea of an outline document and the ability to switch rapidly between the topic map and an outline document.

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