Thursday, June 25, 2009

VISUAL MAPPING AND ACADEMIA


OK, we’ve now come to an understanding of the importance of developing a strong personal foundation for the Visual Mapping information manager. Let’s now discuss the benefits to and implications for use within the academic arena.
Within the Visual mapping tool set we have a growing number of software apps to satisfy our needs to express information graphically. In my experience within the academic arena, there are three tools that are readily recognized for their graphical clarity.



From left to right, we have simple Concept map, Flow Chart and Mind map examples. For the most part, if you show an academic teacher or student these examples, they’ll identify and name all three formats.

The flowchart seems to be at this time the most widely recognizable graphical format. Open many school, college and university curriculum packages and you’ll probably see the academic year mapped out as a flow chart. The flowchart is an excellent communicator when it comes to information flow and process orientation, it is also the most linear of all the graphical formats in the examples.

No negatives here, it’s all positive; if a flowchart is your chosen format for mapping out data, information and knowledge, simply use it while opening your mind to understanding the other formats too can offer you flexibility of thinking too.
The point of becoming a superior information manager is to understand and accept, there are other formats (modes) available to you for the purpose of creating, managing and exchanging your communications.

Within academia we have two arenas that are affected positively by visual mapping: they are teachers and students. Faculty within academia being made up of teachers and skilled support staff are benefited by using visual mapping to overview, organize, clarify and present the educational curriculum's to staff and students alike. Capturing thoughts, ideas, logic, associations and arguments supporting the delivery of academic is the powerhouse of visual mapping for teachers and support staff. The Create, Manage and Present procedure is an invaluable step by step process, called the T.A.P process I’ll speak of in a later post.

Students and teachers alike have differing styles of receptiveness and delivery. This is where software Visual mapping as a tool set has great advantage. The student may be more linear, or process oriented in her approach to understanding and accepting information and her fellow student may be a more abstract thinker, who needs to join all the dots together and see the big picture. There’s no right or wrong here, both students shall do rather well, if they are enabled to have access to tools that give them the freedom of expression.

The teachers are somewhat constrained by the curriculum and therefore merely deliver the process rather than teach these days. It is unfortunate there has not been a wholesale acceptance of Visual mapping within academia by faculty. There are some teachers who are now using the tools, techniques and mindset of visual mapping to as a supplement to existing curriculum delivery, and they are experiencing the benefits of positive results for their students comprehension ability.

There are a few software products that should be mentioned here as being indispensable as student/teacher tools for creating, managing and exchanging relevant academic information.

Take a look at Mind Manager, ConceptDraw MINDMAP, Mind Mapper, Visual Mind and XMind. This list shall provide you with enough homework to trial and compare their capabilities. There are other products to consider but, I don’t intend to blog about software unless it is absolutely necessary.

All the products mentioned above bar one, have the ability to embed document attachments right into the framework of the mapped format. This is where we see the benefit to both the student and teacher as they can database their academic information and knowledge within their chosen formats.

The academic level is so closely associated with the professional use of visual mapping within industry and corporate business; it begs the question why we haven’t seen any kind of attempt to standardize an approach to information management within academia and business arenas.

IMO, it is now time to close the gap between academia and business, enabling and infusing the tools, techniques and mindset of visual mapping to be realized as a standard approach to information management. I remain very hopeful my fellow professional visual mappers shall cause this to happen by working together as a collective.

So if you’re an academic who is in a position of generating interest in Visual mapping where you work and teach, let’s hear from you with your experiences. And, if you’re a student who is using the tools and techniques of visual mapping to study and manage you academic life, let’s also hear from you too.

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