Who notes the note-takers?

Tony Buzan is the inventor of the Mind Map memory tool. He is also an educational consultant and advices to governments and government organisations in England, Singapore, Mexico and Australia. His products have are used in 150 countries in 30 languages the most recent is the  iMindMap software, now in its 5th generation, released in 2006 and available for PC, iPad and iPhone.

Tony Buzan developed the Mind Map during his time in education, noticing inconsistencies between actual intelligence and what the education system perceived as intelligence. “My best friend could identify by flight pattern any living thing…and the school was calling him stupid and me bright…because I got 100% in a nature test…It suddenly struck me that the school system was not identifying who was smart and who was not smart correctly…so I began to investigate the way that I thought”.

At university Tony noticed his grades begin to drop and realised that “standard notes in blue and black ink written on lines” were letting him down.“I went to the librarian and said ‘I need a book on how to use my brain’. She said ‘the medical section is over there’”. Realising that the research on the way we learn had significant gaps, Tony began to “investigate the nature of note taking”:“I used to take the key ideas and put them on memory cards. Over the years I added colour…then began to develop images…I studied the great thinkers and what kind of notes they made, especially Leonardo Da Vinci and Thomas Edison…The MindMap evolved through the late 50s…and came into its own with the BBC television series in 1974. The rest is history…in the making”.

The MindMap has come a long way since then and now has its own software, iMindMap, which Tony describes as “a dream come true”. The basic package is available free with three further upgrades costing £29.00 between £149. Whether Mind Mapping on your iPad or on paper with a new pack of Crayolas, Tony has advice to bear in mind. “Make sure you use colour well. Develop the idea of thinking in images and making connections. Keep yourself physically, especially aerobically, fit. If you’re unfit…your brain will be getting low grade fuel”.

The technique’s focus on key words and colour has made it particularly useful to those with learning difficulties such as dyslexia and ADHD. “The problem for dyslexic students is that they have difficulties with…grammatical structure and words…The MindMap immediately eliminates 90% of that by focusing on images and key words…which are only 10% of the notes that people normally take”.

Tony says that the Mind Map’s utility is not restricted to any discipline. “Chemistry students use them, History students use them, Law students use them…The Mind Map is fundamentally a thinking tool…so whatever subject you’re dealing with the Mind Map will be useful”. Described as ‘the Swiss army knife of the brain’, it’s the Mind Map’s versatility that has allowed the Mind Map to explode into such a global phenomenon. “Not just in the UK but throughout the world. In Singapore they are now part of the standard curriculum. In Malaysia they are, They are becoming so in China. There are a lot in New Zealand and Australia…Mexico now has a university called TecMilenio which has 40 campuses and every one of their roughly 40,000 students has to do an 100 hour course in Mind Mapping…It’s already becoming [similar in the UK]. Many many schools are using it. LSE uses it”.

Buzan forsees a very promising future for the Mind Map.“At the moment it seems to be accelerating exponentially so I would say that in ten years Mind Mapping will be the standard student form of note taking…It will be in kindergarten, it will be in secondary and tertiary education and throughout society and business…It will be to the 21st Century what linear note taking was to the industrial age”.

It’s definitely worth giving MindMapping a try, especially since the basic software package is free and easy to use. Any freshers struggling with scrawling out reams of notes from a text or failing to make anything from what you jotted down in a trance during a lecture, this may be the answer to all your problems.
Dom Gilchrist