Mind mapping has become quite a big thing in recent years, whether it’s to gather ideas for a project or an essay or to provide an outline for a lesson or a topic. The number of programs available to enable you to mind map is quite mind-boggling (if you can excuse the pun) – just look at this site to see what I mean. Most of these are paid, a few are free, and most need to be downloaded to your computer. Up till now MindMeister has been the main contender in the web-based arena, and even the free version offers quite a lot for education purposes. But the drawback about many of these programs is their rather static nature – even good old bubbl.us, which I used to fall back on a lot, isn’t exactly dynamic. Which is why Spicynodes, still in beta mode but seemingly near full release version, is an interesting new proposition.
It seems to be intended as a tool for mapping the content of a website, but it lends itself to the usual mind mapping functions, with the added bonus of being nicely interactive. Its key trick is that as you move out to focus on one branch of the content, that branch becomes the central focus on the screen. It’s attractively presented, even in the free version (paid accounts offer more formatting options) and I thought I’d give it a go in presenting the Perfect Tense in French. My hasty attempt is linked from the image above and is best viewed full screen. I’m not sure I’ve got the best out of it, but I think Spicynodes will prove a useful new entrant to the mind mapping market.
The interactive whiteboard has certainly been one of the great breakthroughs in teaching of the past decade, but, initially at least, it did nothing to liberate the teacher from the front of the classroom. You were still stuck there, either tapping frantically on the board or dashing across to your computer keyboard and doing the tapping there to keep things rolling. A remote was of course the answer. Until recently I had a rather ancient bit of kit held together with parcel tape and boasting a very slow facility to move the mouse pointer around the screen. Not very dynamic. After seeing a presenter use a gyroscopic mouse very effectively a couple of years ago at some conference or other I realised that was the way forward. And finally I’ve got one!
I went for this fairly basic gyroscopic air mouse as it seemed to offer all I might need in the classroom and first impressions suggest it does. It takes but moments to set up and not much longer to get the hang of waving it around after the manner of a Wii remote. It’s pretty speedy and accurate and one of its benefits is that you can switch in an instant from using it as a normal mouse on a desktop at the back of the classroom to using it in air mode as you stride purposefully amongst your class. You can programme it to recognise gestures and assign particular actions to the three spare buttons, eg to provide a pointer or go back a page or whatever. And it’s really portable: the USB dongle fits right inside the mouse and there is sweet little mesh pouch to slip it into. Stick it in your pocket and you’re off. So far so absolutely brilliant. Everyone should have one!