Aubrey Perry on Mind Mapping and xMind

Hello! My name is Aubrey Perry, the Coordinator for Data Collection and Analysis at the Gateway to College National Network. We work with two-year colleges, school districts, and state departments of education to provide opportunities for high school dropouts and underprepared college students to achieve college credentials.

Hot Tip: As an internal evaluator for a nationwide network, I am partially responsible for communicating our data collection practices and processes to individuals of varying backgrounds and skills. I have found that mind mapping is a great way to graphically show the relationships between various principles and tasks.

Rad Resource: For more information on how you can integrate mind mapping with your evaluation projects, check out Dana Dehart’s post on AEA365.

Hot Tip: When looking for mind mapping software, there are a few important questions you should ask:

  1. Is the program flexible enough to accommodate your creative thinking patterns? When most people think of mind maps, the “tree” structure comes to mind where everything branches off a main concept. A good program should do this, and more, by providing the flexibility to design the map that best fits what you’re trying to convey.
  2. Will the program connect to the other programs I use in my office or routines? Mind maps are great to include in evaluation proposals or training materials as a way to graphically represent the processes someone might do. To accomplish this, however, you need a way to link the two programs. Make sure the program you choose allows you to save or export the map as a JPG, PNG, BMP, or PDF file.
  3. Is the program financially feasible for my practice or organization? There are many great programs out there that can help you start mapping. However, these range from free to very expensive. I recommend starting with one or two free programs to see if they meet all of your needs.

Rad Resource: The program that I use for Mind Mapping is xMind. The java-based software has an extensive set of features available for free users, including all of the features I mentioned above. One of my favorite features is the ability to easily embed images to the tree itself, instantly making the mind map more graphic. You can also share the image to the web, making it easy to embed on your virtual training materials. Here’s a mind map showing some of the processes xMind is great for:

Rad Resource: Sometimes the best inspiration comes from others! Join the xMind user group at biggerplate for a network of xMind users that have posted plenty of examples. Also browse the IconArchive for images that can easily embed into your map.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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