As a teacher, I believe that the most important insight we can gain into the minds of our students--who they are, what they understand about a text or a lesson, etc.--often comes from written, rather than spoken, assignments. Writing is a huge piece of nearly every high school and college course, and being able to communicate ideas in writing is a skill many people take into their careers. What happens, however, when we teach writing to reluctant writers? How can we get them excited about the process, from brainstorming to publication?
MindMeister, while perhaps not the best tool available for helping students with brainstorming (Prezi or Haiku Deck, anyone?), can certainly help increase student enthusiasm. It would be much more exciting to brainstorm an essay or other project with colorful, multi-media software than with a simple paper and pencil! Many of our students have access to a computer these days, and cannot imagine life without the Internet. Why not show our students what kind of tools are available online?
Learning to use MindMeister intuitively was a bit difficult, however. I was frustrated early on because I didn't understand what keys to use or what some of the features did. Even the wizard that automatically pops up at the beginning of your first mind map was not the most helpful! After starting a couple of different mind maps and abandoning them when I couldn't figure out how to do something, I pulled up a few YouTube tutorials. These were helpful--so much so that I felt embarrassed, because not only were the commands ridiculously easy (tab key, enter key, escape key), the instructor kept praising the "intuitive" nature of the program--which had not been my experience! In addition, I did not find any helpful videos thoroughly explaining the need--or instructions for--the connection tool which had so frustrated me.
Once my classmates presented Prezi and Haiku Deck, I felt my enthusiasm for MindMeister (low though it had already been) fall even farther. Prezi came with more bells and whistles for free, and Haiku Deck was so easy to use--with such stellar results--that MindMeister seemed like a waste of time.
I feel that technology shouldn't just be easy for our students to use--it should be easy to teach, as well. During my presentation, I felt that there were a handful of things I still did not understand about the tech, and there was a question or two I couldn't answer. Part of the responsibility for this, of course, can be placed firmly upon my own shoulders--I could have watched more tutorials and learned. However, some of the cons of my MindMeister presentation were genuinely on the tech side. The templates and images provided by MindMeister were quite thin compared to other similar technologies online. For example, Haiku Deck provides a large picture bank for free, and Prezi makes it easy to include images, slideshows, and more--without asking the user to pay for the service, as MindMeister does. If I had to choose between the three to use as a professional, let alone teach to my future students, MindMeister sadly wouldn't make the cut.