Are you a visualiser or a verbaliser? While you don't have to be strictly one or the other (you will learn through both methods), people will tend to have a preference for learning either visually (better memory for movies, diagrams etc) or verbally (prefer written word and listening). If you're not sure which learning style you have, you can test yourself by answering a questionnaire from the North Carolina State University website (http://www.engr.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/ilsweb.html). For an understanding of the learning style categories, take a look at Felder and Soloman's Index of Learning Styles (http://www.ncsu.edu/felder-public/ILSpage.html).
So what does this have to do with technology you might ask? Well if you are a visualiser then you will benefit from using mind mapping software. This allows you to "draw up" your ideas in a visual format. This is useful when brainstorming, writing essays, coming up with creative concepts, or any problem you might want to explain or map out. I tend be slightly more verbal but have been using mind maps for writing my essays. This allows me to structure my essay and ensure I have a consistent flow.
There are various mind mapping products available for Windows, Mac or Linux (see the Lifehacker review: http://lifehacker.com/five-best-mind-mapping-tools-476534555). If you are looking for integration with Word and more complex drawing functions, you will need to pay for a product, but for basic functionality I have been using a web based app called Coggle (http://coggle.it). This is free and only requires a Google account in order to to sign up. I also find it convenient as I can access it from any web accessible device (tablet, desktop etc). Another recommendation is Mind Meister (www.mindmeister.com). The free version allows 3 mind maps and then you need to pay for additional features after that. Educational institutions receive discounts, so you may be able to get a cheap or free account through your school or other learning institution. Mind Meister has more sophisticated mapping tools and layouts and generally more functionality than Coggle. Like Coggle it is web based, so it can be accessed just about anywhere.
So whether you are a visualiser or verbaliser, you may get some benefit out of mind mapping, give it a go and see what works for you. You might be inspired by some of the more creative mind maps here.
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