Assistive Technology - Mind Maps - DOC by sdfsb346f


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									Assistive Technology - Mind Maps
This information refers to dyslexic people, but may be useful for all
types of neuro-diversity.


Many students at university have certain gaps in their skills. This could include
spelling, grammar and punctuation. Or it may be that organisation or time-
keeping are not your strength. McLoughlin et al (2002) talk about three types
of strategy to use to overcome difficulties at university:

      Skills Development - (learning new skills, for example learning how to

      Compensation - (complementing your strengths and finding an
       alternative approach to do something, for example using a spell
       checker in Word)
      Accommodation - (where systems are put in place to accommodate
       difficulty, for example, someone struggling with spelling may ask
       someone to proofread their work).

This document will cover types of compensatory strategies that may help
support the difficulties you experience. Some students who have had
dyslexia, dyspraxia or other learning differences identified may be eligible for
Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) in the UK. In such cases, support
software and hardware may be made available to them. In any case, they
should contact the University’s Disability Unit, Learning Support Team or

This document will outline some of the technology available. In some cases, it
is very expensive. Where possible, lower tech (and usually less expensive)
suggestions will be given.

There are some simple steps that you can take, for example through using
software already available to you. The following two pieces of equipment may
have features that you can use:

Mobile phone – you could use it for a ‘to do list’ and to set reminders. Often,
phones allow you to set an alarm to go off at a certain time. This could be
used to remind you of appointments. You could also see if your phone allows
you to store pictures, as you could use photographs for your contacts. This
may be useful if you have difficulty remembering names.

Customising Windows - the latest version of Windows allows you to
customise the desktop. For more information on this, see Abilitynet. The area
entitled ‘My computer, my way’ has lots of information on how to adjust
settings on your computer to suit your own needs. (

Abilitynet have also produced a useful document entitled: ‘Dyslexia and

General outline of different types of software

Some examples of the software available:

      Mindmapping software
      Speech to text software
      Text read aloud
      Sound recording machines

For general information about how to produce a mindmap (see note-taking

The main uses of mindmapping software include:

      Planning your thoughts and ideas, for example for assignments
      Giving structure to your ideas
      Using colour and other coding to group information
      Using images to make information visual
      Note taking and recording information.
      Revision (you are more likely to remember visual information)

Low tech/ low cost
You can use paper to jot down your ideas. It may look something like this, a
set of ideas about 'what I need support for' :

Mindmapping software
Mindmapping is useful software for dyslexic students and others who struggle
with organising ideas and planning written work. It may be used to:

      help plan and structure essays
      create revision notes
      write up lecture notes.

Students can read an essay question, and then create an electronic mind map
by brainstorming their ideas straight onto the screen, starting with the main
idea surrounded by key points and then supporting details. These can range
from simple one word responses to more complex phrases and ideas. In
some software, single word ideas can then be transferred into a linear form
and used as paragraph headings and prompts and focus points for essays.
The headings may or may not be removed after the draft stage. It is possible
to complete an entire essay by expanding each heading into a sentence and
then a paragraph. By working in this way ideas can be kept in a logical order
and paragraphs can remain focused on specific points. This avoids the writer
going off at tangents as new ideas flow into their heads more quickly than the
typing speed. Additional ideas can always be added to the mind map when
they occur.
In addition to writing essays, mindmapping software can also be used for
revision and other study purposes. When creating the mind maps, students
can change colours to highlight different ideas and importance levels; they
can create different-shaped boxes or introduce pictures from an extensive
library of choices to help facilitate memory. This is especially useful for those
who prefer a visual reminder of information. The extensive selection of colours
and shapes are particularly helpful for creating easily accessible notes and/or
creating a more visual method of writing up and recording lecture information.
There are a number of alternative mind mapping programs available and
much depends on preference of layout and ease of use.


High tech/ low cost
There is a piece of free-to-download software available called Freemind. This
is available from:
(December 2006)

Below is a very simple starting point, created in Freemind:

There are some very brief online instructions to getting started with Freemind.
As it is a shared, internet resource, it is constantly being adapted and
developed. At present (December 2006), it does not allow the facility to
convert your ideas into a linear list of subheadings, but it does have all of the
features of many mindmap pieces of software, for example adding links,
colour coding and adding notes to each point.

Freemind Instructions

High tech/ high cost

Other mindmapping software packages include features such as converting
your mindmap to an outline document, which can be used as the basis for
writing in word-processing software. They are easily exported to other
software, for example MS Office packages. Generally, they cost between
around £80-£180 for a single licence.
Some examples of commonly used assistive software are listed below with an
annotated summary of features (based on comments available from


      easy program to use
      clear menus and short cut keys
      ideas held in chosen shapes which are linked in a spidergram
      transfers the graphical diagram to the linear format within the program
      updates occur in either mode.
      pictures can be imported or copied from other programs.

Inspiration website
Inspiration Version 8 Instructions

Mind Manager (business and education versions available)

      provides a method of brainstorming on the computer in a similar way to
       the Tony Buzan method by hand.
      Branches can be added using the right hand mouse button or
       keystrokes and menus with primary branches being larger than the
       secondary ones.
      many buttons providing several different ways of adapting the diagram
       to suit the user's needs.
      can be exported to other programs and/or copied as well as saved in
       different formats including HTML for use on the web.
      The latest version has more HTML templates with a demo to help in
       their use and its images can be copied as vector based images to
       Flash allowing for customisation, the text remains editable.
      MindManager Business Edition has a presentation mode, the ability to
       export mind maps to PowerPoint, a keyword organiser for mind-maps.
       Also includes a tool kit for map optimisation, conferencing "real time"
       over the Internet and VBA-compatible scripting for personalisation of
       the software package.

(there is no native version for MAC platforms)

Mind Genius (business and education versions available)

      Easy to use with many templates on offer.
      Main concepts are in a chosen box and then the ideas are made at the
       end of branches in a similar fashion to Tony Buzan methods, using the
       right hand mouse button or the menu bar.
      There is a left hand screen which shows the linear format of the
       diagram to be seen as it is being made.
      Each time an idea is made a text dialog box appears so that the word
       can be written with different fonts, colours and put into a shape if
      The entire mind map can be saved as an XML, Word, PowerPoint or
       Project document and in various graphical formats. The graphical
       section remains as a picture but the linear format can be edited in any
       of the formats.
      Pictures can be imported from files but not cut and pasted directly.
      Other files can also be added to branches and links can be made
       between mind maps.
      The menu bar provides options for branching formats, colours etc.

It is sometimes possible to download free trials of the software from the sites
listed above.

Other sources of information about mindmapping computer software:


McLoughlin et al (2002) The Adult Dyslexic: interventions and outcomes
London: Whurr

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