With the summer travel season in full swing, one of the most important items to pack for a road trip is a map. Whether it’s a paper map or a GPS device, having a plan to reach a destination makes it easier to get there. Without an accurate map, travelers might struggle to find their way. Whether they have to stop and retrace their route because they realize they are headed in the wrong direction or, even worse, they end up in a different place than they intended, when there’s a destination but no map to get there, road trips become torturous. Planning the route saves time and frustration and ensures travelers get to their intended destination!
Recently, I scored a batch of writing from three classes that illustrated the impact the “roadmaps” in Writing with Design has on the quality of student writing. What struck me about the classes I analyzed was how much scores improved when students use the Mind Designs, the road maps, to plan their writing.
In two of the classes, I noticed that the writing was unfocused. Their scores reflected this. I could see that students struggled to get their ideas on the page because they had no plan. They were lost on their route and many ended up in destinations that were confusing and way off track. In the third class, student scores were significantly higher. As I scored this class, I noticed that students were using a Sequence Design to plan their narratives. Clearly, the teacher had taught students how to use the Design to effectively organize, or map out, their writing. Their writing was focused, well structured, and on prompt. Good planning also freed students to be more creative and add more details.
As an independent Writing Analyst for Writing with Design, I can attest to this: Mind Designs give students a roadmap to success in writing!
As a student in my mother’s 8th grade US History the way I learned was changed forever. She began to use visual patterns of thinking as a way to show what thinking looked like. I vividly remember how I felt my brain transform as I became aware of how many different ways I could think about a topic and how the visual maps allowed me to actually see my thinking, my classmate’s thinking, and even my teacher’s thinking! Whether in history, a subject I loved, or even in math, the subject I loathed, the designs provided me a consistent set of visual patterns for thinking, which helped me understand, clarify, and connect information in ways no textbook or teacher ever had. Visual maps became a foundational component of my academic success throughout high school, my undergraduate work at Vanderbilt University, and my master’s work at the University of Oklahoma. In fact, the history and trends of visual patterns for thinking, concept mapping, and mind mapping has become an area of professional research and analysis for me, from Upton, Samson, & Farmer’s work in the 1960’s to the current wave of digital mapping tools including Mind42 and Gliffy.
As a teacher, I embedded visual mapping strategies into every aspect of my classroom, from assigning student jobs to teaching area and perimeter. Whether my classroom was filled with 5 year olds or 5th graders, whether my classroom was in this country or overseas, student learning was transformed by visual maps, just as mine had been. To watch students learn to think more critically and creatively by using the maps solidified for me the power of common visual designs in teaching and learning.
From my nearly 20 years of experience with visual mapping, I consider it a great honor to have experienced the power of visual mapping from both sides of the desk. It is upon this understanding that the work of The Learning Project is built. The Mind Designs take visual mapping to new levels of versatility, applicability, and complexity of thought. Indeed, the Mind Designs cultivate critical, creative, confident thinkers.