Mind Maps vs. Concept Maps

Last Friday morning I received an email from a company that was touting the greatness of their new AI-powered mind map creation tool. My response was, “that’s not mind mapping.”

I did try the company’s product and it did make nice concept maps that connected a bunch of items related to my initial topics. But it made concept maps, it didn’t make mind maps. The mistake that company made was using the terms mind mapping and concept mapping interchangeably. It’s a mistake that many people make.

Mind Maps vs. Concept Maps

Mind mapping is a process that students can use to think through and document the connections that they make between a central concept and the terms, phrases, and ideas that they connect to it. AI can’t replace that process because the goal is to get students to record their own thinking and illustrate the connections that they make between concepts and ideas.

Concept mapping is a process that seems similar to mind mapping, but there are a couple of noteworthy differences. First, a concept map often has a hierarchical structure that is used to show the connections and segments of a large concept. Second, when an hierarchical structure is used for a concept map it is possible for there to be incorrect connections created. For example, a student creating a concept map about the seasons of the year would be incorrect to place “leaves change color” as a branch of “winter” instead of as a branch of “autumn.” Concept mapping is a process that AI can accomplish.

17 Tools for Creating Mind Maps and Concept Maps

I created a Google Doc that outlines the features of seventeen mind mapping and concept mapping tools. Three highlights from the document are included below.

Whimsical is a good tool for creating flowcharts, mind maps, Venn diagrams, and a variety of other charts and diagrams. As we’ve come to expect with any tool like it, Whimsical is a collaborative tool. You can invite people to collaborate with you to edit your work or to simply comment on it to provide feedback. Charts and diagrams created on Whimsical can be published as simple webpages, kept private, or exported as a PNG (image file) or as a PDF.

MindMup is a mind mapping tool that can be used online, with Google Drive, and on your desktop. MindMup works like most mind mapping tools in that you can create a central idea and add child and sibling nodes all over a blank canvas. MindMup nodes can contain text and links. When you’re ready to save your MindMup mind map you can save it to Google Drive, save it to your desktop, or publish it online. If you publish it online, you can grab an embed code for it to post it in a blog post or webpage.

The whiteboard templates in Canva are intended to be used collaboratively. They can be used for a variety of purposes including hosting brainstorming sessions, designing concept maps, and making KWL charts. To help you and your collaborators focus on the task at hand, Canva has added a timer option to the whiteboard templates. The timer is found in the bottom, left corner of the templates. You can set the timer of any interval that works for your group. Watch this video to learn how to use Canva’s whiteboard templates.

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