|Pony up & Make A Difference!|
|Do the Doodle!|
|Photo © Baldvin Georgsson|
When we consider that the battle cry of C.W. Mills was to use our sociological imagination (which is obviously a multicoloured mythical phenomenon), this seems a sad state of affairs. How to give students the courage to think on their own two feet, to cast around their own world to find something to research, to speak about what it is that they see, notice and wonder about, to want to find out more? To want to question their own preconceptions, to test the safe and tepid waters they have grown up in and seek the stormier ocean of "real Life" whatever that may be? Surely this should be the teacher's challenge.
|Born To MindMap|
Now, of course you don't have to use these techniques or this method of MindMapping. I am also wary of "computerising" everything. It's even more fun and dare I say relaxing to make your own MindMap with those aforementioned markers...
I used this technique with research methodology students who were in the stage of trying to come up with a research question. Saying it was an unmitigated success would be a mistake. Many were afraid to "do it wrong", some took out rulers to draw the "branches" (Tony Buzan says No! Wavy and organic please...) and many students were very resistant to the idea. They would tell me they were finished, and I would force them to add one more branch or one more image.
However, out of the corner of my eye, I could see one or two taking real pleasure in picking the colours they would use or decorating a branch. I call this the "Lego sensation", it's the thrill of pleasure grown human beings get when they get their hands on some Lego blocks. Crayola markers have the same effect on some. It is also a useful tool for group work - maybe for the sole reason it unites the group against the oddball teacher, but I did notice a certain freedom that comes from being able to draw and doodle to your heart's content. It also does away with questions such as "How many words should we do?" or "single spaced or double spaced" which makes my blood run cold...
When teaching about coming up with a conceptual hypothesis for a research project, we tell our students that concepts are multi-dimensional, we have to think creatively about what we are trying to measure, that different concepts mean different things to different people. Then we give them *no tools* to talk about these things, to use their imagination, to record their observations, to say "what if...?". For me, there is nothing sadder than a class of social science students asking their teacher to tell them what to research. Given free choice of topic, they would prefer I told them what I wanted them to do so they got the highest grade possible. And that's a post for another day.
Some might argue that an activity like this is hard to evaluate because what is produced is more style over substance. In fact, many students worried that I would give them a lower grade because they were "bad at art." In response, I posit that there is plenty of substance to any method which turns what we know on its head. Or so says my little sociologist heart anyway...