Mind mapping in Dubai

Tony Buzan explains his theories of enhancing kids' brain power and memory skills

Interview, Education

Mind mapping is the new buzz-word when it comes to helping kids increase their brain power and memory skills. We caught up with the technique founder, Tony Buzan during his recent tour in Dubai.

What is mind mapping and where did it originate?
Mind map is a thinking map, like the map of a city, but for your mind. A mind map could be used to help you find your way around your thoughts. The intrinsic tendency of the brain is not to learn in a linear format, but through imagination and association. Based on this insight, mind mapping is a technique that employs visual representation of individual thought processes to provide a creative, innovative tool for learning. The idea behind mind mapping is to make use of colourful graphics, connected by branches to a central topic, to facilitate accelerated learning. A mind map is a powerful graphic technique, which provides a universal key to unlock the potential of the brain. The Mind Map can be applied to every aspect of life where improved learning and clearer thinking will enhance human performance. This technique helps organise thoughts and give an easy-to-follow structure to the learning process.

How did you personally become involved with it?
It was in late 1960s that I generated the technique and gave it a set of formalised guidelines.

When I was at school, I was taught to take notes in boring monotone colours and in a very linear format. This resulted in lower marks, more instances of failure and even a loss in confidence levels. Over the years, I began to select key words and jot them down in various colours, to help me remember, and even used memory cards. Then I came to realise that something was still missing in the methods I had devised for learning. This is when I began to introduce images into the mix. I even trained under the artist, Lorraine K Gill, to be able to understand the technique behind creating images. Thus a mix of images, key words and colour around a central idea created the genesis of mind mapping.

Why is it so helpful for children?
The tendency of the human brain is not a learn-in-a-linear format, but through imagination and association. Yet traditional means of teaching reduces scope for imagination and forces sentences, grammar and syntax on the unwilling brain.

As children are more keenly tuned to be creative and use associations to learn, they might get stuck in the intricacies of grammar and trapped in the ‘prison of sentences’. Mind maps are a reflection of internal thinking that help fracture the restrictions for children, and enable the kids to break free, think creatively and thus remember more.

At what age can you start using mind mapping techniques?
From the time they are born, kids learn through association. A baby associates mother with food, and food with milk. It is never too early to expose children to mind maps in their surroundings, be it even as a wall painting or photographs. This will help train their minds to imagine and indulge in creative associations.

What sorts of things can mind mapping help them learn?
Mind mapping can help children with creative expression of thoughts, memorising complex chunks of information, absorbing facts, figures and formulas with ease, improve concentration, recall information under pressure and ultimately helps them grow in self-confidence and ability.

We’ve heard mind mapping is particularly good for kids with dyslexia. Why is this?
I believe that every child learns differently. Parents need to make sure their main hobby is the brain. They then need to regularly track the progress of their child.

As there is no absolute definition of dyslexia, each child’s learning development must be studied in isolation. It is very important to identify the solution to learning differences, rather than focusing too much on the problem. Mind maps help dyslexic children use their imagination to conceptualise information in a more effective learning manner.

Can parents back up these techniques easily at home?
Setting goals is important in helping kids with dyslexia work with focus and also feel confident when the goals are accomplished. Engaging in dinner time conversations with your child about important issues or even a re-telling of what their day was like, will help in increasing their memory retention and enhance their vocabulary. Ensure that they have fun with these exercises. You can help your child by celebrating their strengths, encouraging them to dream more, providing them with requisite support, as well as establishing a sense of routine and rhythm in their life. All these things will help them focus and perform better. It would also help if they were introduced to other parents who have children with dyslexia, to share experiences.

Are schools in Dubai taking a more active interest in the concept? Or is there still a lot of work to be done in this area?
Across the world, there is still a need for greater understanding of learning differences and the need to provide bespoke attention to each child. Focused efforts need to be made to help these children bridge the learning gap and include them holistically into the school system. This can be done through more educational workshops and awareness initiatives, to educators and policy makers, on different learning differences. I tend to host as many such workshops as I can, but there needs to be more champions for this cause.

There are so many new ‘educational’ techniques these days, which make large promises in terms of results. How can you tell which ones have real value?
A good educational technique is one that harnesses the full range of cortical skills – word, image, number, logic, rhythm, colour and spatial awareness – in a single, uniquely powerful manner. In so doing, it would give the student freedom to roam the infinite expanses of their brain. Good development tools also allow for synergy of the left and right side of the brain.
For more information on the benefits of mind mapping, contact the Lexicon Reading Centre, Dubai; www.lexiconreadingcentre.org (050 795 4428)

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