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Tverrsnitt trestamme med greiner, kvistar og lauvverk
A growing tree may have trunk, branches, and twigs (This is a cross section). Ideas likewise, one way or another.

An Old Tree

If you cut down a pine or another tree and look at the stub from above, you may see something that looks like the illustration above and call it a map if you like. The trunk (central part) has branches (main associations in the form of links). The branches and side-branches may have twigs, leaves, flowers and fruits on them too, all in good time.

Like leaves on twigs, ideas relate to a trunk and other parts of what grows from it. It is much the same with keywords you assemble and place in relation to each other in intertwining or clusters (branches) around a pivotal, central idea (trunk). There is room for variation in tree growth. Concept maps and mind maps are ways to display keynotes. Visual displays can improve memory, and by that foster more proficient thinking.

Cognitive maps are in part like tables of content in textbooks. Maps also serve as graphical ways of taking notes, and then they are called mind maps: idea maps are more fit labels, as it is ideas that are referred to by keywords arranged together, and not the mind itself. The idea map is a concept map. The concept map was developed by learning experts in the 1970s. The structure of a mind map may be said to be simplified.

(WP, "Mind map;" "Concept map")


By graphic maps or charts we have means to activate several mental skills through interconnected and hopefully well organised keywords and keynotes.

Also note that Benjamin Bloom and colleages have exposed six steps on the way to higher levels of learning - and in addition there is original thought and fresh insights that could need to be "brushed up" or could need sound proofs that they are of value. A large part of the science endeavour is testing of ideas (hypotheses and the like).

Nice challenges and methods to solve recurrent problems produce better thinking by fit use of the large brain for the connections between brain cells grow by use, declares Professor Marion Diamond of the University of California at Berkeley. She says: "The structure and abilities of the cerebral cortex can be changed throughout life by enriching sensory environments." (In Gross 1999, 25) Ronald Gross fills in that the enriched environments - that consisted of larger cages with several rats and different toys and things to to play with and treadmills introduced each day - caused an increase in the weight of the rat's brain - about 10 percent - even in young adult rats whose growth should have stopped! . . . In recent years, Diamond and her associates have been so encouraged that they tried this experiment with rats equivalent in age to human beings in their sixties and seventies. Again, each of the old rats' brains grew by 10 percent when they lived with younger rats in an enriched environment. (Ibid.)

Robert Ornstein, a fellow brain scientist, has commented on Diamond's findings:

Specific changes in the brain took place in the dendrites [the parts of neurons that connect at synapses] of each nerve cell, which thickened with stimulating experiences. It is as if the forest of nerve cells became liter.. ally enriched, and the density of the branches increased. (In Gross 25-26)

Our brains too can continue to grow in suitably enriched or stimulating environments of ideas and understanding, other challenges and opportunities. Your brain responds positively to being challenged by a rich environment and, as Dr. Diamond showed, can even continue to grow new cells and connections. It operates best when properly stimulated by interesting, complex materials, as long as it has methods for processing them effectively. (in Gross 1999, 25, 29).

Visual displays we make ourselves - such as trunk-branch schemes or a calyx-petals designs - allow much freedom for variations.

Alternatives may be found, such as in variants of so-called superlearning. You may solidify your learning by recording parts of it and listen to the recordings now and then. Such passive learning can be fine for recall.

There can be room for alternatives far and wide. Long-term memory could depend more on sensible meanings in the mind than visual or graphic displays outside the mind.

Mind-Maps Help Some, More or Less

Barry and Tony Buzan claim Buzan's mind-mapping has many advantages over linear note-making/taking: [Buzan and Buzan 1995, 89-90]

Despite their claims, research by others so far hardly confirm any general and astounding effects of mind maps in the area of learning. [Evidence]

What pertains to the mind outside the realm of science and psychology, is of philosophy, generally speaking. Ideas you are aware of are in the mind thereby, though they may tie in with association networks in the brain too and outer sources, like nature and books too.

To make use of the good brain child or brain children, being an entrepreneur is much harder and more time consuming than many other ways to try to make a living, and may fail. Realistic appraisals might have helped many. It can also help to get thrifty.

(WP "Tony Buzan", Mental literacy")

Felling a Tree

Before we fell a tree, we should sharpen what needs to be sharpened. Before a learning session, be rested, adjust your brain as needs be - this corresponds to sharpening the axe or chain-saw.

It is well not to study for very long in each session. Many fall short in this: they study on for hours without breaks. Better take a break after at least 20-25 minutes. Make allowance for it frequent breaks of more than four minutes each time. The length of a break between study sessions may be ten minutes or so, depending on age and health. Study sessions be made shorter with age, and pauses in between them longer. That is a general layout.

Some imagine that since they understand what they are reading, they may keep on in one session for hours on end till they are exhausted. But outcomes depend much more on what is retained in memory than what is understood at the moment. School learning depends very much on memory. So adapt to how items can best be put into the long-term memory with little effort, and how to keep that material fresh by counteracting forgetting by non-silly measures.

Quite optimal study tedium probably tunes in to how we remember.

Consider Brain Waves

A litte meditation may work well on the brain and in the mind. Also, read with as much interest and eagerness as you can, "in the flow" (cf. Csikszentmihalyi 2008). There are technicalities of learning to help you with it. (Gross 1999)

If you do not like what you are studying, there is still hope that interest may be ignited and made into a growing flame, and in some a much-consuming flame. Er . . . Interest may arise and develop with calm focus. A result can be better mastery of one's study subjects. That is the secret.

Thus, if we learn the best ways of learning, we can get further and enjoy more. [Link]

Downsides to Public Education

Where people learn for passing examinations mainly - as in many universities - what they can bring to mind of the curriculum after a few months tends to be very little and fragmentary, and probably not good enough to pass an exam with. To some this does not matter. (Rystad 1993)

Be that as it may, after a fortnight without reviews after a lecture, perhaps just five percent of its salient points can be remembered. It gets worse with time. Count that in too. Forgetting is called the "the heron of (drunk) forgetting" in the Norse poem Havamal, v. 13.

The Heron of Oblivion circles
above he who swills ale at ale feasts
and snatches his wits

Jeramy Dodds, 2014.

Proper study methods can probably offset or counteract much unwanted forgetting. It appears that many costly study ways are semi-ritual and ossified and not of much help for life-long learning.

Grades are outer motivations are in part "outside sources for control" and along with a compulsory curriculum the result canbe reluctance and growing aversion and dislike of schools. If learning is not fun, take time to find out the reasons. If learning is not fun, something innate in humans seems outsmarted. Compare Gross (1999) and Csikszentmihalyi (2008) on "being in the flow" too.

Einstein It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for what this delicate little plant needs more than anything, besides stimulation, is freedom. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty. - Albert Einstein

Jamie Nast (2006) explains idea maps.

Idea mapping . . . is to maximize recall and thought organization, to clearly define associations, to provide opportunities for generating greater quantities of ideas, and to leverage both left and right cortical skills. . . . At some point . . . breaking the rules actually provides greater creativity and fulfillment of purpose. . . . Idea mapping [is] a process of understanding how [we] associate, collect, organize, and remember information . . . Create maps that fulfill your purposes . . . feel free to create idea maps that look like a complete disaster. - Jamie Nast (2006, 196)

When idea maps are used for presentations to a group, several possible boons loom up. They include such as flexibility to adjust content, level of presentation to suit the audience; and the time to spend; a possibility to adjust topics to the needs of the moment or situation; avoiding many visual and audible distractions. Idea maps offer chances to express yourself more naturally by focusing on key thoughts and their ascribed connections. (Ibid., 226)


Concept maps, idea maps, mind maps, learning process, thought displays, some tips for handling the learning process, Literature  

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. 2008. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. 1st ed. New York: New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics.

Dodds, Jeramy, ed., tr. 2014, The Poetic Edda. Toronto: Coach House Books.

Gross, Ronald. Peak Learning: A Master Course in Learning How to Learn. Rev. ed. New York: J. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999.

Nast, Jamie. Idea Mapping: How to Access Your Hidden Brain Power, Learn Faster, Remember More, and Achieve Success in Business. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2006.

Rystad, Jarand. "Alt glemt på grunn av ubrukeleg eksamensform? En empirisk undersøkelse av Matematikk 2 eksamen ved NTH." I UNIPED nr 2-3, 1993:29-50.

Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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