So, you already know mind mapping is a fantastic note-taking strategy for engaging your students. You know it can be rigorous. And that it can help students use effective learning strategies such as spaced repetition and practice tests. Now what . . . ? Now you need 3 FREE mind mapping tools to get started!

Old-school mind mapping

Our first FREE mind mapping tool is kind of cheating. It’s not technically free. But I’m going to call it free because your students SHOULD already have them: trusty old pen and paper. This option is easy, fast and (BONUS!) doesn’t require you to do any preparation (or for the planets to align, ahem, tech). Variations on this include markers and poster paper, chalk and chalk board, or whiteboard pens and whiteboard.

Digital mind mapping

The second FREE mind mapping tool is Free Mind. As it states on the Wikipedia page, Free Mind is a program that you download onto your computer. It creates mind maps, enough said. You can find an explanation of its pros and cons on the Wikipedia link that you use to download it.

Online mind mapping

The third FREE mind mapping tool is actually a list of a few online mind mapping sites. Each of them has a free and various paid versions. The paid versions come with more functionality than the free versions. The biggest disadvantage of the online tools is that they require technology TO WORK!

Firstly, Coggle is a mind mapping tool endorsed by Thomas Frank. The free version of the tools allows users:

  • have three private diagrams
  • unlimited public diagrams
  • use over 1600 icons
  • arrange branches
  • keep track of changes
  • download as images and PDFs
  • create text boxes
  • export as .mm and text
  • export for Microsoft Visio
  • import .mm and text
  • have multiple start points
  • create shared folders
  • embed mind maps anywhere
  • create flow charts too

Secondly, MindMup‘s free version allows users to use the tool without requiring an account or log in. Using it, students (and teachers) can:

  • create an unlimited number of maps
  • store (for free) maps under 100KB on the MindMup storage for up to six months
  • save (for free) maps over 100KB to Google Drive
  • access tutorials about how to use the platform.
  • use keyboard shortcuts to speed up the process of creating maps (but this is unlikely to benefit your students unless they use it frequently enough to memorise the shortcuts)
  • convert maps to PDFs, PowerPoints and outlines
  • add images and documents to the mind maps
  • upload maps to social media (and they are automatically altered to better fit the relevant platforms)

Lastly, MindMeister is a web-based mind mapping tool. Like Coggle, the free version allows users to save three mind maps and collaborate with others. MindMeister also has interesting blog posts and links about the effectiveness of mind mapping, particularly for collaborative and creative work.

Mind map worksheet creator

Because I (ahem) cheated with the first free resource, this link help you create a great fishbone-style graphic organiser. This is a great way to scaffold mind mapping for students when they are planning for written work. Look at my pretty one below that took literally 2 seconds to create.