I had fun today exploring and researching some idea mapping sites. I had originally looked for some software that was free to download that allowed a person to create maps of ideas under headings and sub-headings. I found that "Free Mind", a popular free open-source software, wouldn't work on my computer after the downloads. I downloaded the software and the Java updates to run it, but it just froze my screen when I tried to use it.
I looked at several programs that were 30 day trials, but then turned to the free online kind. These are programs that allow you to log on, create mind maps, name and save them under your account in your own online file space, and then re-open and edit them later. They use some pretty sophisticated programming that allows you to map ideas, re-size bubbles, change text, colors, etc. You can drag and drop the maps to be where you want. You can add icons and even link sites, documents and images.
The sites I tried were: Bubbl.us (link here)pictured above. It is probably the easiest to use. The buttons to do what you want appear on each bubble as you roll over it. There is a cool delete X that makes the bubble explode when you hit the X. There is a drag button, a color hue button and an add another bubble under or next-to button.
Another one I tried was (link here). This one was more like a regular desktop application with a series of buttons and menu options, font, size, graphics,
etc. It is pictured below.
What I like about these first two was that you can demo them without having to sign up and create an account. If you are interested in exploring and playing with them you just go to the site and click "start".
The other online idea map software I used was Mind42 (link here).
This online application has a blog on blogger (here) and allows collaboration. While you are online doing your mapping, you can open Google Talk and instant message/invite someone else to get on and collaborate with you.
I have put an image below on the post showing what it looks like with Google Talk on.
You can use a Skype account to allow a log on by others and have a conference collaboration. You can add thumb-shot thumbnails of website pages and add sticky notes. It is probably the most sophisticated of the ones I explored.
So what does this have to do with assistive technology? I see several uses. One is as a resource for parents, therapists and teachers to be able to collaborate on an idea or a student. I would love to be able to sit in my office, get a few other therapists online and a parent and work on ideas for a student.
Another use is for students that are ADHD or have a learning disability where they need to have a way to organize their thoughts and keep notes. If a laptop was used, they could take notes and "map" the session for later. These type of apps make a great tool for structuring ideas for reports and writing projects. A student can organize topics and sub-topics to get an over-all view and narrow down the content needed.
"Inspiration" and "Kidspiration" allow students to map ideas and then with one button, convert those ideas into an outline ready to use for writing a paper. Inspiration (link here) has been forerunner in education-based idea mapping, but it is n ot an online application. It is a software you buy and load on your computer.
I am in schools where there is wireless throughout the building. If you have that luxury, the online apps could be a note-taking resource during a class. If not, they would be limited to the computer lab or by connecting a laptop in class via an Ethernet/Internet cable to a hot-spot in the wall.
I would recommend taking some time to explore these online applications. They are free and can be a great organizational tool.
All the best to you!