AT and Learning Disabilities

Concept Mapping/Software for Organizing Ideas

Using common office supplies like sticky notes, highlighter pens, or highlighter tape (which can be removed from textbooks) can help a student sort and prioritize thoughts, ideas and concepts.

Some students have real trouble getting the great ideas “in their heads” down on paper. Brainstorming/concept mapping, creating a time line and outlining programs allow them to “dump” information in an unstructured way so it can be organized later, in a “free form” graphic approach. Basically, the student creates a diagram of his or her ideas before writing an outline. First, the user types a main idea into the computer. That idea is displayed on the computer screen as text or even as a picture/symbol. Then the user types in related ideas that appear in different shape such as circles, ovals or rectangles surrounding the main idea. Ideas can be linked with the main idea, or with each other, by drawing lines. Ideas are easily moved and placed into different groups. After the diagram is completed, it can be changed automatically to an outline.

For example, a student may have a vivid picture in his head about the Holocaust, but may need help. Concept mapping can help him put words on that “movie in his head.”

This type of program works well for visual learners who need to see ideas mapped out – literally. It helps students who have trouble working in a purely text-based environment. It helps prevent students from getting bogged down in the details of an essay. By mapping out ideas graphically, students stay focused on the main ideas. Students who have trouble generating details to support main ideas are able to see the problem more easily.


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