Hall of Fame
Here are some sample journals from students in the WisdomMaps history courses that I teach
for colleges and high schools. I require them to post a weekly PowerPoint journal on the maps
assigned for the week, and I ask that they review at least three of their classmates’ journals and
post commentaries on those journals in the weekly Journal Forum.
These journals reflect a level of learner enthusiasm and engagement with history that is
unmistakable and genuine, and they offer one example of how students can use WisdomMaps
to teach each other (the best way to learn something being to teach it, however badly at first).
Please enjoy… Terrence Monroe
Why Use WisdomMaps?
- Better learning.
WisdomMaps represents a new way of organizing information that mimics the human
thought process and results in greater learner engagement and better learning. This is
impossible for other learning methodologies based on “linear learning” to achieve on
account of the limitations of “spaghetti code”: information imbibed like slurping up a strand
of spaghetti, that is read or heard one sentence or phrase at a time. Spaghetti code is
difficult to untangle and organize, and most learners retain only a small fraction of what
they read or hear in this fashion.
WisdomMaps enable the intake of information by association, which conforms to the way
the human thought process naturally works. They enable the learner to retain far more that
they would with traditional learning, because the topics they focus on are relevant to their
interests. Better to allow learners to discover and engage a new subject on their own, as a
natural and relevant follow-on to their existing interests, than to confront the learner with
something new and dissociated that they may see no immediate relevance in.
Learners learn best when they’re having fun and when the topics of their study are relevant
to their interests. The multimedia that the maps link to enable learners to watch videos of
their choosing on topics that interest them. Studies have determined that learners learn
several times as much from 15 minutes spent watching a video on a topic than from the
same amount of time spent reading about it. The present generation is one of visual
learners who like to “trip the light fantastic” on the internet and absorb the essences of
whatever web resources and multimedia they encounter… and then move on; learners have
less and less patience with being immersed in long static passages of text, and perhaps it’s
true that the more learning comes to resemble a video game, the more they’ll like it.
- WisdomMaps expose learners to hundreds of topics in each course, with each topic linked
to multimedia resources that enable them to delve as deeply as they like into those topics
that interest them; there are no limits to the exercise of their curiosity. In the process,
learners encounter new interests that they never imagined they might have. WisdomMaps
foster this sense of discovery and shared learning adventure.
In the process of each leaner contributing their discoveries and insights, the group is
exposed to dozens of topics (both salient and obscure) in each session, which together
provide a comprehensive treatment of the subject being studied that week (yes, there is
some replication, but even the replications usually offer a different take on the topic).
Students like to “wander and wonder” and share the discoveries of their learning
adventures with their classmates, and teachers appreciate having the ability to engage and
personally mentor their students directly on the maps. In this way, the maps become a big
creative sandbox for all.
- Collaborative learning.
Many teachers will agree that the best way to learn something is to teach it (however badly
at first). Students generally learn as much from their peers as they do from their teachers.
Their collaboration with each other on the maps enables them to teach each other, and in
doing so, an astonishingly productive learning process begins to unfold. Learning is a social
activity that benefits best from either a teacher or a friend who personally elicits the
curiosity of the other (the closer their proximity, the better). Discussion forums in most
online courses seem sterile and dissociated, and are inadequate for collaborative learning,
since learners are deprived of the kind of direct engagement (with the map’s information
and multimedia and with each other and their mentor) that can be had by collaborating on
While some learners may draw upon more scholarly resources and multimedia for their
journals, others may contribute resources that are more colorful and viscerally engaging;
each learner contributes at their own level and in their own voice (a social process that
everyone enjoys), and everyone has an engaging and productive learning adventure. But it
is the “talented tenth” (or two-tenths) in any given class that benefit the most from having
no limits on the exercise of their curiosity; these are the students who report that they’ve
been up most of the night getting happily lost in the maps.
I have my students develop weekly PowerPoint presentations to post in the discussion
forums, along with commentaries on their review of their classmates’ journals. When each
student contributes several topics to the weekly mix, the result is that the class is exposed
to a large range of topics that together provide a comprehensive and quite lively view of the
subject being covered that week. They like teaching each other in their own words
(however humble), and they especially enjoy the opportunity to view each other’s work.
WisdomMaps work especially well when paired with a text (which serves as the student’s
anchor to windward, so to speak). The text helps students keep to the historical narrative,
but the maps encourage the learner to peruse a wide range of topics and to uncover and
delve into new interests (by way of all the multimedia in the maps). This in turn whets their
appetite for the subject and hopefully spawns an enduring interest. After all, any proper
engagement with history deserves a lifetime, not 16 weeks. And perhaps this answers to
the highest pedagogical purpose of all: to instill a lifelong passion for learning.