Monday, October 23, 2006

My introduction to concept mapping......

Sometime in high school, I began to construct bubble maps by accident, as I doodled and assembled random pieces of information for essays or reports. These were crude assemblages of sentence fragments and I didn’t associate this activity with the learning process. I was simply trying to put a few sentences or paragraphs together in an order that would make sense in the least amount of time.

First Concept Maps
My first exposure to well-organized concept maps was in my engineering courses, although they were not called concept maps. These were flowchart and circuit diagrams. Later, as a computer systems engineer in industry, much of my time was spent drawing hardware and software systems maps and programming flowcharts, i.e., concept maps, although again they weren’t identified as such.

Later, when I returned to university to complete degrees in biology and toxicology, concept maps were a common occurrence in textbooks. Anyone who has taken courses in these disciplines will recall growth cycle maps, food webs and chains, biogeochemical cycle maps, energetic flow diagrams, biochemistry process diagrams, etc. Eugene Odum’s book, Fundamental’s of Ecology (1971) is packed with examples of such diagrams. And while studying for my final exams in biochemistry, the wall of my study was covered with biochemical concept diagrams.

First Mind Maps
It was following my engineering degree, however, that I also became aware of a kind of mind mapping, but it wasn’t called by that name at the time. I attended an Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics Course and what might now be referred to as modified mind maps were presented as Recall Styles, used to improve the recall of material recently read. These recall styles consisted of various diagrammatic templates for recording information, appropriately named:

  • spider
  • pictorial
  • random
  • radial
  • slash
  • linear
  • and fishbone
Later on, while rummaging about in a book store, I picked up Tony Buzan’s 1974 book, Use Your Head. The book was published by the British Broadcasting Corporation to accompany a series of 10 BBC-TV programmes of the same name. This book not only re-affirmed what I had learned in the Reading Dynamics course about how to read and recall, but expanded on the technique of mind mapping as the foundation for a total learning process, called the Organic Study Method.

A little trivia……..

I don’t believe the terms, mind map and mind mapping, appear anywhere in that first edition of Use Your Head (I still have it). Rather, terms such as Brain Pattern and Knowledge Pattern are used. The 1974 version of the book was reprinted eight times between 1974 and 1977. The 1974 edition was also revised twice (1982 and 1989) by which time, according to later books, the terms Mind Maps and, apparently, Mind Mapping had been coined and trademarked.

According to the U.S. Trademark Application and Registration Retrieval system, The Buzan Organisation, Ltd. filed for registration of “Mind Maps” as a trademark in 1989 and registration was granted in 1990. It was also registered with the U.K. Patent Office about the same time. The submission also indicates that the first use of the term was in 1974, which means that the use of this term occurred shortly after the first edition of Use Your Head was published.

I have been unable to find a registration for “Mind Mapping” in the U.S., Canada, or the U.K. Does anyone know where and when this term was trademarked?

Regardless, I don’t think anyone can realistically dispute the claim that Buzan created or invented both terms.

I have been unable to find any trademark registration for the term, Concept Map, although one was attempted several years ago and was withdrawn or rejected. It’s likely that this term and its counterpart, “Concept Mapping”, are so imbedded in our everyday language that they cannot be trademarked.

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