A caucasian woman's hand holds a post it illustrating a concept map

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a strategy that helps students visualize and analyze difficult concepts. Starting with a prompt or topic, students identify supporting themes or subtopics and illustrate connections using branches, color, and illustrations (or other media). Mind maps are great for organizing thoughts and ideas related to subject matter but can also be used to help analyze and critique material, encouraging deeper thinking and understanding of difficult concepts. Listed below are some activities where mind mapping can be effective:

  • Reflection 
  • Brainstorming
  • Project organization or outlining
  • Silent discussion
  • Argument planning
  • Note taking/ studying

Mind mapping is proven to help increase engagement, creativity, and collaboration amongst students (Rosba et al., 2021). Additionally, research supports that mind mapping can help students to understand long-term lessons, increase participation, and enhance peer communication, if working collaboratively (Lubov Vorona-Slivinskaya & Olga, 2020). 

There are a plethora of free online mind mapping tools that can be used to facilitate independent or collaborative mind mapping. Listed below are three suggested mind mapping tools. All are web-based platforms and are mobile-friendly. View the chart below for a more thorough comparison of tools. 

(free version)
(free version)
Users per board* Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 
Board limit Unlimited 3 boards 3 boards
Templates No** Yes Yes 
Media Upload files, embed videos/photos from the web, record screen/voice/video directly from Padlet, add hyperlinks Upload files, embed videos from the web, add hyperlinks. Embed images, upload files, add hyperlinks.
Embeddable Yes Yes Yes
Accessibility*** Yes Limited Yes
Collaboration Yes

View/comment/react to collaborator; with permission, can edit/delete collaborator posts


Chat/react/view collaborator cursors, edit/delete collaborator posts


Chat, timer, voting, view collaborator cursors, edit/delete collaborator posts

Ideal for… Silent discussions or project outlining; Media sharing Independant or small group mind mapping and Presenting Collaborative mind mapping for large groups

* While all tools have unlimited access, there are some caveats with Miro and Mural. When sharing a Miro map, use the “Invite to team and board” link; take note that with this link, invitees will also have access to any Miro board in your dashboard, so use Miro for independent and small group work only. When sharing a Mural map, make sure to share the “visitor” sharing link to have unlimited participant access.

**While Padlet does offer a handful of templates, only the “Canvas” template can be used for Mind Mapping because it is the only template that includes the branching tool to connect posts.

*** Accessibility statements are generalized in this table. These tools report WCAG 2.1 compliance in some capacity, but please review each tool’s accessibility capabilities for features such as alternative text, screen reader functionality, color blindness, etc.

References and Resources

Lubov Vorona-Slivinskaya, Dmitry Bokov, & Olga Li. (2020). Visualization of Learning and Memorizing Processes Using Mobile Devices: Mind Mapping and Charting. International Journal of Interactive Mobile Technologies, 14(21), 136–152. https://doi.org/10.3991/ijim.v14i21.18475

Rosba, E., Zubaidah, S., Mahanal, S., & Sulisetijono, S. (2021). Digital Mind Map Assisted Group Investigation Learning for College Students’ Creativity. International Journal of Interactive Mobile Technologies (iJIM), 15(05), pp. 4–23. https://doi.org/10.3991/ijim.v15i05.18703