Saturday, 17 March 2012

Brainstorming Tools

At the English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC) our students need to learn how to write both basic and more sophisticated essays. One thing we stress is the importance of planning their essays - this includes gathering ideas through brainstorming and then organising them based on theme and relevance.

With my class of pre-intermediate students, we’ve been experimenting with a variety of online/offline brainstorming and mind-mapping tools to help them create visually stimulating representations of their ideas.


Linoit a neat little tool for initial brainstorming sessions round a topic, it looks like a corkboard and you can stick post-it notes on it with ideas/suggestions. 

There’s also the option to embed You Tube video, pictures or documents. You can adjust the permissions so that anyone can post to it without the need for registering and multiple students can work on the same page at the same time from different computers. I often use this to gather pros/cons about a particular topic (e.g. animal cruelty, studying abroad) that they are going to write about. 

In the past I used a similar tool called Wallwisher, but this turned out to be a little unreliable, so I now prefer Linoit.


It’s a shame that this software programme is hidden away in the Load Applications folder on the University managed desktop as it’s a really useful piece of software. Students can create very detailed and elaborate diagrams/mind-maps using the interface and it’s easy to move the branches around and create sub-branches. 

The one feature I really like about this is that you can export your diagram into a variety of formats (Word, JPEG, HTML) and create a written outline at the same time. The only thing is that the file sizes are pretty large (3-4MBs)

A less complicated (and expensive) solution for mind-mapping is the online service Mindomo. This is a free service for the basic package and you can make a limited number of mind maps and export them into a variety of formats. As a free, online service, it doesn’t offer the variety and flexibility of Inspiration, but if you want to just create a quick and free mind map, it’s not a bad service. 

There are a few other online mind-mapping tools available such as Popplet,, Lucid Chart but I haven’t had much opportunity to try them out with my students. If anyone has any experience using them, it would be great to hear how effective you found them.


  1. Nice range of ideas, thanks, David! I've used MindMeister a fair bit in the past - and Freemind as well. The former is the equivalent of Mindomo and the latter more like Inspiration. I've also used Compendium (google it - it's from the Open University) as a tool for mind mapping / designing activities etc and that's another freebie which is worth a look - though can be a little hard to get your head around some of their terminology!

    Will be off to try out Linoit - looks good!

  2. Hi David
    Hodges' model is a generic, free, open access conceptual framework developed in health and social care that can help with brainstorming, reflection and facilitates lifelong learning. The blog "Welcome to the QUAD" -

    - includes a bibliography and many education related posts.

    The model's four care (knowledge) domains each feature a unique education and informatics resource listing, e.g. SCIENCES:


    If anyone would like to explore possible writing projects on educational aspects please get in touch.

    Kind regards.
    Peter Jones
    Lancashire, UK
    Hodges Health Career - Care Domains - Model
    h2cm: help 2C more - help 2 listen - help 2 care



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