May 23, 2023

Creating Mind Maps or Planning a Project with Miro

This article is a translation of a text first published in Eductive’s French edition.

In my teaching, Miro allows me to do a multitude of things. My students use it to:

  • create concept maps or mind maps
  • structure the projects they carry out (in a project-based learning context)
  • interact and collaborate in the classroom

Miro, a versatile tool

In the context of one of the Performa courses I took (PRF610 – Pédagogie et numérique au collégial), I surveyed my students to see how comfortable they were with the digital applications used in college. The survey revealed that students enjoy using digital tools in their classes, as long as they see the value in it. For effective use of digital tools, teachers need to focus on the learning objective they wish to achieve, rather than simply using the technology itself.

Students like it when their teachers avoid spreading themselves too thin and stick to a few platforms. Teams, Lea, Moodle… that’s 3 already! I don’t want to use several additional digital applications in my courses (even though there is no shortage of interesting options!). So I had a huge challenge, to find an application that would meet several pedagogical objectives. My choice ended up being an interactive whiteboard application, more precisely Miro.

Miro’s versatility was a perfect fit for my needs in my Agromechanical Engineering Technology program classes. I have tried several whiteboard applications, and Miro is by far my favourite!

With Miro, students can:

  • create mind maps
  • work as a team to plan a project (assigning roles and responsibilities in the team, schedule, action plan, etc.)
  • share their opinions during class or do an exercise together

Free version of Miro for teachers and students

Miro is a commercial tool with paid versions, but it can also be used free of charge.

I created a free teacher account that gives me access to more features than the free public version. All you have to do is apply and specify which school you teach at and provide proof that you actually work there (a link to your college directory page that contains your name, for example). A teacher account allows you to create an unlimited number of Miro boards (rather than the 3 allowed with the regular free version) and to collaborate with 100 people on a single board.

There is also a special free plan for students. In my class, students don’t really need to create an account on Miro, since I create and share the maps with them (sharing can be done through a URL). However, if your students like Miro and want to create an account so they can create their own maps, tell them that as students, they, like you, have access to more features than the general public at no cost (creating unlimited charts, collaborating with up to 10 people, etc.).

A mind map built over 3 sessions

In Agromechanical Engineering Technology, I teach a sequence of courses that extends from the 4th to the 6th session and that leads the students to become familiar with different tasks that they could perform when working for a distributor of agricultural equipment or machinery:

  • Faire de la représentation commerciale (Sales representation, 4th session)
  • Réaliser des activités de formation et information (Carrying out training and information activities, 5th session)
  • Réaliser la gestion d’un département de pièces et de service (Managing a parts and service department, 6th session)

In each course, I ask my students to create a mind map to synthesize all the notions seen in class. Since the courses are linked to each other, the same map follows the students from one course to the next: the students work on the same map and enrich it from session to session. At the end of each course, during the final exam, the mind map is used as a memory aid for the students (they are not allowed to use other lecture notes during the exams).

In the 4th session, I introduce the students to the theoretical notions related to mind maps (what is a concept map, what is a mind map, etc.). Since this is sometimes their 1st experience creating a mind map (and often a 1st time using Miro!), I have them work in teams. I divide the group into 2 large teams, and each team creates a map collaboratively.

In the 5th session, I divide the teams created in the previous session into student pairs. I duplicate the map from the previous session to create a copy for each pair, and then each pair can enrich their map with the new concepts seen that session.

In the 6th session, students reuse their map from the 5th session and add to it, individually this time.

This mind map, which they reuse from one session to the next, is an ideal tool to help them make connections between the concepts of different courses and bridge the gap between courses. With a mind map, students can do this with brio.

The mind map of one of my students at the end of the last course

A collaborative board for project planning

My students have different projects to complete in my courses. In the course Réaliser des activités de formation et d’information, in the 5th session, I use Miro to help them structure their projects.

At the beginning of the session, we first complete a large group project where the students have to organize an activity for the school’s open house. This is an opportunity for me to teach them how to use Miro as a project management tool.

I create a canvas to manage the project on Miro:

  • a section for assigning roles and responsibilities
  • a calendar for planning the event
  • an action plan (list of tasks to complete, in progress and completed)
  • a detailed schedule for the day of the event
  • etc.

Miro is very easy to use. For example, it is easy to move tasks from the “In progress” column to the “Completed” column in the action plan section. You can also, with 1 click, make a label appear that assigns a task to the “content team” or to the “promotion team”.

Miro is an excellent means of communication for the management of a project.

Immediately after the open house, the students begin a more ambitious project: the Comparison Activity. This is a training activity offered to all students (and staff!) of the college. Students present a comparison of the features of 2 similar farm machines. (In the fall of 2022, these were 2 self-propelled forage harvesters: one manufactured by John Deere and the other by New Holland).

Again, the whole group works together. I provide students with the same outline as for the open house planning, but this time they must fill it out and work with it autonomously.

The 2022 Comparison Activity planning chart. de 2022.

Interacting and collaborating in the classroom

In the 6th session, in the course Réaliser la gestion d’un département de pièces et service, I use Miro to allow students to collaborate during class time.

For example:

  • I ask the group questions and invite students to go to a common Miro board to write their individual answer on a sticky note.
  • During a class session, while I’m lecturing on the material, I invite students to take collaborative notes in a canvas I created on Miro.
  • I divide the group into teams and ask each team to formulate an answer to a question in a text box on Miro.
  • etc.

I use the same Miro board for all these activities. This means that students don’t have to look for the link, as it is always the same. Miro boards can be almost infinite in size, so you can put a lot of material on them! I can prepare my canvases on the large board and hide them until the week they are used.

The importance of training students

Before starting to use an application like Miro in the classroom, it is important to take the time to train the students. Explaining to students why a particular tool was chosen and how to use it will ensure that they are comfortable with it. It’s time well spent!

What about you, do you use Miro in your classes? Share your experiences in the comments area!

About the author

Alexandre Bakaras

Having taught for 8 years in the field of machinery, robotics, digital and new agricultural technologies, Alexandre Bakaras is fascinated by this next 4.0 revolution.

He is currently completing a graduate diploma in College Pedagogy with Performa (Université de Sherbrooke) and intends to continue his studies at the master’s level. His research project will focus on the use of artificial intelligence in higher education.

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