Bringing structure to thinking: the Checklist, Planner and Mind Map widgets

Apart from factual knowledge and skills, one of the key things students learn in school are processes. Learning how to tackle different types of problems, and figuring out common methods to do so is an important life skill.

We’ve created three widget types that you can use to teach students processes, and help them bring structure to their thought process: the Checklist, Planner and Mind Map widgets.

The Checklist widget

The Checklist widget is the simplest of the three, and takes almost no time to create. You simply list out all the different tasks or steps, and the widget will present students with a custom checklist, with boxes for the different steps to tick off.

For instance, here are the steps to make your own slime. This is a fun science experiment to explain fluids and viscosity, and that even in nature, there are rebels that don’t play by the rules 😈

How to make slime

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The configuration of this widget couldn’t be easier: you simply list the steps, line by line: Slimy widget configuration

Structured tasks

Sometimes, it helps to bring a little structure in the checklist by grouping certain tasks together. For example, check (pun intended) this list:

How to write an essay

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Notice how step 3 is broken down into parts a, b and c? Here’s how to achieve this effect: simply starting a line with a - will turn it into a subtask: Breaking steps into parts

Ready to give this widget a try?

The Planner widget

With the previous widget type, all students could do was tick off boxes. This is fine if there’s a fixed set of steps to follow in a fixed order, but sometimes, you want to give students more flexibility.

In particular, you may want them to:

  • Reorder tasks
  • Remove tasks
  • Choose new tasks from a fixed set
  • Or even come up with their own tasks

The Planner widget supports all of those cases, and keeps you in complete control over what students can and cannot do to the checklist.

We originally developed this widget to help schools support students with autism spectrum disorder. They can use the Planner widget to create a plan for the day in the morning, and the student then ticks off the boxes as the day progresses. The system is flexible enough to rearrange, add or remove things on the fly, in case it’s “one of those days”.

A digital day planner for special needs kids

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As you can see, this widget is a lot more advanced than the simple Checklist widget. Every task can have an icon and a colored bar on the right can be used to give a sense of grouping or additional meaning. For instance, all personal hygiene related tasks have a light blue color. In addition, you can attach a sound clip to every card, to further assist students that can’t read (well).

Want to try your hand at building your own Planner widget?

The Mind Map widget

A mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information. Using color, location, shape and connections, students can organize their thoughts around a particular topic, typically shown in the center of the map.

Mind maps can help visual learners with memorizing factual knowledge, but it’s also a great tool to aid students when they work on larger projects.

Revisiting the essay writing example above, students could use mind maps as a note taking tool while they research their essay topic. Or they could create a mind map to first map out their main points, and then elaborate on each of them as needed.

A mind map to prepare for a presentation

A mind map to prepare for a presentation

Other uses of mind maps include note taking, brainstorming and problem solving. One of the nice things about the Mind Map widget is that you can let students submit their map to you, so you can review it and provide feedback.

Ready to take the Mind Map widget for a spin?

Niels Vanspauwen

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