It’s easier to learn something new when you link it to what you already know. This is because your existing knowledge is part of a ‘schema’, or mental structure, that your brain can fit new knowledge into (DiMaggio, 1997). When you identify connections between ideas, that helps your brain spot the places where they fit into a schema.

When you try to remember something in isolation, it’s often a challenge. But when you remember information linked to prior knowledge, it’s much easier (Alexander et al., 1994). You can remember any existing part of the ‘network of knowledge’ to get clues about the new idea you just connected to it. It’s like throwing out multiple ‘anchors’ from a weak new idea to the strong ideas you already know. Ako Maps help you visualise your schemas and spot the connections between ideas.


‘Recall’ means remembering something you learned. The problem is, it’s easy to think you know a topic well enough to recall it – when you’ve really just learned to recognise it. That’s why a textbook looks familiar when you re-read it, but it’s hard to remember during the test! For long-term learning, recall is more important than recognition memory.

The good news is that recalling information – that is, testing yourself – will actually improve your memory (Roediger et al., 2006). In fact, regular recall practice is one of the most effective ways to learn (Dunlowsky et al., 2013). Ako Maps make it easy to practice your recall. You can click a button to turn the information in your Ako Map into ‘automatic flashcards’, with the idea on one side and its details on the other. You can also see what points you remember from your map, then get instant feedback on how much you remembered, what you missed, and how long it took.


Showing ideas visually means that learners can navigate between those ideas in their heads, as they build up a ‘mental map’ of knowledge. Spatial learning has long been used as an effective memory technique, such as ‘memory palaces’ that associate concepts with physical locations (McCabe, 2015). This technique taps into the powerful brain circuits dedicated to helping us navigate our environment.

Ako Maps are a visual learning tool, so you can use its visuo-spatial cues to mentally ‘walk through’ your map. This provides valuable context for ideas, as it’s easy to grasp which concepts are “close together” or “far apart”. When you start building your map, this gives you a mental structure of what the topic looks like overall, that gets more and more detailed as you learn the specifics for each area.


Many people learn ideas through rote learning, where they can repeat the information word-for-word – but they can’t always explain it. The problem with this approach is that you need more than just ‘surface-level’ learning to truly understand information, and you need real understanding to put your knowledge to use (Mayer, 2002). Processing ideas more deeply is also associated with better memory (Lockhart et al., 1976).

Ako Maps help facilitate deep learning by helping you find the connections between ideas, instead of just learning facts in isolation. When you build your own map about a topic, you have to think hard about the structure. What does an idea relate to? What category is it in? Where does (or doesn’t) it fit? By asking yourself these questions, it helps you find valuable context around each idea, and process what those ideas really mean.


Educational videos are usually detail-focused and linear; that is, they follow a logical sequence of steps between a start and an end. But knowledge itself is often multidimensional and requires the ‘big picture’ to truly understand. So which way is the best way to learn?

Well, with Ako Maps you don’t have to choose just one. Ako Maps are multidimensional and can contain as much or as little complexity as you like. Not only this, they can be linked to linear lessons that introduce you to each concept step-by-step – without losing sight of the ‘bigger picture’. You can build your own lessons on Ako Maps, or access our growing database of materials and courses that are already set up in this format.


When you’re learning a new topic, seeing all the information at once can be overwhelming. It’s important to get an idea of the general ‘shape’ of the field so you have some existing knowledge to fit connect ideas to (DiMaggio, 1997), but your brain has limits on how much it can focus on at a given time (Baddeley et al., 1974). What you really need is a way to move between more abstract, high-level ideas, and the ‘nitty-gritty’ details.

Ako Maps help you visually classify and sort information. Ideas that are part of the same topic can be grouped into ‘neighbourhoods’, which use colour to show what category they fit into. You can also move extra information into ‘layers’, or assign tags to concepts then use this to filter your view.


When you’re first learning a topic, it’s important to have guidance and instruction to teach you the ideas in the first place (Rosenshine, 2010). However, the more you learn, the more you’re able to put that knowledge into practice. Because of this, your learning journey should give you enough information to learn from, then give you the freedom to explore and problem-solve using those skills.

In Ako Maps, you can learn from your teacher’s maps, or from our public courses. As you grow and progress through your journey in a subject, you’ll be encouraged to build up your own map of the subject. By applying knowledge as soon as you learn it, you’ll get the chance to remember more, be more creative, and take ownership of your learning.


Alexander, P. A., Kulikowich, J. M., & Jetton, T. L. (1994). The role of subject-matter knowledge and interest in the processing of linear and nonlinear texts. Review of Educational Research, 64(2), 201-252.

Baddeley, A. D., & Hitch, G. (1974). Working memory. In Psychology of Learning and Motivation (Vol. 8, pp. 47-89). Academic press.

Chaffin, R., Imreh, G., Lemieux, A. F., & Chen, C. (2003). "Seeing the Big Picture": Piano Practice as Expert Problem Solving. Music Perception, 20(4), 465-490.

Coe, R., Rauch, C. J., Kime, S., & Singleton, D. (2020). The Great Teaching toolkit: Evidence Review.Retrieved from

DiMaggio, P. (1997). Culture and cognition. Annual Review of Sociology, 23(1), 263-287.

Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1), 4-58.

Lockhart, R. S., Craik, F. I., & Jacoby, L. (1976). Depth of processing, recognition and recall. In J. Brown (Ed.), Recall and recognition. John Wiley & Sons.

Maguire, E. A., Valentine, E. R., Wilding, J. M., & Kapur, N. (2003). Routes to remembering: the brains behind superior memory. Nature Neuroscience, 6(1), 90-95.

Mayer, R. E. (2002). Rote versus meaningful learning. Theory into Practice, 41(4), 226-232.

McCabe, J. A. (2015). Location, location, location! Demonstrating the mnemonic benefit of the method of loci. Teaching of Psychology, 42(2), 169-173.

Roediger III, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). Test-enhanced learning: Taking memory tests improves long-term retention. Psychological Science, 17(3), 249-255.


You might be interested in our ‘learning to learn’ course, Learn Like a Genius.