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March 2004 Issue

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By Gary K. Probst, Prince George's Community College

What is concept mapping?

Why develop concept maps?

What are the advantages of developing concept maps over traditional outlines? Where can examples of concept maps be found? How can the advantages of developing concept maps be demonstrated to students? What are the different types of concept maps that can be developed? What software programs are available to develop concept maps? Additional websites with information about concept mapping


What is concept mapping?

J.. P.van. Schie in "Visualization tools for knowledge management" defines concept mapping as follows:

"Concept mapping is a type of knowledge representation. A concept map is a graphical representation where nodes (points or vertices) represent concepts, and links (arcs or lines) represent the relationships between concepts. The concepts, and sometimes the links, are labeled on the concept map. The links between the concepts can be one-way, two-way, or non-directional. The concepts and the links may be categorized, and the concept map may show temporal or causal relationships between concepts." http://www.observetory.com/conceptmappingvs1.htm


Why develop concept maps?

Information in a concept map is different from information in a traditional outline. A traditional outline usually does not show the relationship between the different items of information. Understanding of any topic only develops only by knowing the relationship between different items of information about the topic.

What are the advantages of developing concept maps over traditional outlines?

1. Integrating new information with known information or prior knowledge

2. Storing information in the way it is used in the mind

3. Encouraging higher level thinking skills

4. Learning relationship or connection of items becomes automatical

5. Identifying what information needs to be obtained learned in order to understand a topic

6. Predicting test questions when obtaining and reviewing information

7. Improving recall of information

8. Problem solving information is available

9. Becoming a successful and confident learner.


Where can examples of concept maps be found?

1. Grayson H. Walker of the University of Tennessee has an excellent introduction to concept mapping. He gives the steps used in creating concept maps and how to use them. For more information go to http://www.utc.edu/Units/WalkerTeachingResourceCenter/FacultyDevelopment/ConceptMapping/

2. Pat Johnson, Associate Professor at Palm Beach Community College has a website that shows how his biology students develop four different types of concept maps. He explains how to instruct student to construct concept maps and how to grade a student's concept map. http://www.pbcc.edu/faculty/johnsonp/TeachingLearning/CMinfo.htm

3. How to use concept map in collaborative learning is given by Brian R Gaines and Mildred L G Shaw at the Knowledge Science Institute at the University of Calgary. http://ksi.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/articles/CSCL95CM/

How can the advantages of developing concept maps be demonstrated to students? While this is not the type of information usually required to be known in a college course, this interactive website shows how the organization of information aids in obtaining and retaining information. This is a good website to demonstrate to students so that they see the advantage of developing a concept map in order to learn information. http://www.infomap.com/im_aboutus/aboutus_showme.htm


What are the different types of concept maps that can be developed?

1. Enchanted Learning has at their website 26 different types of concept maps to visually organize information. What type of information goes into each concept map is given along with examples. What really makes this website helpful is for each type of graphic organizer, it is possible to print a worksheet that the student can use to make a concept map. For each of the concept maps several variations of the graphic organizers are given that can be printed. For example, a term's definition has three variations of a definition concept map and for a cause and effect concept map there are fourteen variations of the classic fishbone diagram. There is a flow chart that guides a student in selecting the concept map that would best organize the type of information a student wants to learn. http://www.enchantedlearning.com/graphicorganizers/

2. Cause and Effect concept maps

Guillermo Ochoa de Aspuru has a website that demonstrates how to develop cause and effect concept maps. Ten concept maps are given arranged in increasing difficulty from simple to very complex. http://www.ochoadeaspuru.com/fuzcogmap/index.php

3. Compare and Contrast

ReadWriteThink, established in April of 2002, is a partnership between the International Reading Association (IRA), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and the MarcoPolo Education Foundation. An excellent lesson is given that can be used to demonstrate how to do a comparison and contrast concept map of two topics. http://www.readwritethink.org/materials/compcontrast


What software programs are available to develop concept maps?

While all that is needed to construct a concept map for review or study is a pen and a sheet of paper or index card, there are three software programs that can be used to create concept maps.

1. Probably the most widely used software used by educators to develop concept maps is a product called Inspiration. Information about this product can be found at http://inspiration.com. The virtual Institute at http://www.ettc.net/techfellow/inspir.htm has a tutorial on how to create concepts using Inspiration and has excellent information about concept mapping.

2. Smartdraw is an excellent concept mapping software with tutorials, examples and website space to share your student's concept maps with others. Smartdraw was designed for educators who need assistance in starting to develop concept maps. It would also be an excellent product for students to use to develop concept maps to share with other students. A trial copy can be downloaded at http://www.smartdraw.com/index.htm

3. Visio by Microsoft is the software I use to create concept maps. This is a professional diagramming software program that permits diagrams of anything to be produced. This software assumes you already know what kind of concept map you want to create. I found I could easy create concept maps without reading the manual. (A big plus!) A thirty day trial version is available from Microsoft at http://www.microsoft.com/office/visio/prodinfo/default.mspx. The advantage this software has over the other two products is it will always be comparable with any Microsoft applications. The Microsoft Visio® Viewer 2002 allows anyone to view Visio drawings and diagrams inside their Microsoft Internet Explorer version 5.0 or later web browser. http://www.microsoft.com/office/visio/prodinfo/default.mspx

Smartdraw has a comparison of their product and Visio at http://www.smartdraw.com/specials/visio-compare.asp?id=24520. Smartdraw has many advantages for someone who need help in developing a concept map.


Additional websites with information about concept mapping






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