Sunday, October 09, 2005

Concept Mapping in Education

Concept mapping is a method of visually representing information or concepts. Concept maps are constructed when the main concept (idea) is placed in the centre with linking arrows to more specific aspects or components that depict relationships through multiple routes or paths (Burnett, 2005). These maps can include examples or details with related components located at the same height on the page. Concept maps can also include cross links and branches. Branching is an important component of a concept map so that no more than three items are strung along before a branch (Harland, 1999).

There are many advantages of a properly constructed concept map. They can accommodate variety of learning styles through visual and potentially interactive methods. Concepts maps can also enhance memory and retention (Harland, 1999). Clear concept maps allow for greater understanding and communication of difficult or comprehensive ideas (Lanzing, 1997). The key component to a successful concept map is clarity of construction. Disadvantages of concept mapping may include the mapping and formatting process. This can be a time-consuming and frustrating event if students or teachers are required to use non-mapping software such as a MS Word program. As well, concept maps may not be helpful for students who learn best through auditory methods and struggle with visual representations. Most importantly, if the map is not comprehensive or inclusive, it will be confusing and not necessarily meaningful for students.

I find concept maps to be useful as a summary tool, such as, at the end of a chapter, then at the end of the unit to draw connections, show interactions, and provide closure. For example, at the end of a grade five science unit on electricity and magnetism, the teacher may ask the students to develop their own (or a class) concept map that depicts the relationship between electricity and magnetism, i.e., characteristics of electricity and magnetism and how electricity can be used to create magnetic effects and vice versa. The students can then incorporate an extension activity by adding connections with electricity and magnetism on their own copy of the map.

The Technology Outcomes covered by this exercise, would include:
C.4.2.2 organize information, using such tools as a database, spreadsheet or electronic webbing
C.5.2.2 record group brainstorming, planning, and sharing of ideas by using technology
P.4.2.2 vary font size and font style, and placement of text and graphics, in order to create a certain visual effect


References

Alberta Learning. (2000-2003). Information and Communication Technology Program of Study. Retrieved September 15, 2005 from http://www.education.gov.ab.ca/ict/pofs.asp

Burnett, D. (2005). MODULE Four: Concept Mapping Using Inspiration. Retrieved on October 4, 2005 from http://people.uleth.ca/%7Ed.burnett/ED3508Fall05/

Harland. (1999-2000). The Study Skill: Concept Mapping. Retrieved on October 4, 2005 from http://www.iloveteaching.com/chs/study/cm/

Lanzing, J. (1997). The Concept Mapping Homepage. Retrieved on October 4, 2005 from http://users.edte.utwente.nl/lanzing/cm_home.htm

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