Monday, October 10, 2005

Concept Mapping

Concept Mapping in its simplest form is tying ideas together using a graphical organization and ideas that link to one another. These organizers and these "Concept Maps" provide excellent ways to organize ideas about key concepts and the related ideas behind those concepts. The idea was developed by Prof. Joseph D. Novak at Cornell University in the 1960s. As with any good idea there are advantages and drawbacks to the approach and also with any good idea there is an educational application to be considered.

Some advantages to using concept mapping is that it allows students to fully convey their ideas and understandings of a subject or concept and do research into what they don't know to, in essence, fill the gaps in their "web" of understanding. It allows students a quick and easy study reference guide and shows the bigger picture on a miniature scale. This allows students that have to tie everything together in order to understand it a chance to do just that. It also allows students that like to think through their ideas a chance to do that. Many of the same luxuries are afforded to teachers and I can really see the application of a 1st year teacher using the idea of a concept map to grasp the material they are teaching.

Drawbacks of the approach include that the approach is either time-consuming, when you try to take the time to do it right, or rushed and flawed. The ideas can be partial or missing in places. Key concepts can be left out or simply missed. The approach doesn't always lead to the big picture approach. Another drawback would be that some students are uncomfortable with technology and would have to spend much more time representing the same thing by hand. Regardless, there are both advantages and disadvantages to the approach.

In a classroom setting you could have students design a concept map around a topic and then have them check against a teacher prepared version to see what they are missing. This would cover several IT Outcomes:

C6 3.4: Pose and test solutions to problems by using computer applications such as computer-assisted design or simulation/modelling software
P4 3.3: Emphasize information, using placement and colour
C1 3.5: Analyze and synthesize information to create a product
C1 3.4: Access and retrieve information through the electronic network
F3 3.1: Use time and resouces on the network wisely

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