ERIC Identifier: ED407938
Publication Date: 1997-00-00
Author: Plotnick, Eric
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Information and Technology Syracuse NY.
Concept Mapping: A Graphical System for Understanding the
Relationship between Concepts. ERIC Digest.
In the 1960s, Joseph D. Novak (1993) at Cornell University began to study the
concept mapping technique. His work was based on the theories of David Ausubel
(1968), who stressed the importance of prior knowledge in being able to learn
about new concepts. Novak concluded that "Meaningful learning involves the
assimilation of new concepts and propositions into existing cognitive
structures." 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.
PURPOSE OF CONCEPT MAPPING
Concept mapping is a type of
knowledge representation. Jonassen & Grabowski (1993, p. 433) state that
structural knowledge may be seen as a separate type of knowledge. "Structural
knowledge provides the conceptual basis for why. It describes how prior
knowledge is interconnected....Structural knowledge is most often depicted in
terms of some sort of concept map that visually describes the relationships
between ideas in a knowledge domain." Representing knowledge in the visual
format of a concept map allows one to gain an overview of a domain of knowledge.
Because the nodes contain only a keyword or a short sentence, more
interpretation is required of the reader, but this may be positive. Concept
mapping can be used for several purposes:
--To generate ideas (brainstorming);
--To design complex structures (long texts, hypermedia, large web sites);
--To communicate complex ideas;
--To aid learning by explicitly integrating new and old knowledge; and
--To assess understanding or diagnose misunderstanding.
ADVANTAGES OF CONCEPT MAPPING
Visual representation has
--Visual symbols are quickly and easily recognized;
--Minimum use of text makes it easy to scan for a word, phrase, or the
general idea; and
--Visual representation allows for development of a holistic understanding
that words alone cannot convey.
APPLICATIONS OF CONCEPT MAPPING
(1) Creativity Tool:
Drawing a concept map can be compared to participating in a brainstorming
session. As one puts ideas down on paper without criticism, the ideas become
clearer and the mind becomes free to receive new ideas. These new ideas may be
linked to ideas already on the paper, and they may also trigger new associations
leading to new ideas.
(2) Hypertext Design Tool: As the World Wide Web becomes an increasingly
powerful and ubiquitous medium for disseminating information, writers must move
from writing text in linear fashion to creating hypertext documents with links
to other documents. The structural correspondence between hypertext design and
concept maps makes concept mapping a suitable tool for designing the conceptual
structure of hypertext. The structure of both a hypertext document and a concept
map can be seen as a directed graph or a knowledge graph (Conklin, 1987). A
concept map placed on the Web in hypertext may also serve as a Web navigational
tool if there are clickable areas on the concept map that take the user
immediately to indicated parts of the hypertext document.
Designing hypertext is an activity with inherent problems. Botafogo, Rivlin
& Schneiderman (1992) describe a dilemma faced by designers of hypertext
authoring systems. In order to stimulate authors to write clearly structured
hypertext (usually hierarchical), they have to decide when to force authors to
reflect upon the structure of their work. Imposing a hierarchical structure from
the beginning may result in too many restrictions for the author, while any
effort to stimulate hierarchy afterwards is too late, and it may even be
impossible for authors to restructure the jungle of nodes and relationships.
Concept mapping may be a good intermediate step for authors to use to reflect
upon their work when developing hypermedia. (3) Communication Tool: A concept
map produced by one person represents one possible way to structure information
or ideas. This is something that can be shared with others. A concept map
produced by a group of people represents the ideas of the group. In either case,
concept mapping can be used as a communication tool for people to use to discuss
concepts and the relationships between the concepts. They may try to agree on a
common structure to use as a basis for further action.
(4) Learning Tool: Novak's original work with concept mapping dealt with
learning. Constructivist learning theory argues that new knowledge should be
integrated into existing structures in order to be remembered and receive
meaning. Concept mapping stimulates this process by making it explicit and
requiring the learner to pay attention to the relationship between concepts.
Jonassen (1996) argues that students show some of their best thinking when they
try to represent something graphically, and thinking is a necessary condition
for learning. Experiments have shown that subjects using concept mapping
outperform non-concept mappers in longer term retention tests (Novak, et al,
Concept mapping is also gaining inroads as a tool for problem-solving in
education. Concept mapping may be used to enhance the problem-solving phases of
generating alternative solutions and options. Since problem-solving in education
is usually done in small groups, learning should also benefit from the
communication enhancing properties of concept mapping.
(5) Assessment Tool: Concept maps can also be used as assessment tools. The
research team around Joseph Novak at Cornell found that an important by-product
of concept mapping is its ability to detect or illustrate the "misconceptions"
learners may have as explanations of content matter. The conceptions students
may have are often incomplete and deficient leading to misunderstanding of
instruction. Concept maps drawn by students express their conceptions (or their
misconceptions) and can help the instructor diagnose the misconceptions that
make the instruction ineffective (Ross & Munby, 1991).
ADVANTAGES OF COMPUTER SUPPORT FOR CONCEPT MAPPING
(1990) proposes that few of the computer tools used today for learning have been
designed as learning tools. Usually educators use existing tools for teaching
purposes. According to Jonassen, concept mapping computer tools belong to the
rare category of computer tools that were designed specifically for learning.
Some of the advantages of computer support for concept mapping include:
--Ease of adaptation and manipulation: Once you have a concept map on paper,
try to fit in those forgotten concepts or the ideas you came up with overnight
and you will know the advantages of computer assisted concept mapping.
Anderson-Inman and Zeitz (1993) compare the use of the concept mapping program
"Inspiration" (see below) with the paper-and-pencil approach and found that
using this program "encourages revisions to the concept map because deletions,
additions, and changes are accomplished quickly and easily."
--Dynamic Linking: Most computer assisted concept mapping tools allow the
user to point and drag a concept or group of concepts to another place on the
map and automatically update all the appropriate links.
--Conversion: Once a concept map is created using a computer, the program
usually allows the user to convert the map to different electronic formats.
These can be vector or bitmapped images, a text outline, or even a hypertext
structure. These electronic formats can then be stored, sent, manipulated, used,
printed, and deleted just like any computer file.
--Communication: Advantages of digital communication are speed, high
fidelity, and reliability. Having a concept map in digital format allows the
user to send concept maps as attached files with e-mail messages, or include
them in World Wide Web pages. Digitizing enhances the possibilities of using
concept maps as communication tools.
--Storage: Computer assisted concept mapping allows for digital storage of
concept maps. Digital storage takes less space, makes retrieval easier, and is
especially important if concept maps will be used on a large scale.
COMPUTER TOOLS--AN EXAMPLE
(http://www.inspiration.com/) is currently one of the most popular computer
software programs for creating concept maps. Organization of concepts, and
brainstorming and mapping of ideas are mentioned in the User's Manual
(Inspiration Software Inc., 1994) as primary functions of this program. The
graphical capabilities of Inspiration make it an outstanding program for
creating graphs for presentation purposes. Nodes may be shown in many different
useful preset and user-defined shapes. Links may be straight or curved and may
be labeled. Arrowheads may be placed on any side, and everything may be set to
Anderson-Inman & Zeitz (1993) describe the classroom use of Inspiration
and find that it encourages users to revise or change the maps (compared to maps
drawn with paper and pencil). The graphical capabilities of Inspiration help
users personalize concept maps. These capabilities also provide an incentive for
users to manipulate concepts and revise conceptual relationships.
Concept mapping is a technique for representing the
structure of information visually. There are several uses for concept mapping,
such as idea generation, design support, communication enhancement, learning
enhancement, and assessment. A wide range of computer software for concept
mapping is now available for most of the popular computers used in education.
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