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ITS 102: Concept Maps and Brainstorming

How Do You Think?

Two common approaches to visualizing information include hierarchical lists and graphical representations. Typically, each person has a preference for one of these two approaches. Regardless of your individual preference, there are concept mapping applications that allow you to organize information quickly using your preferred approach. These tools are effective teaching tools in a live classroom environment and they also work well to create outlines/lists or diagrams/maps to portray relationships among ideas. Much research has been done regarding how these organizations of information provide direct representations of one's understanding of an idea. For many, a concept map is a physical portrayal of one's internal understanding of a concept. Depending on the concept, there may be superordinate or subordinate concepts and relationships among them that are causal or procedural. The basic premise is that a concept map offers evidence of one's knowledge as an end result of learning, but concept maps are even more often used to portray the dynamic evolution of learning through exercises called brainstorming. We do this all the time on whiteboards or chalkboards or even on paper as we diagram out the ideas that are quickly forming in our head or through a collaborative group activity.

There are numerous commercial and freeware/shareware applications available for creating concept maps. Here are a few I've tried:

  1. Inspiration ( = Windows and Macintosh
  2. Mindnode ( = Macintosh (free)
  3. ConceptDraw ( = Windows

Visually organizing concepts and representing them diagrammatically as well as textually in outline form can accommodate multiple learning styles. Providing instructional materials in more than one format facilitates learning through dual-coding of the information, making it easier for the learner to retrieve. Concept maps, or diagrams, can be created that are easily editable and three dimensional (providing subconcept maps and narrative). Diagrammatic information can be quickly converted to a hierarchical text outline. Ideas are discussed for incorporating concept maps into one's course. Inspiration is used for in-class activities.


How Can You Apply Concept Maps to Your Instruction?

In our workshop we will use Inspiration to document ideas offered by the group for a variety of applications for concept maps in teaching/learning.


Concept Map Example

After a demonstration of concept mapping, each participant will create an individual concept map depicting ideas related to his/her course materials. Here is a simple example of a concept map created by a former student of mine:

Concept Map Example

And here is an example of one that was submitted by another student as a hierarhical list or outline:

Concept Map Example 2



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