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Concept Maps

Concept mapping is a heuristic device that has proven to be useful in helping learners to visualize the relationships or connections between and among ideas. Of equal usefulness, mapping of term relationships helps to demonstrate to the teacher what the learner is constructing or assimilating. Thus, while mapping is a method to organize the pieces taken from a new piece of information (article, chapter, lecture, etc.), it presents a visual for the learner and teacher to further discuss the merits of what the learner believes to be the new knowledge gained.

Authentic problems are ill-structured, require students to address conflicting information, and may conclude with many possible solutions. Students must learn to gather and evaluate evidence from many sources and weight possible conclusions. Concept maps work well to help students organize and analyze their resources and thinking. An interesting way to introduce this type of activity is in the form of a mystery. Why is the eagle on the Great Seal of the United States? What words are on the Great Seal and how were they chosen? The students began with two “comfort sources”: the print encyclopedia and the Enchanted Learning website. These sources were easy-to-read and provided background information about the Great Seal. As a class, students identified the features of the Great Seal and the many places it is found in U.S. government materials. Each child selected a mystery they wanted to investigate associated with the seal. Students were asked to pay careful attention to the different perspectives represented by websites providing information about this mystery.

The Great Seal

The example shown above (Click to enlarge the image) addresses the question of why the eagle in the Great Seal is depicted holding arrows. A concept map was used to organize findings using various website resources found when using their favorite search engine, Google. Two categories were identified: those who felt the arrows meant war and those that thought they depicted unity. Inspiration was used to create the concept map. This software allows students to make hyperlinks to the resources used in their project. They can also take notes and incorporate graphics. In this case, the student used three icons to identify those website resources they felt exhibited clear bias, were from well-known authoritative sources, or were unable to evaluate for quality. The students found conflicting information and were successful in organizing and evaluating the quality of information. As they added each idea, they were able to gain a better understanding of the events and ideas that lead to the choice of the bundle of arrows. The concept map served as a tool for sharing their findings with their peers. In addition, it provided a quick way to cite and access the website resources used in the project.

Although flipchart paper and markers can be very effective for producing and displaying concept maps, technology tools such as Inspiration and Kidspiration have enhanced the tools available for the production of concept maps. These tools allow creators to easily manipulate, revise, and expand maps without worried about penmanship or erasing. In addition, hyperlinks, photographs, audio, and video can easily be added to address learning styles and facilitate differentiation. Templates and lesson plan ideas are available to assist teachers as they plan for the use of concept maps in learning.

video clipView Exploring Martin Luther King, Jr. (10:06)

Shelia Teri helps her young students learn about civil rights by combining an idea mapping activity with the Internet (Grade 3-6). - Available through WHRO

Download free Windows Media Player.

eye means readRead Key Word: Concept Mapping in THE BLUE BOOK by Callison and Preddy, 328-333.

Key Words


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