Concept Mapping: A Great Online Tool for Students
Author: Ellyn Davidson, Post-Secondary Education Developer
One of the best workshops that I attended during the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Utah this past February was one that introduced an extremely useful online tool: CONCEPT MAPPING. I had heard educators and presenters rave about concept maps during the conference and thought “finally, by attending this workshop I will get a chance to learn what they are.”
At the beginning of the workshop, the COSEE-OS* facilitators told us that concept mapping can be used to help organize and present ideas on a wide variety of topics. It can be used by educators as a new form of teaching; by Graduate Students to organize their thesis, or by Undergraduates as a way to organize research papers. One facilitator told us how he used concept mapping to organize what renovations he had to do on his home this coming summer!
How to create a concept map
The classic concept map can be created with paper and pen. You simply write down your big idea, or as the facilitators called it your “so what statement” in the middle of the page. Then you then connect key concepts or ideas that are crucial to understating your statement to it. Then you connect more detailed information to the key concepts. For example, if your research is on eelgrass here is an example of a concept map that you could make (it is one of the public maps). The trick is to make the big idea and the key concepts really simple. The facilitators explained that concept mapping is a great tool to help focus projects and to see what the future steps are.
COSEE-OS has developed concept mapping as an online tool. The tool allows you to create bubbles for the big idea and key concepts and allows you to arrange them in various ways with arrows to show how they are related to one another. My favourite part of this tool is the ability to connect videos or pictures, through the database of resources, to give your concepts more context. Once you have created a map there are options to save the map and to email it to colleagues for their input.
To access the mapping tool visit the COSEE website, sign-up for an account and start mapping.
Tips on concept mapping:
- Brain Dump - I found that the most helpful way to start a concept map is to write all of your ideas out on a separate piece of paper or word doc. This is called a brain dump and it will let you get all your thoughts down before you have to start organizing them.
- More info! - Add media or extra information, website links etc, to make your concept map more complete.
- Make your map work for you - The guidelines around creating concept maps are simply that: guidelines. The way you write your map or connect your concepts has to be the way that works for you. Not everyone will make that same style of map and that is ok.
I would love to hear about your experiences using the concept mapping tool or any other tools online that you think are helpful.
*COSEE-OS is one of the 12 Centres of Ocean Science Education Excellence located around the United States. These centres were created by the National Science Foundation to provide a link between the ocean science research community and educators and the public outreach sector. For more information about COSEE visit www.cosee.net