(Also posted on educatorslog.in)
Prologue: My teacher training modules on concept mapping have always been well-received so I thought I'd share some ideas here as well. This post has been prompted by the discovery of yet another free concept-mapping tool that has been recently released. My next post will talk about the free/paid concept mapping tools that are available.
There is no argument about the educational value of use concept maps (or mind maps - I will use the terms interchangeably here) in the classroom. It is a great tool for critical thinking and for organizing information, and especially so for the visual learner.
For those unfamiliar with the idea of concept/mind mapping - the attached image explains the term and idea through a concept map itself!). To quote the wikipedia (!), "A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, and decision making."
If the wikipedia is not good enough, here's a blurb from the Inspiration site on the power of visual learning - "Learning to think. Learning to learn. These are the essential skills for student success in every curriculum area and academic pursuit. Research in both educational theory and cognitive psychology tells us that visual learning is among the very best methods for teaching students of all ages how to think and how to learn. "
One could say that a concept map is basically a type of graphic organizer. (e.g. the 'Star' graphic organizer for vocabulary is quite simply a map with the word in the middle and surrounded by cells/nodes which contain the definition, type of word, synonym, antonym, draw a picture, and use the word in a sentence).
Concept Maps can be used by teachers in various aspects of classroom practice - for planning lessons/units, with students at the beginning of a unit/lesson to introduce a topic and gauge students' prior knowledge of the topic, at the end of a unit/lesson to assess student learning, to catch misconceptions students may have about a concept or idea, and for presentations as well (since the newer software mind-mapping tools allow one to add hyperlinks to websites, images, documents, and even other mindmaps).
Information organization is a key skill that kids need to have these days (I will refrain from using the cliched phrase "21st century skill"). I do believe that giving children tools to organize information is especially important today when there is so much information that kids need to deal with and make sense of.
Epilogue: Fortunately for us, there are now several software tools that help us with the task of mind-mapping. I will share these resources in an the next post...