Unlocking the Power of Concept Maps: A Visual Guide to Organizing Ideas and Boosting Learning Efficiency
More and more students of different age groups are using concept maps to learn or simply visually organize ideas and concepts in a synthetic way. At school, university or work, concept maps are a very versatile tool for anyone dealing with many ideas and information.
In this article we will see:
A visual guide to organizing your thoughts
The concept map is a graphic tool with a great visual impact that represents a network of logical connections between concepts. Each node of the map represents a concept described by a text label. The concept map is characterized by being structured in a rational and hierarchical way, with nodes that usually branch out from top to bottom, connected by oriented arrows like the branches of an upside-down tree.
Observing a concept map built in the right way, it should be possible to reconstruct the development of a real reasoning, starting from the root with more central information and reaching the leaves containing the most specific concepts.
Guidelines for identifying main topics and relationships between concepts
A concept map is always a synthetic representation of a more complex reasoning or written text. Therefore, in order for the map to be actually useful, it is necessary to follow some general guidelines. To create a concept map, it is important to respect the hierarchical structure, so it is necessary to identify the main topic and then the subtopics that are connected to the main concept.
Once the main concepts have been identified, you can proceed to graphically represent them as nodes containing text in keywords. Finally, it is important that the map is not just a set of concepts connected to each other, the relationships between conceptual nodes must be explicit. One way to give meaning to the relationships between concepts is to insert verbs or connectors as labels on the oriented arrows.
To learn more about the topic, check out our guide on how to create an effective concept map.
A visual approach to understanding and communicating complex concepts
Making a concept map is an innovative method to re-elaborate, graphically represent, and communicate the relationships between concepts, making the best use of the visual channel. Concept maps are very useful to everyone in different fields and contexts because:
- They help to visualize information according to one's verbal or visual strategy;
- They allow for a greater understanding of the original text;
- They explain inferences and rational connections between different concepts;
- They facilitate the drafting of concepts and help with memorization;
- They allow for retrieving information for oral presentations with other people.
From traditional to mind and multimedia maps
The traditional concept map, as theorized by American academic Joseph Novak in the 1970s, is the most well-known and widely used type of map for studying and learning. Over the years, with the spread of new study methods and the advent of digital technology, new types of maps have been introduced: mind maps and multimedia maps. Different in appearance, attitude, and purpose of use, let's try to understand together what their distinctive elements are.
A visual guide to associative thinking
The concept map has a more recent history, born in 1996 from the studies of the English cognitive scientist Tony Buzan. Concept maps differ from mind maps in appearance, construction mode, and purpose of use. They are a graphic representation of associative thinking, designed to enhance visual memory and have the following distinctive characteristics:
- They have a spoke-like shape with a single main concept or keyword arranged in the center;
- They are more oriented towards creative and intuitive aspects in a strictly personal way;
- They present branches arranged in a hierarchical structure and associations that mimic mental connections;
- They contain ramifications that connect different points of the map with little text expressed in a very concise way;
- They are characterized by the use of different colors from the beginning and fanciful illustrations.
To create a mind map, you proceed by associations. The elements of the map are inserted dynamically without a clear distinction between the moment of identification of the key concepts and the one that consists in their combination, as instead happens for concept maps.
At this link you can find more information about the difference between concept maps and mind maps.
The power of multimedia maps for any subject
The evolution of concept maps and mind maps are multimedia maps, which are built online or with dedicated web applications and software that allow the insertion of interactive resources such as images, videos, audios, and links to web pages.
The advantages of these maps are certainly their versatility and transversality, as they make it possible to access educational material quickly and directly, and they can be used for any subject, from humanities to sciences, including foreign languages. Moreover, multimedia maps built with the help of a PC or tablet offer the clear advantage of being able to write and erase more flexibly and quickly.
The advantages of multimedia maps for students and teachers
Multimedia maps are increasingly used in schools, both by students and teachers in educational contexts. The benefits for students are the possibility of organizing, re-elaborating and retrieving much more information by making the most of visual and auditory channels with images, audio, video and other online resources.
In addition, there is the advantage of being able to quickly retrieve links to other resources in the same place. The map in this case can represent an excellent means of finding one's most effective study method and is a support for orally exposing the concepts learned.
For the teacher, the map can be a means to be used in the classroom to propose study topics to the class in an innovative and unconventional way, distributing pre-compiled models to be completed by students and using the support of the multimedia interactive whiteboard (LIM).
The power of concept maps and multimedia tools
Over 300,000 Italian students attending primary and secondary schools have a diagnosis of Specific Learning Disorders: dyslexia, dysorthography, dysgraphia and dyscalculia. Students with Specific Learning Disorders (SLD) or Special Educational Needs (SEN) struggle to read and reread long texts in order to understand and learn, therefore they need to identify unconventional study methods.
Although each SLD uses different cognitive strategies to learn best based on the type and severity of the disorder, in many cases concept maps, mind maps and more generally multimedia maps are recognized by experts as compensatory tools of great help. In particular, building concept maps from the digital textbook helps compensate for the difficulty in grasping information in sequence, the effort in finding keywords and linking different concepts, or the difficulty in using short-term memory.
For SLD students, it is essential to identify textual indices (titles, highlighted words, illustrations, captions), the hierarchical structure of concepts, the use of little text and the exploitation of the non-textual channel with the presence of illustrations, images, videos and audio. In addition, the use of text-to-speech synthesis is very useful to be able to "listen to the map", saving the effort and the time spent in reading, especially for dyslexics.
You can learn more about the elements of concept maps most suitable for students with SLD in the dedicated article.
Inclusive teaching methods with multimedia maps
Digital technology is transforming traditional approaches to teaching. Multimedia maps allow for innovative teaching methods that aim for real inclusion of all students, in a context of participation and collaboration.
It's called inclusive education and its goal is to value and celebrate all differences among students (students with dyslexia, special educational needs, autism, language barriers, disabilities) by looking at them not as an obstacle but as a resource. To this end, multimedia maps allow for the implementation of new strategies of "cooperative learning" or "flipped learning" because they can be built individually at home but also involving the whole class in the classroom with the guidance and explanation of the teacher.
Create customizable concept maps with ease
Algor Education is a web app accessible from a PC or tablet browser that helps you create online concept maps, customize them in a convenient graphic environment, and share them. Among the best apps for concept maps, it is aimed at students, teachers, or anyone who needs to learn, organize ideas, memorize concepts for study or oral presentation.
Here's what you can do on Algor Education:
- Create concept maps in just a few clicks, starting from a blank sheet, from ready-made map templates, or from a PDF document. In addition, the Quick Map feature allows you to create concept maps automatically from any topic, using the automatic suggestions of our platform;
- Customize your maps in our editor, reorganize and modify them according to your taste and needs. You can insert text, images, audio, links, you can customize colors, styles, and change layouts.
- Collaborate in real-time on the same map and share changes with friends and teachers;
- Listen to texts and write with inclusive fonts, the app integrates speech synthesis, which allows you to "listen to the map," high readability fonts and colors to make it easier if you have reading difficulties.
- Access your maps anywhere, being a web application, Algor allows you to have all your teaching materials always available in your folders. You can retrieve your maps and your material anywhere, even from your mobile, you just need an internet connection.
Discover Algor Education by creating a free account at app.algoreducation.com