## Creating Concept Maps in PowerPoint
Creating Concept Maps in PowerPoint
In a previous article, we talked about Microsoft Word and how to use it to create a concept map. PowerPoint doesn't differ much from its "sibling" software: being offspring of the same company, the general functionalities for creating a concept map are almost the same despite being created for different purposes: Word for documents and PowerPoint for presentations.
Before the introduction of SmartArt, creating a concept map from scratch was the only method available to us: shape after shape (squares, rectangles, circles, etc.), content after content, and arrow after arrow, the map took shape. However, this process was extremely slow and cumbersome, almost frustrating. Today, we have SmartArt - literally translated as "Intelligent Art" - to help us, which simplifies our lives and ensures good results.
Although PowerPoint is known for creating slides for presentations, especially animated ones, we can also use this software to create dynamic and creative concept maps. Let's see how. The first step to creating a concept map in PowerPoint is, of course, opening the program and creating a "New presentation". At this point, we will be faced with the first completely empty slide, and we will need to click on the "Insert" option in the main menu at the top to find the "SmartArt" option.
How to Create a Concept Map in PowerPoint
To create a concept map in PowerPoint, follow these steps:
- Click on Insert.
- Select SmartArt.
- Choose the Hierarchy option.
- Select your desired starting template.
Once SmartArt is selected, the choices it offers us are multiple, such as List, Process, Pyramid, Cycle, Hierarchy, and Relationship. To create a concept map, we need to click on "Hierarchy", where we are presented with different starting models to use to build the map: Organizational Chart, Circular Picture Hierarchy, Horizontal Hierarchy (a sort of mind map with a radial arrangement of nodes), etc.
By choosing the Hierarchy model, this ready-to-fill and customize map template will appear.
Customizing the Concept Map
Once we have made our choice, a concept map in PowerPoint will appear empty for us to customize with text or other graphic elements. To add textual content to the nodes, we just need to click on the individual node and type using the keyboard. As with Word, customization is quite extensive: it is possible to change the shapes and colors of the nodes, the font, the style and spacing of the text, delete or add nodes, and relationships between them.
To create new nodes for the concept map and manage their relationships, we have two alternatives:
- Use the "SmartArt Text" menu with its +, -, and arrow buttons. This menu appears directly next to the map and allows you to manage the hierarchy and positions of the nodes as a bulleted list. It is also possible to write text inside the nodes directly from the list.
- Use the secondary menu at the top left with the "Add Shape", "Move Up/Down", and "Bring Forward/Send Backward" buttons.
To change the colors of the nodes, there is a dedicated button with the palette symbol at the top right called "Change Colors". By clicking on it, some colors will be suggested for your map.
To insert images or other multimedia elements, you need to use the Insert menu and then click on Image. Through the main menu option "Insert," we can add various content such as icons, video or audio files, 3D models, charts, or actions. This last option allows us to "animate" our map if it is inserted in a PowerPoint presentation.
How to Save and Download a Map from PowerPoint
Once our concept map is completed, how do we save the work on our device? By moving to the top left of the main menu and clicking on "File," then "Save As." From there, we have several options for saving the document: we can save it as a PowerPoint presentation (the default choice of the software) or export the slide containing our map as an image (jpeg or png).
And if we want to reuse the concept map template we have created? The choice, then, is to select "PowerPoint Template" in order to save our concept map and reuse it in a new Microsoft document.
The Limitations of Maps Created in PowerPoint
While it is true that PowerPoint allows us to create a concept map quite easily through SmartArt, on the other hand, there are limitations to this software, as it is a general-purpose program. Microsoft PowerPoint, like Word, is designed for different purposes than creating concept maps. This functionality, therefore, is not at the center of the software but represents one of the many tools available to the user to enhance their presentation slides.
Some of the main limitations of using PowerPoint to create concept maps are:
- Limited space: the size of the worksheet, designed for a slide, definitely limits the construction of a larger map.
- Rigidity of the map structure: moving individual nodes, entire branches, or links between map shapes by dragging them is complex and cumbersome. It is also difficult to write on the arrows.
- The need to purchase an expensive license to use SmartArt. Without a subscription to the Office365 package, programs like PowerPoint cannot be used. Although there is a PowerPoint Online version, SmartArt is not available for the web version, which means building the map "manually."
- Lack of an easy and fast sharing mechanism and the inability to collaborate in real-time with other users on the same map.
- Absence of integrated compensatory tools such as the ability to add digital books to the map, text-to-speech for listening to texts, or dyslexia-friendly fonts. Not to mention the interface and menus, which are too complex for those with neurodiversity.
Algor Education: The Ideal Web App for Creating Concept Maps
A practical and easy-to-use alternative for creating concept maps online is Algor Education, an Italian web app that offers a multimedia and collaborative editing environment for creating maps and conceptual or mental diagrams in just a few clicks, even starting from textual documents. Let's briefly look at the main features of Algor Education that make it more suitable for creating online maps and diagrams compared to PowerPoint:
- Infinite workspace: the map editor has potentially infinite space and, above all, it is easily navigable and zoomable by keyboard, touch, or mouse.
- Creating new map nodes and customizing them is extremely simple, with just one click. Individual nodes or groups of nodes in the map can be quickly modified using the mobile menu.
- Possibility to create maps from your own documents or digital books. On Algor, you can upload PDF or DOC files to accompany the map. Documents and the map environment communicate with each other, and transferring the content of the file to the map nodes requires just a few clicks.
- Inclusive interface and functionality: maps and documents can be organized into convenient folders distinguished by symbols and colors with a great visual impact. In addition, the app integrates Voice Synthesis available in different languages, voices, and speeds, and inclusive fonts such as LexieReadable or OpenDyslexia.
- Easy online sharing, with Algor Education you can share your maps with other users simply by sending them a link. On each map, you can collaborate in real-time and make changes together.
- Compatibility with various devices, on Algor you can work from anywhere using a PC, smartphone, or tablet. All the material is accessible from any device by logging in with the same account, all you need is an internet connection.
- Automatic text suggestions to stimulate creativity. Algor uses state-of-the-art technologies to automatically create concept maps from a text. The goal is to stimulate the student's creativity and help them synthesize the main concepts of a text.
If Algor Education has piqued your interest, know that you can use its free plan forever. Just sign up on Algor Education.
Article by Rosaria Spiniello, content creator.