Concept Maps-Learning visually

May 20, 2010 at 10:03 pm 5 comments

Figure 1: My immediate concept mapping when writing a paper

Concept Mapping might be a tool that a lot of people use but not taking full advantage of it. In my case, I started using it intuitively. Today, with a little more experience, I’ve found them very useful when working, overall with unstructured data or concepts. Its visual analytical power provides the platform to engage data for projects of diverse nature.

Some of the uses could be: when engaging in some exploration where you might need to structure concepts; to organize themes, which is usually done in the Social Sciences; or when you are just making a “deconstruction” of something you’re reading (for example when reading a difficult article in another language). Figure 2: My concept mapping when deconstructing the meaning of processes or theories

Gowin and Novak, in their book   “Learning How to Learn”- use concept maps for learning environments. They indicate that concept maps can be a way to create “shared meaning within students and teachers”. In their book, they re convinced that they are a way “to seek simplicity to preserve complexity”.

Concept maps are  based in “making” (natural for the Design discipline). They convey a in depth process (like a second step in the thinking process) for “understanding how we learn” (Gowin and Novak). They also provide a basis for discussion or disagreement. It is such a powerful tool that it can be used  in areas: education, public policies or business.

Hugh Dubberly has done a lot of writing on designers visualizing complexity. In the case of concept maps, he indicates main steps for creating them [Hugh Dubberly 2010]:

1. List terms
2.Edit the list
3. Define the remaining terms
4. Create a matrix showing the relations of terms
5. Rank the terms
6. Decide on main branches or write framing sentences
7. Fill in the rest of the structure
8. Revise
9. Apply typography to reinforce structure
10. Revise


Entry filed under: Educacion, Methods, Social Design.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • […] of “dates“) and in Saint Louis, Senegal. These examples show how kids build and create “models” innately. In these cases, in the form of toys. Shortsighted, we can consider these toys as the […]

  • 2. Marco Borraz  |  November 10, 2010 at 12:02 am

    I find this article very interesting but I assume it is addressed to native speakers in general. I´m teaching reading comprehension as a foreign language (English) to Spanish-speaking students. One of the tasks to evaluate their comprehension is to design concept maps (on their personal computers using the software Cmaptools) which must portray in Spanish the general and specific information from each of the texts they read. I wonder if you have done research on a similar topic. Regards.

    • 3. constanzamiranda  |  December 6, 2010 at 4:19 am

      Dear Marco,
      This is a great way to teach a second language. We have used it with other colleagues with graduate students that have ESL [English as a second language]. It is pretty useful for understanding abstract concepts and complex ideas. Gowin and Novak’s book “Learning how to learn” give pretty good directions for the education areas.


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contact + citing (CC license)

Constanza Miranda PhD(c) design.anthro
* Currently @ DILAB
* Ex.VR @ Stanford's Center for Design Research [DesignXLab]
* Ex.Instructor @ PUC Chile [Design+Engineering]
Use citations ¡Citar es ético!
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Design for Social Innovation initiative by Constanza Miranda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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