A difficult, yet essential, part of learning is making connections and describing relationships. Whether we are using this to map genetic interactions or describe the pathway of emotional development, the ability to ferret out how one thing affects another is an asset. Teachers have experimented with a variety of different techniques that encourage students to make connections and understand relationships. Outlines, if ______then ________ statements, descriptive essays, and song and dance have all served the purpose of getting students to draw connections. Many students are visual learners and as we move into the computer age, it is easier to share and create visual data. VUE, a concept mapping software, allows us to do just that. In simple language a concept map is a visual representation of related ideas, processes or objects that depicts how map components are related to one another. Asking students to draw, pen to paper, concept maps in a class can encourage them to learn a complex process, make connections that they didn’t see initially and explore uses for information.
As part of our exploration of technology, Robert introduced us to the virtual version of the pen and paper concept map: VUE. Once a concept map is created in this software it can perform all the same functions as a paper map, AND it can be easily shared and emailed, incorporated into a blog, manipulated by people in different places at different times, and quickly rearranged. VUE can color code things, suggest connections you may not have seen, and rearrange the focus of your map to allow you to think about the relationships around one important component. This tool can get both teachers and students VUEing the world as a connected network as opposed to binning topics into discrete categories. We had a great time experimenting with the tool while Robert gave us tips on how to enhance our concept maps. After playing for a bite, we used the maps we had created to examine the more quantitative side of the program. I never considered that the spider web of connections that I had on my screen could be transformed into an organized grid of 0s and 1s displaying the number of connections each node held. The potential for quantifying students understanding of the connectivity between concepts and topics is an exciting piece of this software. I hope to incorporate this as a tool in part of my teaching and as an activity for my students to encourage them to learn and make connections.
If you have more questions on VUE please contact Robert Lynch at : firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are examples of two concept maps created by the members of GTC in VUE!