|InfoVis.net>Magazine>message nº 141||Published 2004-03-01|
|También disponible en Español|
The digital magazine of InfoVis.net
Conceptual maps are artefacts for organising and representing knowledge. Their origin lies in the theories about the psychology of learning by David Ausubel enunciated in the 60s.
Their objective is to represent relations between concepts in the form of propositions. Concepts are included within boxes or circles whereas the relations between them are explicated by means of lines connecting their respective boxes. The lines, in turn, have associated words describing the nature of the relation that links the concepts.
In this context, Joseph D. Novak in the article âThe Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How To Construct Themâ defines concept as âa perceived regularity in events or objects, or records of events or objects, designated by a labelâ. The label of a concept is usually a word.
Propositions are âstatements about some object or event in the universe, either naturally occurring or constructed. Propositions contain two or more concepts connected with other words to form a meaningful statementâ They are also called âsemantic unitsâ.
Concepts correlated by relations, boxes and linking linesâ¦ Doesnât this appear familiar to us?. Indeed, like many other things conceptual maps can be represented, and in fact are represented, as graphs (see issue number137Â ), where the nodes are concepts and the arcs the relations between them.
Conceptual maps are structured in a hierarchical way, where the most general concepts lie in the root of the tree and, and as we descend the structure, we find the more specific ones.Â
Probably the best way to understand them is to look at a conceptual map about conceptual maps like the one you can see here.Â
Said map has been made from the one existing in the above mentioned article using the tool CmapTools developed by the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition associated to the West Florida University (USA). This is a freely downloadable tool, very versatile and easy to use.Â
Thereâs also a free, web based, similar tool in Spanish created in the Universitat Pompeu Fabra of Barcelona, Spain, by CristÃ²fol Rovira that automatically generates the necessary code to include the map in XML format using the Topic Maps standard (see issue 26 about the semantic web). Itâs very commendable to play with these tools to see how easy and instructive it is to put our ideas in the form of conceptual maps.
For this type of map was developed to understand the changes in time of the knowledge that children had of science. Ausubelâs idea is that learning takes place thanks to the assimilation of new concepts and propositions into propositional frameworks already existent in the learnerâs mind.
In contrast to the purely rote learning, Ausubel considers that meaningful learning needs three conditions:
These types of tools, when they are well designed, taking into account the context and motivation of their audience, constitute both a teaching and a learning instrument that facilitates understanding and assimilation of the concepts and their relations.Â
Although their origin is bound to learning, their application to Information Visualisation configures them as useful tools to convey complex messages in a clear way. I would dare to say that, moreover, they contribute most notably to clarifying the ideas of the one that is building the message.
I owe the inspiration of this article to the PhD thesis âInteracciÃ³n Persona Ordenador en Interfaces de RecuperaciÃ³n de InformaciÃ³nâ by Dr. Ma. Carmen Marcos.
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