Concept Mapping

What is It?

Concept maps are software tools used for organizing and representing knowledge. A concept map can be thought of as a visual representation of relationships among a set of connected concepts or ideas. Concept maps are frequently arranged in a hierarchy or pattern that helps students visually understand a particular body of knowledge.

Like data visualization tools, concept maps provide a way to understand complex information and relationships at a glance. Concept mapping tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated, allowing for collaboration, presentation and assessment.

All concept mapping tools work in essentially the same way: Users create nodes (bubbles) and draws connection between the nodes, using links. The links can be labeled and assigned a direction, creating “propositions” (sentences).

Depending on the software used, a variety of features are available. Some concept mapping tools allow you to connect connect directly to digital repositories to import content, annotate nodes and links, embed images create presentations or interactive web maps.

How Can I Use It in Teaching?

Concept mapping finds its origin in cognitive psychology and has proven to be an effective technique to foster meaningful learning.
Concept maps can help learners to:

  • Improve retention
  • Integrate new knowledge to existing knowledge
  • Make connections between concepts
  • See the “big picture”
  • Brainstorm, think creatively

Faculty can also benefit from using concept maps as teaching or assessment tools:

  • To plan instruction, to design or redesign courses
  • To present information in context in a non-linear fashion
  • To generate classroom discussion by presenting students’ concept maps
  • To uncover misconceptions or missing knowledge

In addition, concept maps can be used:

  • to introduce a new topic or area of study
  • to provide an overview of a course
  • to structure a writing assignment
  • as a curriculum planning tool
  • to evaluate student knowledge
  • skeletal concept maps can be designed by experts to provide an overview of a complex topic and then can be filled in as students learn about a subject

Resources for Learning More

Concept Mapping Tools

  • VUE – Open source, developed by Tufts, UIT Academic Technology
  • Gliffy
  • Prezi

Comparative Matrix of Concept Mapping Tools

Technology Tufts Supported Learning Curve Costs Associated Requirements to Run
VUE Y Moderate – depending upon functionality used 0 Computer with Internet Connection
Gliffy N Easy 0 Computer with Internet Connection
Prezi N Easy 0 Computer with Internet Connection


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