By Sean Scarpiello
I recently heard the statistic from my Psychology professor that 65% of the population are visual learners. This means that when people can see or visualize data in their heads, it is easier for them to retain that information. I am a visual learner myself and one of the greatest yet underutilized tools for learning via visual stimulus are concept maps. A concept map is simply a way of showing how a series of interrelated topics relate. They should be used more often in the education field and cause more bang for the buck.
Concept maps are typically utilized by science students and one huge misunderstanding about these tools, is that they are only useful in science. In fact, concept maps can be useful in more than natural sciences like biology and chemistry, but also in subjects like political science, economics, business and even math. They can also be quite useful when developing an argument for a debate or a persuasive speech or paper. I find that concept maps are an efficient form of learning. For me, I find that learning about the interaction between topics is easier and more effective when I make the connections on paper, as opposed to having to make the same connections in my mind.
One way schools can implement these into classes would be to create concept maps as a class activity. There is a program available online called “Cmap Tools.” This is a free, downloadable program that enables students to create concept maps on their computer. It is extremely easy to use and download. Since it is completely free, teachers can be sure it is not a risky investment that may fail in helping students. Teachers can have a class activity dedicated to learning how to make them or they can hand out pre-made concept maps to use as a study guide. If teachers don’t have a projector for teaching students on the “Cmap Tools” program, they can easily teach students about concept maps using a regular black board.
The nice thing about concept maps in general is that they can be used for so many different activities both in and out of the classroom; this includes everything from note taking and studying, to modeling projects and evaluating fine details of complex subjects. One way I saw concept maps being utilized creatively was for a debate. It allows a debater to view both sides of that argument and makes it easier to address the weaker points of an argument that can be improved upon. If more people knew about the capabilities of concept maps, they could even be used at a person’s place of employment. This could include everything from lawyers to video game designers.
Cmap Tools Site: http://cmap.ihmc.us/