Kelvin & Wendy: Concept Mapping Tutorial: Sharing Concept Maps
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Creating, Editing, and Sharing Concept Maps

Performing a web search on the phrase(s) "concept map/ping" will reveal that most web sites focus on proprietary software that may be used to create concept maps. Some of these applications are available for free while most are commercial products. Unfortunately, this emphasis on proprietary software has perhaps impeded more widespread adoption of Novak-type concept mapping since in the minds of many people "concept mapping" requires a certain type of software. This simply is not true. First, one can create and share a Novak-type concept map with tools no more sophisticated than a pencil and piece of paper. Second, even with the appropriate tools, one is unlikely to produce a useful Novak-type concept map without an understanding of the conceptual process behind the mapping.

It does seem helpful, thought, to focus a bit on how one can combine this conceptual process for creating Novak-type concept maps with the practical aspects of creating, editing, and sharing them. When one becomes serious about actually creating and sharing Novak-type concept maps, it is seen rather quickly that logistics are not inconsequential.

I have worked with various formats as I have created/edited/shared Novak-type concept maps in the past. There are pros and cons to each of the formats I've used. Some formats are easy to create in but difficult to edit, for instance. Or a format may lend itself to creating and editing with ease but may not be very sharable if the person you want to share with is on the other side of the country!

In the table below, I've outlined my opinion of the fuctionality of several different formats that I've used. I've provided links to samples of each method for illustration purposes.

Functionality of Novak-Type Concept Map Formats
Format
Creation
Editing
Sharable: In Same Place/Same time
Sharable: Across Time
Sharable: Across Distance
Digital image
(e.g., .gif)
Easy
(e.g., using "wizard" in Word or Excel)
Hard
Yes
Yes
Yes
Post-It notes
Easy
Easy
Yes
No
No
Index cards
Easy
Easy
Yes
No
No
Proprietary software
(e.g., Inspiration or CMap Tools)
Easy
Easy
Yes
Yes
Maybe
(if both parties have the software)
Whiteboard
Easy
Easy
Yes
No
No
Pencil/paper
Easy
Easy
Yes
Yes
No
Digital photo of other format
Easy
(but must have digital camera)
Hard
(but just take another picture)
Yes
Yes
Yes
MS Excel
Hard
Easy
Yes
Yes
Yes


My personal preference has been to create Novak-type concept maps using the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet program. For better or for worse, I find that most people have this program already on their computers (although one can never assume), so sharing electronically with others is fairly easy. This program also provides practically unlimited margins (which is important because Novak-type concept maps need room to grow). By using Excel's "Save As Webpage" feature, it is also possible to make one's Novak-type concept map even more sharable by automatically generating a web page with graphics. As with all such automated programs, there may be a little HTML clean-up required after the fact, however. See the Examples area for samples. (Some proprietary software packages have this feature as well. See an Inspiration-to-HTML example.) Using Excel may not be for everyone, though, since it can be a tedious process to use the built-in drawing tools to create and manipulate the ovals and lines.

Tip: I have found that photocopying services (like Kinko's) can figure out how to print a large version of Novak-type concept maps from Excel using their commercial copiers. [see photo of 4ft X 2ft laminated example]

Update: I am growing enamored with IHMC's CMap Tools program which is distributed freely at their website. It's fairly easy to use, exports easily to HTML, and has some interesting capabilities that can be added by installing additional server software. (See a CMap Tools- to-HTML example.)

 

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Page Created: December, 2002
Last Updated On:
Author: Kelvin Thompson
Contact: kthompso@mail.ucf.edu
at University of Central Florida