[K12OSN] Cmap

Sharon Betts sbetts at msad71.net
Mon Jun 6 19:43:52 UTC 2005

>From the Boston Globe:

The software was designed to literally map out what scientists know in
diagram form. The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition is
providing the concept mapping software to individual schools as well as
training teachers in Panama, the first country adopting Cmaps nationwide.

NASA and the Defense Department paid for most of the research. The
military uses concept mapping both as a learning tool and to help unlock
information from the minds of scientists for use by future generations,
said Alberto Canas, the institute's associate director and leading Cmap

"Having a tool that allows the scientist to express that (knowledge) is no
different than trying to figure out what little Johnny knows about
volcanoes in the fifth grade," Canas said.

Cmaps can be used to assess student knowledge, encourage thinking and
problem solving instead of rote learning, organize information for writing
projects and help teachers write new curricula.

"We need to move education from a memorizing system and repetitive system
to a dynamic system," said Gaspar Tarte, who is spearheading education
reform in Panama as the country's secretary of governmental innovation.

"We would like to use tools and a methodology that helps children
construct knowledge," Tarte said. "Concept maps was the best tool that we

A Cmap is a series of concepts, usually nouns, linked by phrases or verbs.
Canas cites a simple Cmap on birds as an example.

One of several lines radiating from the main concept -- "birds" -- is
labeled "have" and links it to such attributes as "beaks," "hollow bones"
and "feathers." Another line is labeled "lays" and connects "birds" with

"It's really saying `birds lay eggs' -- that's a proposition -- `birds
have beaks,' `birds have hollow bones,' " Canas said. "So it's knowledge
expressed as propositions."

The institute's software can be downloaded free for noncommercial use at
http://cmap.ihmc.us. The site gets 300 downloads a day, Canas said.

Commercial software also is available from private companies. Besides
versions for learning and knowledge preservation, the institute has
developed Cmaps to serve as Web site browsers.

Canas, a native of Costa Rica, was a consultant to Panama's government in
the 1990s, but it did not embrace Cmaps until President Martin Torrijos, a
Texas A&M University economics graduate, took office last year. Concept
mapping now is part of a wider initiative to bring schools into the
information age.

MSAD#71 Director of Educational Technology
sbetts at msad71.net          http://www.msad71.net     207-985-1100
To teach is to learn twice.     ---- Isocrates

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