Your brain is capable of processing images in as few as thirteen milliseconds. That is thirty times faster than the blink of an eye!
How much time have you wasted on words when you could have been making concepts visual?
Concept maps are dynamic graphic tools that can help. These concrete visuals have been popular in educational settings for years but are slowly beginning to creep into the business world. They’re a tried and true tool that professionals can use to make learning more efficient.
Have you used concept mapping in your classroom or boardroom? If not, it’s time to help your students or employees streamline complex concepts with mapping tools.
Keep reading to learn more about concept maps, including how to implement them in different settings.
What Is a Concept Map?
Put simply, a concept map is a diagram. The diagram contains both ideas and connections. Words and simple phrases help link the various ideas together.
When making a map, you will put big ideas inside boxes or bubbles called nodes. You will connect them with lines called arcs. You will then label these arcs to describe the relationship between two nodes.
A concept map is a tool used to distill a complicated concept into a series of relationships. It can help individuals grasp connections that they may have missed in the past. Many people who see a concept map form a deeper understanding of the way a topic works.
An important aspect of any concept map is its structure. Ideas on a concept map are always structured hierarchically. That means the largest and broadest ideas should be at the top, becoming more specific and exclusive as you move downward.
The creation of a good concept map begins with a focus question that guides the progression of concepts.
Often, mapping begins by generating a list of key concepts, ranked in order of exclusivity. These concepts can be “parked” at the side of the map in an area called a parking lot.
Some individuals also include cross-links in their maps. This facilitates connections between seemingly disparate concepts.
Concept Map vs Mind Map
A concept map and a mind map are distinct and not interchangeable. Unlike a concept map, a mind map does not have a hierarchical structure. It isn’t used to distill a concept, but to brainstorm and find connections that may not yet be clear.
In essence, a concept map is a formal representation of concrete or academic knowledge. A mind map is more flexible, with room for more play and poetry.
When to Use a Concept Map
A concept map is a great way to figure out what aspects of a topic are clear and which you need to learn more about. It has wonderful applications for academic settings. You might use a concept map if you are:
- Trying to make a complex topic concise
- Consolidating new learning
- Demonstrating your grasp of a concept
- Documenting your understanding of an idea
In other words, concept maps are ideal for making concrete knowledge visual. They are ideal for assessment, not for brainstorming. They also possess these benefits.
When to Use a Mind Map
In contrast, mind maps are tools for brainstorming. Any idea, even tangentially related to the core topic, has a place on a mind map. Their strength is their lack of formal structure, which can illuminate new ideas.
You might use a mind map if you are:
- Exploring a new topic for the first time
- Assessing prior knowledge
- Looking for relationships between unusual concepts
- Making a decision based on facts
- Taking notes on a single complex concept
In contrast to concept maps, mind maps are best for revealing and exploring connections. They are ideal for brainstorming, not for assessment.
Types of Concept Maps
There is only one type of concept map, although maps for different applications will look different from one another. Today, you can find concept maps used in educational and business settings.
Concept Maps for Education
In education settings, concept maps are ideal assessment tools for visual learners. They are excellent visuals to use when introducing complex concepts or topics with many related moving parts.
Teachers may use a concept map to encourage students to connect new learning to older learning. It’s a great way to make abstract connections between material more concrete.
Many teachers offer concept mapping templates to students for note-taking or creating their own study guides.
On the other hand, educators can also use concept maps to plan for instruction. Some teachers use concept maps to plan their lessons and structure their units!
Concept Maps for Business
In business, concept maps are often used for analysis. They are collaborative tools that anyone can create and maintain, from administrators to stakeholders. In this setting, they are often used as part of group decision-making.
The benefit is the concept map’s ability to distill factual information without involving emotion. They make storytelling more concrete. Even so, they allow for creativity and ideation.
Concept Mapping for Visual Thinkers
The human brain is a connection-making machine. You can help that machine work more efficiently when you make complex relationships visual. Concept maps are a great tool that encourages metacognition at school and in the workplace.
You can put concept maps into action today! First, you’ll need something to think about and distill. Check out the rest of the blog for more thought-provoking content to get you started!