By: Robin Heyden
Here’s another useful web site for teachers and students. Michigan State University’s cTools. This is an online concept mapping, built by a crafty group of engineers and scientists at Michigan State. It’s a java application, funded by the NSF, and completely free.
It’s very easy to use – you just start adding concepts, connect them with lines, and label the lines with connecting words. Then, once you’ve completed your map, you can either save it or print it out (you can control size, colors, and landscape/portrait orientation). While all of that sounds very spiffy, what makes this application worth using over simply creating concept maps on paper is the ability to easily revise maps (think group work and map modification based on peer input) as well as a wonderful feature called “Robograder”. Robograder allows you to compare any map to an “expert map” and automatically see the differences.
I (Robin) can think of a number of interesting ways to use this site. You could assign students a scenario problem and then ask them to create a concept that illustrates their understanding of the relationship between a number of concepts (perhaps providing them with a list of the key concepts) in the context of that problem. The students could work individually to generate their first map, then in small groups (or pairs) to compare their maps and revise. As the thinking goes with concept maps, they are terrific tools to help students see important interrelationships and reveal their misconceptions.
Source: Stepping Stones