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WE/ME in epedagogy design » Blog Archive » Well, that’s odd: a report on last week’s report


Well, that’s odd: a report on last week’s report

During the online presentation of our learning object last week (which you can find here), something seemed to go drastically wrong. We seemed to reach an odd mutual incomprehension which led to irritated or angry outbursts (mostly on our part, it must be said).

I have spent the last week trying to work out why this was so – since I genuinely like and respect everyone in the group. At last I think I have found out what the core of the problem was, partly by looking at the other mental maps that will be presented today and then thinking, “Hmmm, that’s odd” and then going and doing some more research. The problem was not what I thought it was, and nothing like I expected it to be.

I believe that we failed to understand each other because (just like in a Woody Allen film) we were talking about two completely different things, while under the impression that we were all talking about the same thing.

“Mind maps” and “concept maps” are often used as interchangeable terms, but they are NOT – and depending which term you use as the starting point of your research the end result will be very different. We researched concept maps: not through any clever plan, but simply because the free software that Camie had found was concept-mapping software.

It is usually accepted that mind maps were developed in the late 60s by Tony Buzan as a way of helping students make notes that used only key words and images. Concept maps, on the other hand, were developed independently and slightly later at Cornell University. If you look up the two terms in Wikipedia you will see an immediate difference in the respective mapping techniques, just by comparing the illustrated examples.

The rules for putting things in boxes are different and the logic used to join boxes is different. The two theories are in some ways based on different premises and in some ways incompatible. No wonder that Camie and I couldn’t understand what was going on – and that nobody else could understand what it was that we couldn’t understand. Oops 🙂

You can find the theoretical paper that we used (written by the developers of concept mapping here.

I am not sure if Camie and I missed a discussion of this difference – or if nobody had noticed it or thought it relevant. However, it is the kind of subtle theoretical difference that can (as we saw) have profound practical effects. Especially as we had spent a long time trying to creatively misuse concept mapping within the legitimate boundaries of its theoretical framework.

Most concept maps have one starting point but, but we were trying to construct a legitimate concept map that had several logical routes: the end of one becoming the beginning of another.

But, by way of a happy ending: this totally unexpected difference between two terms I had thought to be almost identical has proved to be useful in terms of thinking through the difficulties we had in constructing a learning object that reflecte a logical yet complex analysis. And it has given me another idea to pursue in terms of the representation of knowledge within epedagogy.

Hmm, now maybe I should just go and dip my head in a bucket of cold water 🙂

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