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Maximizing your assets: the value of simple but layered maps
10/14/2010 | Ted Taylor, Bangor High School (Ocean Systems)
Tags: concept mapping, carbon cycle, ROLE Model Webinar, educator post, 10.06.10 webinar

I think we have all had those times when you are trying to figure out how to do something, and you’ve spent hours and hours, days and days, and even months on it, but you just feel like you’re going nowhere with it. You just seem to reach a wall where you see many of the pieces you want to fit together, but you can’t seem to make it fit. Then something happens where you “see the light” and you wonder why it took so long. I had one of those “see the light” moments during the third COSEE-OS webinar when I listened and watched Dr. Larry Mayer discuss his carbon cycle concept map. As a 9th grade Earth Science teacher, I am always looking for ways to weave a common theme through the astronomy, oceanography, meteorology and geology segments we discuss throughout the year. Based on the use of Dr. Mayer’s map, I saw how I could bring all these climate change pieces I’ve been thinking about into the classroom through a coherent concept map approach weighted heavily with Ocean Climate Interactive (OCI) assets.

Map created by Dr. Larry Mayer for ROLE Model Webinar
Dr. Mayer's first map showing a basic outline of the ocean's carbon cycle.
What struck me most about the concept map was its simplicity. We all know that concept maps are very “individual”, can take just about any form (and believe me they do), and can be difficult for the casual observer to comprehend despite the best efforts of the creator. What Dr. Mayer showed me was a whole new way to approach these maps. As I stated, the map itself was very simple; something anyone could follow. It was not the least bit intimidating or confusing. The details were in the assets found in the OCI. This provided several advantages, at least for me. It kept the visual appearance of the concept map simple so I was not instantly turned off by overwhelming detail. The details were layered within the concept map, and you could scroll through the layers depending on the information you wanted to see. This is the part I need to learn how to do as I become more familiar with the Concept Map Builder (CMB) and OCI.

I see this style of concept map building benefiting both me and my students. Instead of being just a way for one to put the ideas in their head down on paper in whatever form comes to mind – and to be used as a form of quasi-assessment - it becomes a way to organize vast amounts of information into a form of “document” that when finished, could be used as a teaching tool or tutorial. And that’s just what Dr. Mayer’s carbon cycle map was: a visually appealing, extremely informative, factually rich lesson in the carbon cycle using digital media that today’s kids relate to immediately. In fact, what better way for kids to learn than to think about what they know and put it in a concept map, and build their own tutorial using the OCI.

Map created by Dr. Larry Mayer for ROLE Model Webinar
Dr. Mayer's map showing an additional layer of information.
My plan, then, is to take this “simple map/layered assets” approach and make a climate change concept map that shows how planetary orbits (astronomy), ocean acidification by CO2 absorption (oceanography), natural and anthropogenic greenhouse gasses (meteorology), and Mt. Everest (carbonates pushed sky-high by geologic forces) all affect climate. And anything visual and digital is a big bonus for engaging young students.

Ted Taylor is a science teacher at Bangor High School in Bangor, ME. He's been using concept mapping with his students for several years and he collaborates with COSEE - Ocean Systems on other projects.

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