Concept Mapping

While reading comments to a blog post about whether or not faculty should ban laptops in the classroom, I came across a comment that linked to a blog post about a student using concept mapping software to take notes.

This particular student was using Visual Understanding Environment (VUE), an Open Source project based at Tufts University. The student wrote that he was taking much more useful notes by applying them to concept maps and he was at the same time paying better attention to the lectures instead of just transcribing the presentations.

This got me thinking. I’ve been considering using concept maps for projects and preparing presentations, articles, excreta. However, would this approach work for conferences notes? If I did decide to use concept mapping software for conference notes, would I make separate concept maps per session? per tract? just one for the whole conference? I’m not really sure, but I think this has some potential. Taking notes in a linear way works for certain sessions but never seems to work for a whole conference – especially a focused conference. Yes, I record information about the sessions, but it kind of misses out on capturing the whole theme of the conference and what the general vibe and intellectual feeling was. For me, it is almost like looking at the trees but not seeing the forest.

I am not sure that concept mapping would really capture the forest, but it may very well be better at it then traditional, linear, note taking. Has anyone tried this at a conference? If so, I’d be interested in your experiences. I think I’ll try it at an upcoming conference and wee whether or not it works well for me.


  1. Jeff Young said,

    March 12, 2010 at 16:03:39

    I encourage you to look into domain modeling. You can do it on a scrap of paper, on a white board, or in a UML tool like Enterprise Architect. When using EA, I do all my modeling in one project document and create a new package in a flat hierarchy for every occasion. Focus on recognizing and recording the “names of things”. Don’t worry so much about normalizing the names or putting them in their “proper” spots (e.g. class name, attribute name, relationship name, etc.) If you’re not sure, make it a class name and sort it out later.

    BTW, domain modeling is the key to producing effective Linked Data (OWL) and implementation frameworks like Rails and Grails.

  2. ecorrado said,

    March 12, 2010 at 16:03:34

    @Jeff: Thanks for the domain modeling suggestion. I’ll take a look into it.

  3. John LeMasney said,

    March 13, 2010 at 22:03:40

    Ed, having just gotten my master’s, I have a very fresh recollection of my classroom note taking experiences. I used all kinds of methods for note taking and journaling, ranging from blogging about what I was learning, keeping a wiki for certain sets of knowledge (such as my comprehensive exam) and using online concept mapping tools like xmind. Using what works for you is what’s important, but very often I’d have to work against instructor bias against the presence of laptops. I’d suggest that concept mapping work work fantastically for conference work, as it’s just a different environment for notetaking, but you wouldn’t have to worry about someone telling you to ‘turn it off and pay attention’. Sigh.