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Digital Concept Mapping of Philosophical Texts: "The Phaneros Project"

Digital Concept Mapping

Course Integrated:

  • Philosophy 370


  • Rodmon King, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
  • Mekala Bertocci '14 WS, Student Research Assistant
  • Jeff DeVuyst, Senior Specialist, IT Services
  • Deborah Rasmussen, Digital Learning Consultant, IT Services
  • Michael Hunter, Research & Instruction Librarian
  • Juliet Habjan Boisselle, Digital Learning Consultant, IT Services

Goals and Objectives:

  • Develop a methodology for concept mapping philosophical content in the classroom
  • Provide a platform for students to visualize philosophical concepts, claims, principles and arguments
  • Enhance student reflection, discovery and understanding of abstract philosophical concepts

Digital Toolkit:

  • VUE (Visual Understanding Environment) - open source concept mapping tool developed at Tufts University
    • Please contact the IT Services Digital Learning Team for more information about this tool

Digital Learning Team Role:

  • Provide an environmental scan of related digital tools available
  • Provide feedback on project instructional design
  • Facilitate process for making software available to students
  • Provide technical support for software access

Student Feedback:

The majority of the students reported that over the semester they were able to make use of VUE with some ease. Typical of these comments is the following report:

"I also noticed that, throughout the semester, I was becoming more practiced with making concept maps. I have become more comfortable with VUE and was able to move more efficiently through the process of creating my map. By the end of the semester, I was able to quickly and effortlessly color code my concept map and navigate through its creation."

Many students in the course reported that creating the digital concept maps deepened their understanding of course content. Among these comments one student stated:

"My growth, in terms of thinking, reflecting, and understanding the arguments of the philosophers, allowed me to interpret the readings better and determine more accurate terms and ideas that were central to the readings and topics within the sections [of the course]."

Another student reported that:

"I enjoyed the process of each concept map because it opened my eyes to the vast interconnectedness of each theme with each section, which brought the entirety of the course together in my own mind."

In addition, students reported that the process of creating digital concept maps contributed to their success in other aspects of the course. Students indicated that creating the maps caused them to read texts more closely and carefully, helped them to find foci for their reading analysis, and aided in topic selection and research for their unit papers. Also, students indicated that they felt more prepared to engage in class discussion as a result of working on their maps.

Related Resources:

Project materials were developed for a semester long exploration of philosophical content using concept mapping via VUE.

The student projects were divided into four stages of graded assignments: brainstorming, organizing, initial map drafting, and final concept map development. Mekala Bertocci, Student Research Assistant offered drop-in office hours and tutorials were developed to assist students in accessing and using the tools in VUE to create concept maps.


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.