1 University of Valencia (SPAIN)
2 University of Toulouse (FRANCE)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 2334-2341
ISBN: 978-84-616-2661-8
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-5 March, 2013
Location: Valencia, Spain
The increased use of ICT in middle schools opens the possibility to explore new learning tasks. We considered a successful paper and pencil learning activity, i.e. building concept maps, and expand it to the context of hypertext. Our aim was to examine pros and cons of a new interactive task: the construction of a navigable concept map. In this task students navigate an educational hypertext using an unstructured map of contents, which they have to structure while navigating (Amadieu, Tricot and Mariné, 2009).
Constructing a concept map while navigating could pose challenges to middle school students. From the cognitive load theory (Sweller et al., 1998), elaborating the structure and relations while navigating might boost comprehension (germane load). But, it could also overload students’ working memory and hinder comprehension (extraneous load). So, does constructing a concept map support comprehension of a hypertext, or hamper comprehension because it works as a dual task?
To disentangle the effect of the map construction and comprehension, we designed an experiment in which sixth-grade students constructed a concept map of a hypertext (by organizing nodes and by drawing and labeling links between them) in three different moments: before reading the hypertext, while reading it, and after having read it. As control we included a group who worked with an already constructed navigable map and another one with a map in which nodes were displayed linearly following a coherent order.
139 sixth-grade students (71 girls, mean age 11.6 years) from seven entire classrooms, from two public middle schools participated. Students were randomly assigned to one of the five conditions. After completing the task, students answer 11 multiple choice questions that measured their literal and inferential comprehension of the hypertext. An ANCOVA with map conditions as independent variable, and background knowledge and comprehension skills as covariates, indicated that the three variables had an impact on students’ comprehension (literal and inferential were considered)(F(4,132)=2.83, p=0.027;F(1,132)=9.91,p=0.002; F(1,132)=15.55, p< 0.001; respectively). Tukey post-hoc analyses revealed that the groups that build a concept map didn’t differ between them, and they scored lower than those in the control groups.
We also explored strategies used to build the map, and its effect on comprehension. For this purpose we run a multiple regression analysis considering the three groups that constructed a map, which included as factors the ones considered in the ANCOVA, and also the number of arrows and labels created, and the time expend on the map. The regression model on comprehension was significant, R2=.42,F(7,72)=7.31,p<0.001. Specifically, the number of labels created aroused as significant positive predictor.

In conclusion, our results revealed that constructing and navigating a concept map in a hypertext is challenging for sixth-grade students: it hampers their comprehension as compared to control groups. In addition, our results show that the number of labels created by students relates to better comprehension. A potential explanation for this pattern of results is that the interactive task competed for cognitive resources with the reading task. Future work should clarify ways to facilitate that students integrate both tasks, e.g. with further practice in constructing maps (Hilbert & Renkl, 2008), i.e. how to create labels between nodes while navigating.