A new way of presenting information is changing the way in which teaching contents are viewed and structured, a process which is achieved through the use of the so-called concept maps, which allow the systematic structure of a teaching material to be visualized through the representation of ideas, concepts and their hierarchical relationships in a single view on a computer screen. Concept maps constitute a useful instrument for the organization and visual representation of knowledge, and can be drawn by instructors to show students certain concepts in perspective and to attain a better understanding of the concepts they are learning about.
Concept maps can be elaborated in very different ways, and can be distinguished from one another by the format in which the information is represented.
In this paper, we discuss some didactic uses of different modalities of concept maps (lines, spinning sphere…) that have been used as teaching activities at the University of Salamanca. These maps are a two-dimensional representation of a set of concepts, but they also portray the different relationships existing between concepts among them. Accordingly, we are dealing with a schematic teaching resource, composed by a set of conceptual meanings included within an organized structure.
The aforementioned concept maps are increasingly being used at different education levels as learning resources, because they allow instructors to build the teaching process for their students and explore their previous knowledge as well. In this way, students can organise, interrelate and fix their knowledge of the content dealt with.
Learning with these conceptual maps will be significant if teaching contents presented are substantially related; that is to say, when the information to be transmitted succeeds to become connected to a relevant concept in the cognitive structure of students. This is effect is more clearly achieved in concepts, through the appropriate expression of language to get an effective interaction with pre-existing knowledge.
These maps take advantage of the ability to recognise patterns in visual images, thereby facilitating both the learning process and the recalling what has been learned. Each of the nodes of the conceptual map, be it textual or iconographic, contains a concept, an item or a question.
From the point of view of teaching, conceptual maps furnish students with a logical and structured organisation of teaching contents and allow the information present in the teaching contents to be integrated, establishing relationships of subordination and interrelation among them. These maps can also develop ideas and concepts through interrelated teaching, insert new concepts in the actual knowledge structures, and organize thinking and study material.
There is no doubt that using images that allow knowledge to become fixed in the user’s memory increases the capacity to retain ideas through the evoking of these images.