Using Thinking Maps in a Technology and Arts Based Project

Lesson Overview
Initially developed for 4th-6th graders, and eventually used as a teaching example for undergraduate students, the project contains components of visual art, technology, environmental science, and writing. Using thinking maps, students develop their understanding of landscapes and changes to the environment. Afterward, the class reviews the art work of Maya Portner and discuss the connection of geographic maps and personal memories. Using Google maps, the students create a paper collage applying an element of art (color), and a principle of design (movement). Next, the students use an augmented reality app to digitally connect their bubble map to the art work they created. Finally, the students enter their location on a class map created on Google’s geo-tagging map software and hold a class discussion regarding their experience.
Application of STEM Principles
While this project might not be a true STEM project, there are several STEM guiding principles utilized to develop the curriculum. Focusing on integration is at the heart of this project. Integration attempts to create connections through interdisciplinary means in order to enrich the process and product (Vasquez, Sneider & Comer, 2013). This project connects personal experiences, Hawaiian culture, a variety of technological components, and effects on the environment to facilitate the notion of integration.
Equipping students with applicable twenty-first century skills prepares students communication and collaboration abilities for the future (Vasquez, Sneider & Comer, 2013). During this project students work together to create a digital map containing all of the locations represented by their experiences. In addition, students use critical and creative thinking to develop an aesthetically interesting composition while applying several art concepts like color schemes and movement.
Lastly, the project utilizes visual relevance with the students by the use of Google maps. This piece of technology is extremely common, but allows the students an access point of familiarity. Relevance brings the importance of the project back into the life of the student by establishing useful current and future implications (Vasquez, Sneider & Comer, 2013).
Application of Thinking Maps
Concept maps provide students the opportunity to visualize information and express understanding of presented concepts (Novak, 2005). Furthermore, research suggests concept maps allow the student to interact with data in creative and abstract ways especially in regards to science reasoning (Dowd, Duncan, & Reynolds, 2015). Moreover, thinking maps take the application of concept maps one step further by facilitating the cognition process and expressed in eight visual-verbal learning tools. One study even indicated using thinking maps with an emphasis on drawing could develop interest in learning science (Kim & Park, 2016).
The use of thinking maps shows promising results in improving student achievement especially when connecting previous knowledge to present learning (Long & Carlson, 2011). This project used three thinking maps at different points of the lesson. The first thinking map applied was the definition map, which allowed students to develop their understanding regarding landscapes. The students not only expressed examples of landscapes, but addressed how they knew the information. The cause/effect map was the second map utilized, and caused students to unpack the reasons landscapes undergo change as well as potential benefits and hazards. Finally, the bubble map provided the students an opportunity to describe the specifics of their art work in an organized manner.
Art Concepts
Students reviewed and applied two elements of art (color and shape) and one principle of design (movement). The color wheel was used to cover a variety of color schemes like analogous, complementary, monochromatic, warm, cool, primary, and secondary. Shape was discussed in terms of geometric and organic and applied when comparing urban and rural geographic locations. The principle of design, movement, was addressed in decisions made regarding composition.
Students examined the works of artist Maya Portner from her 2015 exhibition entitled Urbanophilia – Urbanophobia:|Love and Fear of the City. She used Google Earth software to create compositions of geographic areas in Hawaii. The emphasis of her work was to draw connections to what she loved and feared about Honolulu. She hoped that the viewer would be confronted by the simplicity of cut paper and the intricate details of the suburban areas. The impersonal map was able to bring the viewer closer by selecting a subject matter that would resonate with her audience.
After reviewing the lesson materials, a demonstration of cutting and gluing paper was held before the class. The collages would be created in a color scheme decided by the student. Next, the students wrote about why their map was so important, and shared their location with others in a class discussion. Time permitting, the Feldman Model for art criticism was used to discuss observations, analysis, interpretations, and evaluations of student work.
Applications of Technology
Several applications were used in the creation of this of project. Similar to the artist, students used Google maps in order to find a geographic location that evoked a special memory. Once they found their location, the students would zoom in and find an interesting way to crop the location to be used for their composition. As a class, students would create a digital map with all the locations on the Google geo-mapping application. The instructor created the geo map prior to the lesson allowing them to input each location. This process gave the students the opportunity to see the diversity that exists among their peers, and create a map unique to their own immediate community. Finally, using the augmented reality application, HP Reveal, students connected their story to the map they created. When the map is scanned, their written explanation of the art displays on their device. This technology allows student work to offer another layer of meaning and depth to the art as each student explores the stories of their classmates.
Student Results
Typically, the students face two challenges during the project. First, translating the composition from Google maps into a collage. The details within the map can often be complex forcing the students to simplify their initial plans. Zooming and cropping become especially useful in assisting the students to discover more attainable compositions. The second challenge lies in the use of the augmented reality app. While not entirely a taxing process, the additional technological component can often frustrate the students. The key to overcoming this hurdle is showing the students a finished product, which typically builds anticipation and excitement to complete this portion of the project.