Collaborative Concept Mapping in a Web-Based Learning Environment: A Pedagogic Experience in Architectural Education

Article excerpt

This article describes a pedagogic work, carried out within a School of Architecture, using a web-based learning environment to support collaborative understanding of texts on architectural theory. Five architectural manifestoes of the European avant-garde were selected to be analyzed. First, each student interpreted one text, explaining the content with a multimedia presentation and summarizing the main ideas with three concepts. The individual work was followed by the collaborative work, which consisted of the construction of a critical vocabulary and a concept map. The collaborative work was carried out using a web-based system specifically created for the course. As students submitted their concept definitions to the system, they collaboratively created a critical vocabulary, summarizing the main ideas of the five texts. Then, students established relationships between pairs of concepts, which were visualized with a concept map. Subsequent exploration of the semantic spaces embodied in the map became a so urce of knowledge for both students and teachers. In this context, the concept map became an abstract machine, an artificial construct that allowed learners to produce meaning by interaction with it.

INTERTWINING PEDAGOGY AND TECHNOLOGY

This pedagogic experience took place during the academic year 2000/2001, within the course Sistemas de Representacion SDR, in the third year class of the Escola Tecnica i Superior d'Arquitectura La Salle, in Barcelona, Spain.

The course SDR is part of an innovative pedagogic project whose aim is to integrate--in pedagogically meaningful manner--information and communication technologies into the education of Architecture. The concept of Representation constitutes the subject matter of this course, which is structured in six themes: (a) text, (b) shape, (c) object, (d) image, (e) space, and (f) light (Figure 1). The theoretical content is made up of relationships between 'theory bits' taken from different disciplines: fundamentally architecture, but also art, graphic design, communication, aesthetics, psychology, philosophy, and computing. The theoretical base of the course, therefore, conforms to the nature of the Web, where relationships between items become more important than the items themselves.

Also in accordance with the spirit of the Web, exercises are carried out in an individual and collaborative manner, using the web-based environment SDR:NETWORKING (http://www.salleurl.edu/sdr), which has been specifically created for the course. The environment is divided into six modules, suited to the requirements of each one of the six themes. Thus, with SDR:NETWORKING [TEXT], students can analyze texts collaboratively by means of a concept map. With SDR:NETWORKING [OBJECT], they can carry out a process of form generation, collaboratively developing a three-dimensional object in successive stages. Also with SDR:NETWORKING [SPACE], they can establish associations among spatial units, which then give rise to cyber-narratives (http://www.salleurI.edu/sdr/info).

SDR:TEXT

The theoretical construct of the theme TEXT, is built up from different subject matters: linguistics (syntax and semantics, semantic triangle), cognition (semantic networks, concept maps), graphic design (posters, advertisement, media), interactive media (interface design, interactivity) and architectural theory (aesthetic principles of the Modem Art and Architecture). The exercise consists of the analysis and interpretation of five texts from the European artistic avant-garde of the early twentieth century: (a) Henry van de Velde, Credo, 1907; (b) Walter Gropius, Bruno Taut and Adolf Behue, New Ideas on Architecture, 1919; (c) Theo van Doesburg and Cornelius van Eesteren, Towards Collective Building. Commentary on Manifesto V, 1923; (d) Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Industrialized Building, 1924; and (e) Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, Five Points Towards a New Architecture, 1926. …