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Percorsi semanticiIdentifying and analyzing a cognitive path in a map (and even across maps) is a higher reasoning exercise of technical and pedagogical deepness: it is one of the more efficient available learning methods, and maybe one of the more powerful tools that concept maps offer the teacher and the student.

It is widely recognized in the research community, and most of all in the applied research in education, that concept maps or semantic networks (that in the end are the same thing), are the more adequate method to represent knowledge, and are the more efficient tool for learning in school, college or education in general. 

Among the elements that validate these assertions, largely demonstrated in practice, there is the likeness of the map conceptual model (its reticular structure, multimode and multilevel, and with typified relations) to the human memory format, the way it is accessed and processed by the human mind: as a matter of fact, in reasoning, the mind goes through several
associative tracks between ideas (or concepts).


As we all know, the map fundamental elements are concepts, their instances, and relations; concepts (conceptual generalizations, events, etc.) concatenated by the relations, form propositions. A proposition constitutes an assertion and is considered a truth.

 The reticular connectivity of these propositions represents knowledge.

Thus, in a map it is not only evidenced that two concepts are related, but how these concepts are related. 


Percorsi semantici
As a concept can be connected to several concepts (and in practice it is), in the map (or even better, in the network) there exist latent paths that in one way or another interconnect concepts, even through those not contiguous. 

So it is fair to affirm that concepts in a network are related even though when not directly related, vis a vis. 

The quality and strength of this relation depend on several factors, sometimes on the distance between concepts, and the type of the relations involved in the path, because a path is not necessarily homogeneous regarding the relationships involved.

 


If semantic searching is a dialog with knowledge, the search resulting semantic path analysis is a very powerful  learning tool; even more, the resulting learning due to path analysis, is the richest and most direct fruit of this dialog.

   
A semantic path is:
 
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a non discontinuous linear trajectory between two non adjacent concepts in the map network, subtended by all path composing concepts and the connecting relations. 

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a specific concept concatenation that represents a particular cognitive aspect in the map. 

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a complex regular expression (or proposition).

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a semantic search resulting perspective, a map view.

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a qualified thinking path.

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a description of the higher level relation between two non directly connected (distant) concepts.

Can be considered as part of a subconscious reasoning; an implicit reasoning in fundamental cognitive processes.

Represents a higher order concept, that cannot be represented with a single concept.


Identifying semantic paths between two concepts in a map is:

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An essential reasoning task.

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A semantic memory exploration, that will place certain key concepts in a coherent, semantic and cognitive ordering.

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Filling conceptual emptiness.

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Facilitating high level inference.


An elementary but very useful exercise on a concept map is to draw inferences from the path between two non directly related concepts, finding the path that connects them, a specific
navigation route among all present routes. 

The process of finding (or better, identifying) a semantic path in a concept map can be intended  as a progressive activation, as if an activation signal spread from concept to concept, or as an avalanche that progressively spreads from node to node, incorporating knowledge on its way.

Another way (and also very intuitive) to understand semantic paths is to consider the path identification as "passing the marker along the path on the map".

In cognitive terms, the concept that receives more activation  (that is part of more paths) is considered as more central to a given domain. 

The concepts most prone to this role are those most connected, to which more relations arrive (and/or from which depart).

Navigating this new route, necessarily inducts a cognitive analysis.

 

Knowledge Master resources to identify cognitive paths

The inductive mode

The user can individuate a semantic path through a semantic search, starting from a specific concept; it is a very simple way to navigate a map, selecting in every case the relation to "pass the marker" on, and taking decisions on every path detour node. This method, besides enabling the active and conscious individuation of the path, taking decisions (a fundamental task in whichever learning activity), enables saving the path for a subsequent analysis and for other learning activities as well.

The inductive mode

Essentially, this method directly answers the question "What is the relation between concepts A and B?", being A and B not contiguous. We all agree that knowledge (in real mind) is highly integrated in many modes, the same as concepts in a network are somehow related. Therefore it is always possible to relate two concepts in our mind or in the network, though it might seem a very difficult task. If we assert that semantic paths already exist "latent" in the map, and that usually a concept map is highly connected, between two concepts there will exist several paths, maybe one shorter and some longer, depending this multiplicity on the distance  between the two selected concepts and on the map connectivity.

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