Brief Description: VUE is a concept mapping program designed by a team at Tufts University. The program is designed to be a flexible learning environment which can manage text, links, images, and other multimedia files. The program also functions as a nonlinear presentation tool.
- A strong, university-based design team leads the development of VUE. A clear set of design principles guides its development. Development should continue steadily for the foreseeable future, and may be picked up by the OS community.
- VUE is cross-platform.
- VUE is inclusive of many types of media. It is designed to organize resources from a variety of repositories – the user’s file system, the Fedora repository, and other digital archives.
- A growing community exists around the VUE project, which is building a library of concept maps which can be downloaded.
- As with any software designed for flexible use, there is a learning curve in using the software to its full potential. From initial use, however, the program seems to pull you in to deeper functionality. Thus, the learning curve weakness becomes a strength.
- Any potential weaknesses I can identify so far, such as the inability to upload directly to the web, are being addressed in the next release. It is clear that this work is being actively pursued.
Specifications: Platform independent; requires a java runtime environment.
Installation: VUE installed easily on Ubuntu. I downloaded the Linux Installer file. I unzipped the file, changed its permission to executable, and ran the installer. It gave an error message after installing, but seems to be running fine.
I wanted to take a look at an example of concept-mapping software. I have used concept maps in my teaching, but have never used digital versions. They have always seemed cumbersome to create, relative to the educational value in creating them. The majority of conceptual learning seemed to occur while creating drafts of their concept maps, after which translating them to an electronic version was simply a technical task. The VUE designers seemed to feel the same way about existing concept-mapping software:
[existing concept-mapping programs] lack both the flexibility and responsiveness required to support critical and creative thinking with digital resources (Kahle, 2003). These tools’ simple mode of presenting digital resources as a static selection of links organized hierarchically may serve to communicate the structure of a course of lecture at a very high level, but this approach does not support the type of meaningful exploration and content manipulation necessary to help students construct important connections between digital resources and the ideas they represent. (Kumar 2006, chap. 1)
In about fifteen minutes, I was able to make a simple map including nodes, links, and labels for each. I then ‘played’ the map as a presentation and discovered the richness of VUE as a presentation tool. The first screen in the presentation is the map as a whole. Clicking on any node enlarges the node. If the node has any links, these other nodes and resources can be reached directly from the presentation, or the user can return to the previous level. This allows, or requires, the user to think through their presentation rather than simply following a default linear progression as often happens in the use of other presentation software. If the user wants to define a presentation order, I believe a pathway can be used to accomplish this. Being fairly new to concept mapping software in general, I was quite satisfied to be able to do this easily. I also recognize that this only begins to scratch the surface of VUE’s functionality.
VUE allows users to “search, browse, retrieve content from digital repositories, and upload resources into these systems” (Kumar 2006, chap. 3). Users can also create pathways through the resources on a map. These pathways can be used to control the sequence in which resources and content are viewed, and to control the level of complexity displayed on the map. For users new to the content area, pathways can be used to show only the core content information. For users familiar with the content area, the full richness of the map can be displayed. Multiple pathways within the same map can be used in different ways, by different learners. This flexibility can allow the map to develop in complexity with the user’s growing understanding of the topic. The user can also add new content and resources to the map as they bring their own learning to an existing map, or continue to develop a map they have created. Users can add to the map by searching their own file system, the Fedora repository, and other digital repositories for content. When relevant content is found, it can be dragged directly onto the map to create a new node.
The current version of VUE is 2.2, and version 3.0 is planned for the fall of 2009. Version 3.0 will implement layers to further facilitate complex map structures. Importing data will be automated from certain sources, and layout will be automated using rules-based styling. A VUE applet is also being developed which will allow the full functioning of maps posted to web sites (Tufts University, 2008).
VUE is a strong example of what a contemporary OS project can look like. With its open design process, clear communication between users and developers, modular design model, and university backing, it is clear that the project will be active in the foreseeable future, and will continue to gain functionality. The project should continue to push the standards of concept mapping software development. It is difficult to imagine using a program like PowerPoint after seeing the flexibility of a program like VUE.
I would like to learn more about the OKI standards that are mentioned in discussions of development, and the OSID implementations that are mentioned (Kumar 2006). Conforming to these standards seem to allow the program to access certain repositories, and allow other developers to build on VUE functionality in their own projects.
Kumar, A., Kahle, D. (2006). VUE: A Concept Mapping Tool For Digital Content. Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Concept Mapping. Retrieved February 27, 2009 from cmc.ihmc.us/cmc2006Papers/cmc2006-p84.pdf
Tufts University. (May 2008). Visual Understanding Environment 3.0 (VUE 3.0). Retrieved February 27, 2009 from rit.mellon.org/projects/VisualUnderstandingEnvironment.pdf