The key process developed in the project was the facilitated concept mapping technique. Concept mapping has long been used as a way of showing connections and promoting reflection among learners: see, for example, the Cmap site.
We have so far used the Ketso concept mapping tool in our research, though this is not the only available product. However, whatever tool is used it needs to be one that allows for groups of people to work on a map simultaneously without the mediation of a scribe (and this means many digital concept mapping tools do not qualify). Using large sheets of paper and pens is also inadequate because the concepts, once laid, cannot be moved around and changed. Ketso meets both these needs, using an attractive ‘natural’ template of colours and shapes. The ‘leaves’ can be written on with marker pens then wiped clean, and are easy to place on and remove from the felt base.
The mapping sessions are run with one or more facilitators, who help participants map the information landscape through reflecting on:
- the tasks that face them in the workplace;
- information needs;
- information sources;
- blockages and problems;
- priority areas;
- and actions to be taken before the next session.
These are written on different colours of leaves and grouped around topics and themes (see the sample maps for detail).
The interval between sessions, and the number of sessions per case, can vary depending on need, but in our case studies thus far we ran sessions roughly every two months (six sessions in one year). At the beginning of each session, actions laid in the previous session are reviewed and removed from the map if completed along with any associated tasks, needs, sources and blockages. The map as a whole is then revised. All areas of the map can be scrutinised by participants, thus, the Ketso sessions allow for a collaborative approach to information stewarding and the scrutiny of authority over information practices within the community, as called for in the principles of radical information literacy.
Over time, the maps created in the sessions show the evolution of the group’s information landscape, just as maps of physical landscapes serve as a record of change. But as well as producing these data with hindsight, the concept mapping is a learning process for participants, generating data that are immediately available to them as they engage with their workplace tasks — see the page on the benefits of mapping for more detail.
The methodology behind the Mapping Information Landscapes idea was summarised on a poster presented at the ISIC conference in Leeds, UK in September 2014, reproduced in the diagram below (click to download PDF version)