About the Mechanics Map Tool:
The Mechanics Map Digital Textbook Project is an open digital textbook founded on the idea that expert generated concept maps can serve as a powerful advance organizer for textbook content. The overview at the beginning of each chapter consists of a video showing how all the topics in the chapter are linked together by the author. By providing this overview, the author is seeking to help users organize the knowledge they are developing in a way that matches the expert's organization of knowledge.
Advance organizers are high level overviews of more detailed information presented to a learner before detailed instruction in language a novice can understand. This overview will ideally link the new ideas to the learner's prior knowledge. When used with instruction, advance organizers have been shown to have a small but significant positive impact on the understanding and retention of the content.
Concept maps are node-link diagrams that show the major concepts in a content area and how those concepts are linked. Concept maps were originally developed as a way to chart what children did and did not understand, but they were quickly found to be effective as a learning aid. Expert-generated concept maps can serve as particularly powerful advance organizers because of their explicit highlighting of the relationships between concepts.
Work on the Mechanics Map project began in 2011 with NSF funding to explore the feasibility and usefulness of a content navigation system based on expert generated concept maps. This interactive navigation system replaced a traditional table of contents, and allowed users to navigate the material in a non-linear way, all the while absorbing the expert generated concept map as an advance organizer.
Videos of the original navigation system can be seen below.
The tool was tested in the classroom and was shown to be more effective than a traditional paper textbook in two respects. First, as predicted with the design, the tool encourages users to spend more time attending to an overview of the information, helping students build a skeleton they can fit details into later. Second, the tool encouraged users to step back and review topics from previous sections that were relevant to the topics they were learning. This combination of behaviors in the users leads to greater measures of conceptual understanding, with little to no extra effort on the part of the learner.
Unfortunately the original navigation system, built as a Java Applet, is now inoperable in all major browsers due to the security concerns with Applets. Despite this setback with the software, the content has been significantly expanded to all of engineering statics and engineering dynamics with video lectures, worked examples, and homework problems. Additionally, the video introduction at the beginning of each chapter highlights an expert generated concept map to use as an advance organizer for that chapter's concepts.
Mechanics Map Developers:
Project Lead: Dr. Jacob Moore
Dr. Moore is an Associate Professor of Engineering at Penn State Mont Alto. His research interests include open educational resources in engineering, concept maps in education, student assessment, and additive manufacturing technologies. As the project lead, Dr. Moore oversees all development and evaluation activities and is currently the primary content developer.
Current Content Developers
Dr. Moore has been assisted by Dr. Majid Chatsaz at Penn State Scranton, Dr. Agnes d'Entremont at The University of British Columbia, Joan Kowalski at Penn State New Kensington, and Dr. Douglas Miller at Penn State Dubois.
We would also like to acknowledge past software developers, Nathanael Bice, Lauren Gibboney, Joseph Luke, James McIntyre, John Nein, Tucker Noia, Michel Pascale, Joshua Rush, Shawn Shroyer, and Menelik Young as well as the content experts we have consulted with, Dr. Robert Scott Pierce and Christopher Venters.
Moore, J., Williams, C., North C., Johri, A., Paretti, M. (2015). "Effectiveness of Adaptive Concept Maps for Promoting Conceptual Understanding: Findings from a Design-Based Case Study of a Learner-Centered Tool" Advances in Engineering Education ASEE 4 (4)
Moore, J. Pascale, M., Williams, C. North, C. (2013) Translating Educational Theory Into Educational Software: A Case Study of the Adaptive Map Project Proceedings of the 2013 ASEE Annual Conference Atlanta, GA, ASEE.
Moore, J. Pierce, R. S., Williams, C. (2012) Towards an "Adaptive Concept Map": Creating an Expert-Generated Concept Map of an Engineering Statics Curriculum Proceedings of the 2012 ASEE Annual Conference San Antonio, TX, ASEE.