Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) is free, open source software designed at Tufts University. VUE serves as a concept and content mapping system, but it is very much more than just a graphic organizer. The designers created a system for organizing and making logical links between the many sources of digital information that we all have access to. It can help teachers organize courses, and material within those courses, and it can help students access and organize information they are studying. In addition, it allows for sharing information by giving others access to your digital resources, and is also a way of presenting slides of information without losing their context. Although it was developed for education, it is in use in many different industries as a way of organizing and presenting shared digital resources.
VUE Video Tutorial – Introduction
One educational use of VUE is in taking notes from a lecture or reading. Below is a screenshot of a law student Chris Ray’s notes on the law of torts. Although the lecture may be linear, the information provided is not, and, according to Ray’s testimony, using VUE instead of Microsoft Word has allowed him to comprehend the content in a much deeper way by being able to visualize those connections as he works.
VUE helps organize text and visual information so that anyone can access it in a variety of ways. The process of organizing the information helps the meta-cognitive process by forcing the user to consider links and connections that she might not have though of before. VUE assists social cognition also as the maps and information can be easily shared with others and also the maps can be merged – so we can combine our maps and see connections in common or connections we may not have thought of. It serves as a form of long-term memory in the cognitive process as well, as connections and their sources can be recalled by the user at any time, in essence freeing up the brain to do deeper thinking.
School administrator can use VUE as a free way to map curriculum at a site or District level, and share content and resources easily across sites. Many schools and districts use shared folders on locally networked servers where the teachers all just upload files, but they can be disorganized, and are not easily searchable or easy to use. As schools work toward integrated projects and cornerstone assessments, teachers could see connections between content areas and could use the organizing features of VUE to create those projects and assessments – focusing on creating rich learning experiences rather than focusing on finding materials and connections. VUE could also be used to organize site initiatives and provide access to documents and materials so that teachers can access it and see connections of one piece of the work to the larger goals of the school. This would mitigate the feeling that many teachers have that each professional development initiative is completely new and unrelated to the one that came before, and might help teachers own the work at deeper level.
An aspect of VUE that allows for presentation of information organized in the map is the Pathways feature that allows the user to form pathways between nodes and to quickly toggle back and forth between the information in context and a presentation. This feature provides for a more dynamic and less linear presentation, alleviating some of the problems with tools like PowerPoint described in the section above. Below is a video explaining the pathways feature.
VUE has many layers and features that this wiki does not explore including supports for in-depth analysis of connections, semantic mapping of web sources and importing statistical packages – it even has integrates with Zotero, the tool. While the basic functions of VUE are simple – it was relatively easy to set up a map and connect it with resources from local drives as well as the web – the more complicated aspects of analysis and synthesis might be prohibitive to a new or tentative user who is not confident in using technology. Below is a video that highlights some of the higher-level functions.
VUE does not yet exist in the Cloud, so users sharing resources such as photographs and word processing documents have to share a dropbox or link to resources from remote sites. Check out the site, download it for free, and start using this unique and valuable tool as soon as you can.
Anastasia Efklides. Metacognition and affect: What can metacognitive experiences tell us abou the learning process? Educational Research Review. (2005) Elsevier, Ltd. Available online at www.sciencedirect.com