Designed with intent of use by middle and high school students, Belvedere is a quant program for the creation of concept maps. The heart of its goal is to “help support problem-based collaborative learning scenarios with evidence and concept maps” and to help “students learn critical inquiry skills that they can apply in everyday life as well as in science.” Belvedere software (http://lilt.ics.hawaii.edu/lilt/) is free and should be considered as one more weapon in the educators’ arsenal. The program itself is rather easy to navigate through. There are several panes on the screen that can be manipulated by the user, one of which is a help sidebar that leads to accessibility. Upon opening the program, the user is given the option of three types of models: simple, concept and evidence. Each model has its own advantages, with some being easier to use (simple model) while the concept and evidence models offer argumentation links and graphics for a more valuable learning experience. However, it does take a little while to get used to the controls of the program, but it is simple enough to use for both middle and high school students. However, the graphics and the user interface are very basic, with little visual stimulation or manipulation options. For example, in the most complex evidence model, there are only three different rectangle boxes with three different colors. While this does not seem like a major flaw, usage may lead to boredom, even questioning why not create just a simple flow chart on paper. The strength of Belvedere is that it does offer an alternative view of its concept maps in a chart form. This may not seem like that great an advantage, but it does offer another way of looking at data. It is because of that point that I would recommend this product. Belvedere is a cross platform product, with Windows, Mac, and Linux formats available for free and it requires very little space on the hard drive (2.6 mb).
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