According to its website (http://www.semanticresearch.com/), Semantica is a “knowledge representation software…that enables experts and learners to graph their knowledge in a way that truly represents all of the complex interconnections required for real domain mastery.” Semantica’s use of “semantic network theory” in a “graphical environment” helps the user “see and interact with knowledge...[to lead to] enhanced cognition and deeper understanding…” Semantica appeals to constructivists in that it allows learners to master knowledge by constructing it themselves in their own particular visual representations. Visual manipulations of the interrelatedness of concepts and ideas to lead to mastery are central to Semantica’s mission.Semantica comes with a 71-page user manual with extensive directions on how to use each feature of the program. I find this length to be quite off-putting; if an educator chose to use this in his classroom, he would have choose the features most relevant to his goals and explain these to his students. Much more manageable is the self-guided tutorial, which leads the user through a simple creation of a family tree. I would recommend that an educator have his students do this simple exercise before attempting anything more complicated.Based on my initial trials with the software, I believe that Semantica more or less lives up to its boastings. Whether it really "truly represents all of the complex interconnections" known to man is up for debate. Regardless, it is much easier to use than Storyspace, a similar idea-networking product. Although Semantica doesn’t allow for large text writing (a feature Storyspace offers), its main purpose is to link ideas. The user can also create links from concepts on the main map to smaller, individual maps that explore a topic in more depth. The user can also label links between topics. Unlike Storyspace, Semantica is very easy on the eyes; it uses large fonts and bold colors to clearly display maps. Semantica also includes various ways of sorting information (by alphabetical order, numbers, etc.) and menu charts clearly display concepts and the number of concepts to which they are linked.I believe that Semantica can be used in any classroom, from kindergarten to college, though it might be difficult for young students to manipulate the software’s features. Students can see how concepts are related to main ideas in a variety of ways. Semantica also offers hyperlinking possibilities to Google and allows users to upload graphics. Under the Help menu of the trial software are numerous examples of Semantica applied to various subject areas, including Physics, Literature and Mathematics. For writing purposes, Semantica could be used to outline basic ideas, but not much more due to space limitations. I am not sure of its place in the foreign language classroom; I will be attempting a concept map this week on paper to connect vocabulary words and will see how well my students understand the process.30-day free trials of Semantica SE are available from Semantica’s website; otherwise, the software costs $79.99. Use of Semantica does not require the user to download any other kind of software. Semantica is compatible with both Macintosh and Windows operating systems. The most recent version, Semantica 4.0, offers more control over “large-scale semantic networks” and has upgraded data models.
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