**ALA-Mapper (analyze lexical
aggregates) v1.01 - **by Roy Clariana (RClariana@psu.edu)

**Note that the name "Space Mapper" and C-Mapper were both
already taken, so I renamed it "ALA-Mapper".**

ALA-Mapper allows you to collect vast amounts of "distance" (proximity) data from network (concept/cognitive) maps. We think that ALA-Mapper is a comprehension "mapper", because our empirical data suggests that these distance proximity data relate to comprehension.

We think of it as an alternative to the Pathfinder pair-wise rating task . With ALA-Mapper, students simply drag terms around the screen, then click done. For example, with Pathfinder, 36 terms would require that the student make 630 pair-wise comparison, which could easily take an hour of hard thinking. Our experience with ALA-Mapper shows that 36 terms can be sorted in about 15 minutes.

Specifically, this software allows you to enter up to 36 terms that your participants drag around the computer screen. When done, the software writes a text file of (x, y) coordinates. You then manually use an included excel file (matrix.xls) to convert the (x, y) coordinates into a proximity data array that you save as a Pathfinder *.prx file. We will automate the software in the next version so that it outputs the proximity data array, thus the excel file will become obsolete.

You will need to download 3 files into the same folder:

- terms.txt - open this file with notepad and enter 36 terms that you want to appear on the ALA-Mapper screen
- ala.exe - it reads the file named terms.txt, the user maps with it, and it writes the files named matrix.txt and response.txt
- matrix.xls file - you use this Excel file to manually convert matrix.txt into a distance matrix for each user. You must manually copy each users x, y data from matrix.txt into matrix.xls in order to produce their distance matrix.

Another file named response.txt is also created that contains the users open-ended responses to the mapping activity.

__Practice with a simple dummy list before moving to more
complex lists__

- As an analysis practice activity, create a list in
__terms.txt__of 36 easy-to-sort terms, e.g., 6 color plus 6 number combinations like red 1, red 2, ... up to green 5, green 6. Have half of your class sort by color and the other half by number. - Then have your students come up with several ways to determine whether those who sorted by color are more like other users who also sorted by color, or is it impossible to separate out a user's matrix into one of the two groups.
- For example, color users' matrices can be averaged together into one matrix, then apply multi-dimensional scaling or factor analysis, etc. (using SPSS) to see how the color group's matrix visually compares to the number group matrix. Or you could calculate average distances of terms that should be near each other, a relatively small average value means that the terms were close to each other. Or you could create an "expert" matrix that has terms in precisely the correct location, and then compare the users' individual and group matrices to this "expert".
- Have another group sort by BOTH color and number and see how this more complex representation compares to the two simpler ones.
- Another activity you may consider is to provide a list of geographic locations (local or national), then after analysis, have a discussion of the implications of users' error on this approach for obtaining 'structural knowledge.

Now add your more complex list of 36 terms into terms.txt. Once you have distance matrices for each user, then the fun begins in terms of analyzing the mountains of data that's produced. Let me know how it goes.

If you know AuthorWare, you can modify ALA-Mapper directly (ala.a4p). For example, I build ALA-Mapper into CBT lessons.

Please email or call me at 610-648-3253. I use ALA-Mapper in my INSYS 522 course at Penn State, and seek your ideas on using this approach more fully. Also, I am trying to get a feel both of the interest in this topic as well as how far abroad this software can spread within a set amount of time.

Here is a presentation that I did at McRel in Denver at Christmas that shows where we are at this point (McREL.ppt).

...Roy

email me at: http://www.personal.psu.edu/rbc4
or ** Add a New Message** to my bulletin board below:

ver1.0 6/24/02; rev. 2/10/03