The Holy Grail of ICT

The quest has been on for a long time for the "Holy Grail" of ICT (Information & Communication Technology)
Two programs "Inspiration" and "Kidspiration" actually take us one step closer.

INSPIRATION was originally designed for the corporate world and used for brainstorming, concept mapping, flow charts, webbing and planning etc.; sound familiar. Educators discovered this marvellous software in the early 90's and began integrating its powerful visual learning tools into their classrooms. In January, the folks who gave us Inspiration announced the birth of its kid sister, Kidspiration.
*"We were not interested in just creating a lower-grade Inspiration," Mona Westhaver, president and cofounder of the company, said. "We really wanted to tie into the K-3 curriculum."
.......and they have done a wonderful job.

Using Kidspiration, young students build strong thinking skills with visual and audio support using pictures, diagrams and sounds.

Kidspiration is suitable for use with all KLA's. Using this fantastic software, students can plan their OWN projects. Until now, most teachers' have done the planning for their students. Those brave souls who decide to let their students plan activities are beset with students, fiddling about, lacking ideas, changing their minds, the true agony of thinking on cue, and the impossible challenge(for some children) of actually putting pencil to paper.

Enter Kidspiration. Students can now fiddle about, change their minds, use pictures instead of words and go nowhere near a pencil and paper and be productive. Kidspiration allows students to brainstorm ideas using connected symbols very quickly. They can change their minds and change the layout immediately, students can add pictures instead of typing, and the audio tool allows students to hear their work read aloud or even record their own words. Diagram 1(In Classroom Magazine No. 7 2001) is a simple beginning for a story "About Me" I recently completed with a year 1.

From this simple beginning students can add their own pictures and categories to personalise their diagram. Diagram 2(In Classroom Magazine No. 7 2001) is Liam's outline after one half hour session.

Even though this outline is pretty good, Liam can keep fiddling and changing his diagram on the fly, as new ideas evolve. Finally Liam has a story plan for his writing task and fiddling about is OK. And this is where Kidspiration is brilliant, simply click on the "Writing View" icon on the toolbar
and 'Voila´' a text version of Liam's story(Diagram 3(In Classroom Magazine No. 7 2001)).

Liam can now add details, typing in sentences for each of the headings and sub-headings in his story plan. He can also add additional headings in this 'Writing View' that will be added into his 'Picture View' as well.

Either view can be printed, transferred to other programs or even published to the web, but with spell check and a variety of printing options there is no need to move outside the program at all.

Using Kidspiration, students can:-
Brainstorm ideas with words and pictures
Organize and categorize information visually
Create stories and descriptions using engaging visual tools
Explore new ideas with thought webs and visual mapping, the list is endless.

INSPIRATION offers more sophistication for grades 4-12 and beyond.
Inspiration is extremely valuable for:
Concept mapping
and Webbing.

It offers both the "Outline" and "Diagram" views similar to Kidspiration. Graphics can be imported to enhance the diagrams, and final presentations can be saved as html pages with interactive links. Here is Rachael's plan of ´the topic "Gold in Australia." The plan has been gradually built up from a simple diagram that used mainly the pink ovals below, to a more complex diagram incorporating the blue sub categories and the yellow activities(Diagram 4(In Classroom Magazine No. 7 2001)). For an online version of this Inspiration diagram including live URLs goto

Rachael can now turn to the 'Outline View" to add detail and focus further research(Diagram 5(In Classroom Magazine No. 7 2001)).

These two programs are powerful learning tools that allow students to tap their creativity and organise their thoughts. The best critics, are the children themselves; using this programs in a classroom recently there was a great deal of laughter as children collaborated on their brainstorming. Reluctant starters ended the session with their activity planned, and lots of productive chat occurred. Comments like 'That was fun!", " It was great doing the brainstorming", "What can we write about next," This is so easy", were in abundance.

The good news about using these programs just goes on. For a long time research has shown that using visual mapping of ideas enhances learning. Concept maps created by hand using pencils and paper are not easily modified and changed. The development of software programs such as Kidspiration and Inspiration have changed all this, these programs allow students to draw and redraw their maps in an electronic environment. They minimise the need for text. Colours, pictures, graphics and sound can be added, promoting long-term retention of information. Studies abound demonstrating the effectiveness of these techniques, **"Pankratius (1990), for example, found that students who created concept maps throughout a three-week unit on energy had higher test scores than students who either only created concept maps at the end of the unit or did not create them at all.

There are indeed books of lesson plans for both Inspiration and Kidspiration ( These can be purchased separately, but they are certainly not necessary. Each program comes with loads of templates, which can easily be used from the first session. I recently introduced Kidspiration to a class of Kindergarten students, starting with the 'Get Ready" template(in the "more" activities section). It looks like Diagram 6(In Classroom Magazine No. 7 2001).

It was simple to introduce all the major icons and tools using this template, and the children loved it. Looking at the interface above you will see a number of text components, this would normally defeat a kindergarten class, however, when the students clicked on these, the words were read aloud by the computer. The children heard
"1. Help these children get ready for their special occasions."
as well as
"Jane is going to a fancy party." etc.
In half an hour the students had become familiar with the interface, and most of their models were reasonably well attired.

Teachers of course, use Inspiration for their own planning and programming and also in developing webquests for their students. Considering that this product was originally used as business software this is not surprising. Using Inspiration, teachers can quickly produce a diagram around a central theme and link all KLAs to a given topic. Details can be added in the "Outline View", and changes can be made easily as student needs grow and change.

For both these programs and many others, training is available at Atomic Learning. Each module, loads fast and demonstrates many of the features of Inspiration and Kidspiration. Atomic Learning is a terrific place to start exploring these programs. The videos range in size from 900K down to less than 200K, and will begin playing almost immediately, whether you are using a 56k modem or a dedicated connection! QuickTime is required.
For KIDSPIRATION with Atomic learning
For INSPIRATION with Atomic Learning

Inspiration has received many awards for excellence including
The HERO Award for Significant Contributions to Education October 2000
2000 Technology Leadership Award from QED
Parent's Guide children's Media Award November 2000
2001 GoldMaster Award Judged "Best of the Best"
See the rest of their awards at:-

THE PRICE - This is the big news, it's amazing. Special state-wide deals are in place for all Australian States, New Zealand and most independent schools. To find out the details for you state goto

A free 30-day trial for this product can be downloaded at:-
The programs are a dream to load and available for both Mac and Win platforms on the one CD.


And, you might ask, how did I write this wonderful article;
I used INSPIRATION of course! The program from the " from the a-picture-can-inspire-a-thousand-words dept," or even 1,500 words.

Thursday May 24th 2001-07-30 Kidspiration can aid the younger set
**Computer-Based Concept Mapping
A Tool for Negotiating Meaning
By Lynne Anderson-Inman and Leslie Ditson
Why Visual Learning
TO FIND OUT MORE about "Inspiration" and "Kidspiration" contact Linda Zugai
"Linda Zugai"
or goto the Edsoft site at
AN ONLINE VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE with hotlinks can be found at:-


Cathy Brown B.Ed. (HONS) is a Educator with over 20 years teaching experience from Pre-school to Tertiary level, she gives seminars and inservice in Computer Technology and also writes a free email newsletter 'Virtual Teacher" Read it at