Educational: 5.0
Overall Design: 5.0
Ease of Use: 4.8

(4.0 = good, 4.5 = very
good, 5.0 = excellent)

There is also a new junior version for ages 5-8 (K-3) that is much more graphics based (i.e. age appropriate) but develops the same capabilities in younger users. For pricing and ordering information, click here

(Version 7)

Publisher:  Inspiration Software Inc.

Learning Tool Application Areas: A visually based idea and information organizing tool - "concept mapping" on a computer - that allows you to create, organize, and develop your ideas and/or information for any type of written project , research, studying (remembering information), idea generation, or as an assist to understanding concepts and organizing thinking processes.

Age Range: 9/10 & up  Grades: 3/4 & up

Minimum Reqs: PC 98 - XP and Mac 9.1 - OS X
(see below for detail)
Pricing and Online Ordering
(or call toll free -1-800-250-9229 )

Program Description    Commentary    Who Is This Program For
   Why We Selected This Program
  Computer Requirements

Over the last 10 to 15 years, many students have learned how to create "Mind" Maps (or "Concept" Maps) as a means to developing and organizing their thinking and ideas. Mind mapping has been shown to improve the quality of the student's preparatory thinking and content organization, that then can support improved output in everything from written assignments or oral presentations, to improved retention and recall of information. It can also be a very effective technique for studying or in research activity.

Inspiration allows you to do mapping on a computer and in this medium, gives you much greater scope around what you can do, versus doing it on a piece of paper.

When you open Inspiration you are presented with a blank work screen and the tools are arrayed along the top and side of the screen (very similar to a browser layout). Whether you are new to the concept of mind mapping or are familiar with it using pen and paper, it is worthwhile to start with the tutorial to learn the program's operating capabilities. It turns out that all the functions are worth knowing, if you want to get the most out of the program.

When you open the main screen a circle is presented on the page. You start by typing your central idea (i.e. name of book, science concept, an assignment question, the focus question for creative brainstorming, etc.) Your written text will appear in the circle. You then add more circles and write in your additional ideas or information. As you place each additional circle on the page, a connecting line with automatically appear. (Which you can easily rearrange if you wish). Before you know it, you will have a visually laid out presentation of all your ideas that you can then work with.

Alternately, you can work with templates that provide the student with a structured guide that they can then fill in with their ideas. You can see some examples, by clicking on the images to the right.

If you want to get you ideas down really fast, you click on the RapidFire button and when you hit the return key, what you have just typed, will automatically appear in a newly created circle and be connected with the circle that you are typing in. This enables you to get a lot down very quickly in a visually organized way, without having to take time to place the graphics on the screen.

Once you have completed your initial map you can, with one click of the "Arrange" button, have the whole diagram instantly re configured (i.e. top down, cluster, left to right - a flow diagram - bottom up etc.). You also can easily reorganize or add more content, change connections, and, as well, add pictures (The program has over 1200 clip art images that you can easily drop in).

Inspiration will also instantly convert (and convert back so you have both) the written text in your visual diagram into a written outline that will look like a table of contents with every idea in your diagram properly sub headed. If you are preparing to write a report, for example, you now instantly have your table of contents for your report and if you choose, you can draft all your written content right on the outline page.

This version of Inspiration will also allow you to put hyperlinks right on your page, so you can link one idea on your diagram to a specific page on the internet. This can be very useful, for example, when you are using the program as a research desktop and you want to have all the internet related content you have found, readily accessible from your diagram. The program also has many visual templates so you can just fill in the content instead of constructing the visual components from scratch.

And so this is why you should take the time to do the Inspiration tutorial. There are a lot of very useful operating functions worth knowing about.

Back to the Top

Click Images To Enlarge

Work sheet for creating ideas and structure for a story about yourself

Work sheet for comparing two books

Work sheet on how to plan a persuasive essay

Worksheet for developing a scientific hypothesis

Worksheet to help you plan a debate

“Inspiration is a concept-mapping program that can help students deal with the difficult task of transforming data into knowledge. My 8-year old son thinks of Inspiration as a neat game that helps him connect his ideas to create a story. Inspiration can help students use their creativity to organize material and write excellent papers.”
- Nancy Willard, Project Director, Responsible Netizen Center for Advanced Technology in Education
College of Education, University of Oregon

Inspiration facilitates student writing by quickly converting "messy" ideas into an outline for writing. Many students struggle with this important transition. Inspiration makes it so easy. The students are often so creative, but they can't get their ideas down in a way that "looks right." By using Inspiration, with one click of the button they have an outline for a story, or an essay, or a simple research paper. Both the facilitation and the sense of ownership and independence make Inspiration an outstanding tool for any teacher.
- Sandy Sherwood , K-6 Technology Teacher, Appleby Elementary School, Marathon, NY

Inspiration is an excellent resource for my children. By using the program to make a story map, the children were able to write "A" papers. I have never seen a group of kids so excited to write - especially for a group of children for which writing is so hard. Now they enjoy writing and are seeing improvements with their own writing each time an assignment is due.”
- Marcie Ellis, Fourth-grade teacher, Sunderland Elementary, Calvert County Public Schools, Sunderland, MD

“As a parent, I have used Inspiration to help my own sons with their homework assignments, both with the assignment itself and as a planning tool for Junior High and High School projects that entail several stages and due dates.
- Linda Oaks, Technology Staff Development Coordinator, Rowland Unified School District, Rowland Heights, California

We believe that this program may best suit students who are already familiar with the technique of mind mapping - so when introduced to the program, they will not be trying to learn the technique itself, while trying to learn the program at the same time. We found that with some of our testers who were just starting to learn mind mapping, were getting more preoccupied with the program rather than gaining confidence and capability in the technique itself. It may be better to start by learning with pen and paper and then moving to using the program. Our reviewers had a bit of a debate on this one, some finding that it worked well with new users and others preferring to start with learning mind mapping with pencil and paper and graduating to using the Inspiration program.

For teachers this program has great utility as a communication tool to quickly and easily create any type of visual diagram for teaching purposes (concept charts, flow diagrams, etc.). To see an example - the water cycle - in basic science, click here

If you are a parent who wants to help your child, this would be an excellent program to have on the home computer. For the time it will take to learn how to use this tool, it will have years of use and be of value in almost any area of school related (or non school related for that matter) idea development activity.

One of the most common challenges younger learners face is developing an effective strategy around organizing their thinking processes and then being able to fully capture their ideas in their work (either written or oral). This program is an excellent thinking and planning tool to assist in this respect.

Back to the Top

What we specifically liked most about Inspiration (we have seen several others), is that it is so very easy to learn and use. As a point of comparison, Power Point can do some of these visual functions but it's ease of use and functionality for this application does not compare with Inspiration. In terms of functionality, the visual templates, the ability to turn the diagram into a written outline, or putting hyperlinks on a page, are all very useful aspects to this program. The Rapidfire option is also excellent for those thinkers who need to "get it out fast" before they "lose it all".

In terms of the "real" world, we have seen the enormous lift in quality of thinking and communicating that students are able to achieve through using this technique as a working tool. The Inspiration software is also one they enjoy using, simply because it makes the "doing" of their preparatory work easier.

Mind Mapping is a proven technique that is multifaceted in it's value supporting thinking and organizing skills. A part of the power of the technique is simply that it is visual. Through arraying information in a picture, it is going to be easier for them to refine and develop their thinking, as well as being able to remember and recall information. The quality with which a learner can acquire, organize, store, and recall information is going to have significant effect on how well they do in school. The best way to remember information is to do it visually in the mind's eye. To create external pictures, using the mind mapping technique, is a good first step towards developing internal visualization or -"picturing" - capability. Remember those people in school who had "photographic" memories and "aced" everything? This skill can be developed and using this software is a good first step, as the outputs of mind mapping is simply an external mirror for what you ultimately want happening in the mind's eye of the student.

If helping your students to develop their thinking skills is important to you, this is the program that we would recommend.

Pricing and Online Ordering
(or call toll free -1-800-250-9229 )

Windows®: 486 processor or higher · Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT, ME or XP · 8 MB RAM · Windows compatible graphics card · 5 MB available hard drive minimum, 20 MB available for full install · CD-ROM drive (for installation only) ·Optional: Windows compatible printer, Internet browser and microphone.

Macintosh®: Macintosh or Power Macintosh · System 7.1, 8.0, 9.0 or OSX · 2 MB available RAM · 640 x 480, 256 color display · 5 MB available hard drive minimum, 30 MB available for full install · CD-ROM drive (for installation only) · Optional: Macintosh compatible printer, Internet browser and microphone.

Back to the Top