I have used many mind and concept mapping applications in the last couple of years and it is always refreshing to revisit Inspiration, where I first learned about the power of visual thinking. I'm not sure what version of Inspiration I initially worked with but it was probably version 2 or 3. When I first saw a demonstration of Inspiration it was an epiphany for me. The light bulb turned on and I never looked back. You see for me, when I am thinking about organizing my ideas, or working on a new project one of the first tools that I look for is Inspiration 8.
Inspiration 8 is easy to use and all the tools you need are there in front of you. Over the years more features have been added but the program has always been true to its mission allowing the user to think visually about the topic at hand. You see for me, the true test of a software application is that it fades into the background and doesn't interfere with the work at hand. In this respect Inspiration 8 with its powerful RapidFire feature makes brainstorming and getting your ideas out on the page easy and elegant. For the the visual thinkers the Library of pictures adds to the appeal of the program but the same can be said for the linear thinkers who have access to a powerful outlining tool with the click of a button.
Today I had the opportunity to work with a student with a learning disability and I asked him if he had been using Inspiration as I had recommended to his teachers. The student said that he had been using it and when I put Inspiration 8 in front of him he quickly created a map of his favorite activities. Within minutes he had mapped out his favorite activities and if we had more time he would have been able to add note cards and transfer the information to Microsoft Word. I had a chance to speak to this student's Language Arts teacher and she reinforced how important it was for this student to use graphic organizers in the writing process. She shared that for this student, being able to visually see his ideas and the connections was an important and essential part of the writing process for him.
As we all work with students to develop their skills, it is important to give them life long tools that they can use even after they finish their formal education. I for one am a big proponent of teaching all students how to use visual thinking and mind mapping skills-which are essential in helping students to think, create and present information in a graphical way. As the amount of information expands exponentially the ability to use tools like Inspiration 8 to help students organize and visualize information will become more important and certainly one of my priorities as a 21st Century skill set.