Inspiration Maps for the iPad- Simply Brilliant!

If you follow my blog then you know that just how important using mind mapping and graphic organizers is to me. I can remember seeing a demo of Inspiration 2.0 for the first time at an educational technology conference some time ago, and when I watched the view change from graphic organizer to outline view with a click of the mouse if was a real epiphany. From time on I was a changed man, and have been using Inspiration ever since, in the work that I do with students with learning disabilities. It is always really exciting for me to work with teachers and watch them as I demonstrate how to use Inspiration in the classroom. As soon as I teach them the basics you could see the lights go on as they are thinking of all the ways they could use it in the classroom. As schools begin to transition to a "post PC" world it was great that late last spring that Inspiration announced the release of Inspiration Maps for the iPad. Inspiration Maps brings the best of what Inspiration has to offer to the iPad with an extremely easy to use interface. Using Inspiration Maps day in and day out with students, I am always amazed how quickly they catch on and can jump right into the program. The folks at Inspiration did a wonderful job of translating their excellent program to the iPad without sacrificing what the program does best.

When you first open Inspiration Maps you are greeted with a Starter screen that lets you pick a graphic organizer from an assortment of templates that gets you into the process very quickly. Users of Inspiration will find many of their favorite templates still available on the iPad that are ideal of Social Studies, English, and Science. Many of the students that I work with find the touch interface to be easy to navigate and within minutes feel very comfortable using the program. Once students are introduced to RapidFire, it is incredible to see how quickly they can use Inspiration Maps as a brainstorming tool or for a pre-writing. Adding sentences to the Note card is a great way for students to get their ideas down. Showing students how to flip to the Outline View is always so much fun, and to watch the expressions on their faces is priceless. Having the the ability to have students move, organize and sequence their ideas in the Outline view is incredibly powerful as they write.

Of all the features the one that students really enjoy taking advantage of is bring in pictures from the camera and Camera Roll. Unlike Inspiration for the computer, Inspiration Maps does not ship with a library of pictures so in order to make your maps more visual, you can bring in pictures from your iPad to personalize your work. One tip that I learned awhile ago is that it is easy to copy pictures from Google Images into your Camera Roll, by simply holding your finger down on an image until the dialog pops up to that says Save Photo. Once you do that you will find the picture in the Camera Roll that can then be used with Inspiration Maps. If you know it advance that your students will be working a particular project and will need some specific pictures you can load them ahead of time using Google images so that your students can then simply select them from the camera Roll.

Sharing your Inspiration Maps is really easy and the program gives you lots of ways to do this. You can open up the maps in other programs when you are done which is a good option when you want to continue the writing process. I often have students send their Inspiration Maps outline to Pages which works really well. Inspiration Maps supports emailing your maps as an Inspiration Maps document or a PDF and from the Outline view it supports emailing the outline as text. Inspiration has done an excellent job of integrating Dropbox into the app which makes it easy to integrate it with your workflow if you are using Inspiration on a Mac or PC. By upgrading your desktop version of Inspiration to version 9.1, the latest build you can access your Inspiration Maps from your Dropbox account and continue working on it. Likewise, you can Export your Inspiration maps from your Mac or PC and open them with Inspiration Maps on your iPad.

Overall, you will find Inspiration Maps a joy to use and one that will benefit your students as they write, brainstorm, or think through academic content. The interface is very intuitive and the developers really devised the program and took into account the fact that the students would be interacting through touch. To this end Inspiration has accomplished a lot in providing educators with a robust and wonderful program to use in the classroom. So for me the tradition continues, as more and more of the students that I work with move to the iPad, is great to be able to recommend a program that I have relied upon for my entire career and that is Inspiration. Inspiration has a Lite version that you can trial for free which is well worth it-but once you begin to use it and see the value, you will want to upgrade to the full version which gives you great templates and better exporting features.

Tip: If you have Speak Selection turned on in Accessibility, your students can select any text in Inspiration Maps and have the iPad read it to them using the built-in  text to speech.

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