Ignite Creativity through INSPIRATION Maps App!



Top reasons why you should incorporate the Inspiration app into your next lesson!






Inspiration is an app by Inspiration Software, Inc. The app provides a digital platform for students in grades 7-12 to brainstorm and organize ideas through mind mapping tools. Students can either create their own mind map or choose from the many pre-made templates in the app. I have recently share Inspiration app in the Cube for Teachers database under Tools and Technology as a Mind Mapping Tool.

  • Pre-Writing. I highly recommend using Inspiration during the pre-writing stage when students are going to begin a writing task. This app speaks to the digital learner in the 21st century and provides an engaging platform for students to think critically, collaborate, and connect ideas. Below is an example that could be used in Language Arts or English to scaffold students into organizing their ideas for a Character Analysis. This app has many graphics and symbols to further represent their character. Some other mind maps include: Essay Brainstorm, Fiction Reading Notes, Plot Analysis, and Understanding Satire. Each template comes with a large selection of graphics and symbols to represent their ideas or make connections between them. They are very high quality and are images appropriate for older students. Students can further begin the pre-writing stage by creating their own custom mind map to brainstorm ideas. 

  • Cross-Curricular Connections. Inspiration does not just provide pre-made templates and graphics for Language Arts or English. The app further provides many pre-made templates for Science and History. These templates help students organize their reports for Science and History and further provide opportunities for cross-curricular connections to literacy learning. Many of the graphic organizers pre-made for Science and History are mind maps that foster the pre-writing stage. Of course, teachers do not necessarily have to always have students turn these mind maps into full blown reports. However, the option is there to not only teach and assess the content areas, but to further connect teaching and assessment to literacy learning. Another added feature to these Science and History mind maps is that they all have content specific graphics and symbols. As seen below in the Science screenshot, there are science graphics (i.e., beakers, funnels, gloves, etc.) that can be incorporated into the mind map to support visual learners and make mind mapping more engaging, fun, and interactive! A little further down you will see a History screenshot and some of the graphics to go along with the Ancient Civilizations mind map. 
Science Example

  • Scaffolding. There are a couple ways Inspiration scaffolds students throughout the app. As shown below, the app prompts students as soon as they open one of the pre-made templates by providing some instructions (see screenshot below for an example of the instruction prompt). These instructions scaffold the student towards using the template appropriately and enhance self-directed learning. This could be especially helpful if a student is trying to find the best template to use for their specific assignment. Inspiration further scaffolds students by providing the option to turn their mind map into bullet points. After brainstorming ideas, students can then convert the mind map into easy to read bullet points that then scaffold them onto the next stage of the writing process. Students can use the bullet points to begin drafting their story, report, or other writing task. 
History Example with Prompt

  • Organization. Not only does Inspiration provide useful tools to organize curriculum-based writing assignments, but it further provides general organizers. The first screenshot below shows the Group Project Plan template. I can actually see this being useful for myself during some of my graduate studies courses! This is a great template to support collaboration and to make sure that everyone in a group is on task and contributing equally to the project. This template could definitely be referred to when reporting on Learning Skills on students' report cards! The second screenshot depicts one of the more general graphic organizers. There are a couple organizers that are not curriculum specific, but could be used across the disciplines. Some of these include pre-made templates for: 5Ws Strategy, Cause & Effect, Lecture Notes, or Textbook Chapter Notes. All of these mind maps will enhance students organization and self-directed learning. The Inspiration map makes the organizational process simplified for educators to teach and for students to learn through the pre-made templates, which can be adjusted if need be!

  • Assessment. Inspiration is generally a great way to capture student work since it is very simple to send or share their work via email or Dropbox. Students can have their teacher assess their work formatively and provide feedback on their brainstorming before moving on to drafting their writing piece. Students can further share their work easily with other students to receive peer feedback on their initial brainstorming ideas. One really cool template I found within the Inspiration app is the KWHL chart. Teachers could essentially use this template after any lesson in any subject to get a sense as to what students already know, want to know, how they learned, and what they learned. KWHL charts are a very popular way to formatively assess students and provide direction for teachers on where to take their lesson next. Inspiration provides an engaging platform for students to simply fill this chart out and send it instantly to the teacher! 

  • Differentiation. Inspiration differentiates throughout the app by providing multiple templates for students to choose from and by proving multi-modal features to support unique learning needs. Some of these features include the graphics or symbols students can incorporate into their mind maps depending on if they make connections and represent their ideas easier this way. The app further has the option to add audio recordings, which may support students who struggle to form their thoughts in written form. The audio feature would allow students to elaborate a bit more off of their mind map and demonstrate more depth to their thinking and communicating of ideas. Another way to differentiate assessment would be through the Kidspiration app, which was created by the same developer. If you have students working below grade level and who need a more simplified app for mind mapping, I suggest using Kispiration. The app looks generally very similar and also provides many pre-made templates ready to go. For instance, if you are working on Character Analysis, there is a simplified Character Analysis template on Kidspiration. Between these two apps, I truly believe it is possible to reach differentiation for many subject areas and support a wider range of learning needs in your classroom. Please check out my full review of the Kidspiration app by clicking the app icon below!


Overall, I believe Kidspiration has the potential to support 21st century skills such as self-directed learning, critical thinking, communicating, and collaborating. I highly recommend using this app in your next lesson, and I suggest trying to use it to enhance cross-curricular connections between subject matter! Click the icon below to check out the Inspiration website.


Top Six Picks for Pre-Writing Apps!

I have recently shared the following apps in the Cube for Teachers database under Tools and Technology as Mind Mapping Tools. 

Corkulous


Corkulous is where your traditional bulletin board meets the digital world! This virtual bulletin board makes a great digital brainstorming environment for students to throw around ideas, make connections between information, and classify points. Some of the app features include sticky notes, cue cards, label arrows, checklist templates, and more! Students are also able to upload photos to help support their brainstorming ideas and spark inspiration. Corkulous in general is super fun and engaging for students to use. All of the sticky notes and labels can be changed colours to colour code and practice organizational skills. Below is a screenshot of one of my students' work using the app to brainstorm predictions about what a book may be about. I used the cue cards to pose the questions, and then my student surrounded the questions with predictions on sticky notes regarding what they think will happen in the story and what they think the moral or lesson of the story may be. Throughout the story, I had my student revisit the Corkulous app to answer whether or not the predictions were confirmed or need revision. The student then formed a new mind map throughout the book discussing what actually happened and what they now believe the moral of the story is. My student at the end of this lesson actually commented by saying "that was really fun!" This was a huge breakthrough since my student struggles to focus and stay engaged enough to write with pencil and paper. I highly recommend using Corkulous as a platform to brainstorm and even begin pre-writing for a story or report. Students provide the same rich ideas through Corkulous as they would on a paper mind map template, but instead, they are engaged more naturally while using the app. Corkulous will hopefully also provide a smoother transition into the drafting stage of writing.



MindMeister


MindMeister provides a more advanced digital platform to brainstorm and even pre-write. My favourite feature about MindMeister is how it supports a collaborative network. People can be added to edit and share on a mind map using their email. Through cloud technology, students, teachers, or administrators can edit and share their ideas together around a particular topic. Below shows an example of when I used the MindMeister app to lead a seminar presentation online. Instead of just posting questions and having my classmates provided responses, I took learning into a more multi-modal platform where everyone could share their ideas, add links or photos, and connect ideas around a particular question. What I was really surprised to see was how many connections my classmates and I were able to make between the different comments. I found this discussion to be a lot easier to visualize and develop through a mind map compared to a vertical discussion usually seen in online learning environments. I highly recommend incorporating MindMeister in lessons for older grades (probably no younger than grade 7). This app is more advanced and mature looking so it may not be as engaging or provide as many scaffolds needed for the younger grades. It would be really great to see MindMeister develop a mind map for younger students to use that is a bit more simplified and kid friendly. I honestly believe MindMeister has the most potential for teachers and administrators to collaborate on topics. For instance, I can see MindMeister being a great digital platform to discuss a focus topic within a Professional Learning Network (PLN). Overall, it is a great app to share ideas, images, videos, etc. in a more collaborative and accessible environment.



Popplet


Popplet is another wonderful mind mapping app for students to brainstorm ideas on potential topics or to demonstrate what they have learned. I believe the most important feature of Popplet is its ability to have students collaborate within the same network. Much like the app, MindMeister, discussed above, students can share their ideas by making comments, uploading pictures, and connecting information. Popplet essentially demonstrates the ability digital-touch based technologies have to enhance students' use of 21st century skills such as collaborating and critical thinking. Collaboration is achieved through students' ability to work within the same digital network on the same file. Critical thinking is enhanced through Popplet's interactive multi-modal features that support students' ability to demonstrate making connections, inferring, predicting, or organizing their thinking and communicating. Please see the example below of how Popplet can be used for students' to organize facts about a particular topic. This screenshot example demonstrates the pre-writing stage and how it can then scaffold students into drafting a Science report on planet Earth. 



Pic Collage


Pre-writing can be as simple as a SNAP! Pic Collage provides a unique and more simplified way for students to organize their ideas through pictures. I have not had as much experience using Pic Collage for educational purposes. However, as a teacher, I highly recommend using Pic Collage as a way to differentiate the pre-writing stage for students who may struggle to express their thoughts in written form. Pic Collage at least gets the juices rolling for these students and could help scaffold them towards richer ideas for a story. To the left is an example of a Pic Collage. I believe Pic Collage would be a great pre-writing tool to support passion-based learning. Students could pull together pictures and examples of things they are passionate about and create a Pic Collage that has a particular theme to it. Students could then write about their passions and how these contribute to their identity. 





Stickyboard


Stickyboard if a very simple yet effective app to ignite inspiration and creativity during the pre-writing stage. Much like Corkulous, students are able to use sticky notes to write their ideas and begin to make connections about a topic. One of the unique features about Stickyboard is its dual function as a white board! Students can then organize their sticky notes through connecting lines, diagrams, columns, or through arrows. Students can essentially create any template they want to help organize their sticky notes and begin to think critically about how their ideas connect and what they mean in relation to the topic under discussion.


Kidspiration     &      Inspiration

Kidspiration and Inspiration are two mind mapping apps created by the same developer, Inspiration Software, Inc. Kidspiration is a mind mapping app for younger students (I recommend Kindergarten to Grade 6), and Inspiration supports students usually in any grade above the primary and junior levels. These apps not only allow students to begin pre-writing through mind-maps, but they further provide many pre-made mind mapping templates in Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, and Math. Inspiration also provides templates to support older students' learning and organizational needs. Within the templates, both apps have graphic libraries for students to represent their ideas through pictures and other symbols. These two apps come with my highest recommendation! I have actually written two separate blog posts for each app so please read the full review of Kidspiration by clicking the blue icon above on the left, and read the full review of Inspiration by clicking the green icon above on the right!

Furthermore, click any of the app icons above to check out the apps on iTunes or the apps' webpages! Please consider incorporating any of my top six picks for pre-writng apps into your next lesson! 

Spark Motivation through KIDSPIRATION Maps App!



Top reasons I suggest incorporating Kidspiration into your next lesson!




Kidspiration is an app by Inspiration Software, Inc. It is an app that is more simplified and geared towards Kindergarten to grade 6 students. I have recently shared the Kidspiration app under Tools and Technology as a Mind Mapping Tool in the Cube for Teachers database. 

  • Pre-Writing. I believe one of the best features about Kidspiration is its ability to support the stages of writing. Specifically, Kidspiration does an excellent job of providing pre-made templates for students to begin thinking, creating, and imagining their next big story! Students can either click into the Reading & Writing link to use any of the pre-made mind maps or they can click on the Create Diagram link to design their own pre-writing mind map. Some of the pre-made mind maps include Character Analysis, Character Descritpion, Compare and Contrast Books, or Story Webs (see screenshot below). Students can use any number of these mind maps to kick off their pre-writing and to support their creative and critical thinking skills. In order to create a mind map, students are critically thinking, making connections, and often researching to find the ideas for the map. Kidspiration provides a digital platform for students to begin working on these higher order thinking skills. Furthermore, Kidspiration speaks to the visual learner through pre-made graphics and other symbols. Students can customize any of the pre-made templates to add these images or change the way one of the diagrams looks. It is very self-directed and individualized, which is a key characteristic of 21st century technology!
  • Word Work. Not only does Kidspiration enhance 21st century literacies such as critical thinking, it further provides many pre-made interactive activities that focus on traditional literacy skills. I can see a lot of these activities being a great addition to your next Daily 5 Literacy Rotation centres! Some of these word fun activities include Colour Sort and Spell, Making Compound Words, Beginning Sounds, Ending Sounds, and Alphabetical Order. It is also really easy to create your own sorting or matching activity by clicking the Create SuperGrouper image on the homepage. Kidspiration has a whole library of symbols, boxes, backgrounds, etc. for you to choose from that meet the needs of your mini word work lesson. 
Language Arts

The following image shows an example of how Kidpiration could be used for pre-writing purposes. The one student I am currently working with has decided to write about elephants. I first had my student use the Understanding an Animal template under Science to fill in all the information about elephants retrieved from books and online resources. This is a work in progress, but you can already see how the template has provided some scaffolding to lead this student towards the most important information regarding elephants. These categories can then be used as separate paragraphs when the student writes a full report. 


  • Cross-Curricular Connections. My favourite feature about Kidspiration is how it is designed to support multiple subjects and cross-curricularily connect content areas with literacy. Below are screenshots of some examples in the Science, Social Studies, and Math pre-made template libraries. Some of these activities are sorting and classifying while others are mind maps that would scaffold a student during the pre-writing stage. As mentioned above, I had my student use the Understanding an Animal template to organize important points about elephants before drafting a report. This template was taken from the Science section. I believe the Civilization Project mind map would be a great starting point for any student or group of students when studying a particular civilizations (i.e., Ancient Greece or Ancient Egypt). It would definitely be a natural way to incorporate 21st century technology into the unit and revamp the way Ancient Civilizations are traditionally taught! 
Science

Social Studies

  • Speaks to the Digital Learner. Below is an example of some of the Math pre-made templates in Kidspiration. I believe Kidspiration does an excellent job speaking to the digital learner and creating an app that takes full advantage of the multi-modal technology the iPad has to offer. Instead of just a mind mapping tool, Kidspiration incorporates digital interaction of sliding and touching to sort and classify ideas. Students use movable manipulatives in math to solve different problems. These digital manipulatives can further be used to create your own lesson! Kidspiration also has the feature of voice recording for students to add ideas and explain their thinking. Students can either use the symbols to represent their ideas and then voice record their explanation for each symbol, or they could use the voice recording as a way to simply elaborate off of a written point within a mind map. It all depends on the learner and whether or not they choose to differentiate their writing this way. At least the option is there!
Mathematics

  • Built-in Scaffolds. Whenever a student opens a new pre-made template, Kidspiration provides a small prompt explaining how to use the template. For instance, as shown below, if a student opens up the Food Chain digram, the app immediately provides instructions on how to use the template. This can also support educators by explaining how this template could be used in a lesson. The only suggestion I would make for this feature is that the instruction have an audio "Read to Me" option. Since this app is geared towards primary and junior grades, many students in this grade range are still learning to fluently and accurately read. The instructions may be too difficult for them to read on their own. A "Read to Me" option would support differentiation within the app for students in the same grade working at different reading levels. I also noticed that Kidspiration scaffolds students into the drafting stage of the writing process. The second image below shows how one of the pre-made mind maps, once completed, can be switched into bullet point form. This may be an easier way for students to visualize their themes about a topic and scaffold them into the second stage of drafting their writing. 



  • Assessment. One great feature about Kidspiration is its ability to share students' work outside of the app. I can see this feature being very useful for assessment purposes. Students can email their work to the teacher or even upload it to Dropbox. Not only then can the teacher see students' work, but this may support sharing with other students. Students could peer assess each others' work and provide feedback to one another. The simplicity of Kidspiration's ability to share work and collaborate with one another is another feature that supports 21st century learning! 

  • Differentiation. Overall, Kidspriation provides simple yet effective ways to differentiate instruction. Whether this is through audio recording ones voice instead of typing or depicting ideas through symbols instead of words, Kidspiration offers unique ways for students to demonstrate their thinking and understanding of a topic. Another way this app can be differentiated is by downloading the more advanced and mature version of this app called Inspiration. I would recommend using Kidspiration for primary and junior grades (K-6). However, if you have students who need an extra challenge and more advanced platform, Inspiration provides more challenging pre-made templates. The great thing about Inspiration is that it still does incorporates the multi-modal features as Kidspiration. Students can still incorporate different graphics to depict their thinking and understanding about a topic. Please check out my full review of the Inspiration app by clicking the app icon below!


I truly believe Kidspiration has the potential to support 21st century skills such as self-directed learning, critical thinking, communicating, and collaborating. I highly recommend using this app in your next lesson, and I suggest trying to use it to enhance cross-curricular connections between subject matter! Click the icon below to check out the Kidspiration website. 

1, 2, 3...BLAST OFF to the Math Planet App by Playpower

I have recently shared the following app as math (Number Sense and Numeration) curriculum resource for grades 1-8 in the Cube for Teachers database. 

Playpower is an organization that creates many high quality math education apps for grades 1-8. Playpower has really jumped on the trend of gamification in learning to make math more meaningful and fun for students. Students today learn and are motivated differently than previous generations. This could be because students today have been using technology since birth! It only makes sense that students therefore respond and interact with technology in a more natural way. So how can their tech savvy skills be transferred into their learning environment? Math Planet is one of the many education apps created by PlayPower. Math Planet was developed by experts at Carnegie Mellon University and has been tested across hundreds of classrooms to improve and enhance the richness of learning. It has also won many awards!!


I began teaching with Playpower on a regular basis with students I work one-on-one with. Here are the top reasons for why you should incorporate Math Planet into your next math lesson:
  • Design. The environment students are working in takes place in space! The images and videos within the app are very high quality. The general design of the app is based on students taking on an alien character that then moves through planets in space. Each planet is a different level! Students have to get enough questions right in the first planet before moving on to the next planet. 
  • Curriculum Alignment. For grades 1-2, Math Planet aligns with Addition and Subtraction, Geometry and Measurement, Multiplication and Division, and Number Sense. Grades 3-8 align with these concepts as well as Fractions and Decimals. All of these concepts are geared towards whatever grade level that student is working on. The Fractions and Decimals lessons become separate lessons and more challenging in grades 5-8. 
  • Variety. Math Planet has 9 games with over 100+ levels! My favourite feature about Math Planet is how it has students working individually on multiple math concepts within one planet. Instead of each planet representing a different strand in math, students complete 6 lessons (each lesson focusing on a specific math concept) that take about 10 minutes in order to fully complete a planet. Within the planet, students are working on a variety of math skills from Geometry to Fractions to Addition. I find that for my students I tutor, this provides an easy way to fit a lot of math concepts meaningfully into one hour teaching blocks. For educators, I can see this being very beneficial if they believe their students need general practice on a wide variety of math skills. Math Planet seems very Number Sense and Numeration heavy, which is great because this strand is the math roots and ground work for other strands. Math Planet would make for a great refresher once a week to practice these important math concepts. It could be a great addition to your next math centre rotation!
  • Differentiated Instruction. Math Planet does an excellent job discretely differentiating instruction. As a student works through the lessons, Math Planet can recognize if a student is struggling too much on a particular lesson within a planet. The app will then automatically change that specific lesson within a planet to a lower level that still focuses on the same concept. I like how this is done automatically so that the student does not need the teacher to change the level for them in front of other students. 
  • Scaffolding. Math Planet scaffolds students throughout the app by controlling what planet and lessons students can work on. Students start with the first unlocked planet. When they click into it, only one lesson is unlocked. Once the student completes that lesson, the next lesson will open up. After all the lessons have been completed, the next planet will unlock for the student to begin working on. The importance of this feature is to have students progressively working on lessons that get more and more challenging and that scaffold students throughout the different math concepts. The locking of planets and lessons further prevents students from jumping all over the place within the app and working on lessons that may be too challenging for them. 
  • Assessment. Data driven assessment is growing more and more now that technology is getting smarter with more advanced features. Math Planet resembles this high technology as it provides teachers with tracking records of student progress. Teachers can access this information within a student's profile, which would make for a great image to show during parent-teacher interviews! What is important about data tracking is that it is not just one score. Instead, teachers are able to track students progress and focus on how well students have improved over a long period of time. This then would support formative assessment measures by assessing students's progress throughout lessons instead of just at the end of a lesson. 
  • Rewards. Math Planet has a super cool reward system. Since their graphics are high quality and 3-D looking, it makes for cooler characters on the app screen! As students earn coins throughout each level, they can then use these coins to buy a new character on the app. Students can either save up to earn a more expensive character or they can just buy whatever one fits within their savings. I have found that the students I work with always keep a close eye on their savings to see if they have enough for a new character!
Suggestions:

Although this app is extremely engaging and provides a wide variety of curriculum aligned lessons, I believe more could be included in the app to support scaffolding. When I watch my students on the app, I start to notice their motivation and confidence dwindling every time they get an answer wrong. The app does not provide many hints or features to support self-corrections, which results in students recognizing their failure and not their progress. I would also suggest getting rid of the timing feature. Although being timed to try and answer as many questions as possible can be fun and encouraging for some students, it is difficult for many students already struggling in math to succeed fast enough and earn enough coins in the game. This just enhances their already low self-esteem. I think it would be really helpful for students to receive some sort of tutorial or lesson before each level within each planet. Students then are not jumping right into a concept they may not know much about. If a teacher were to incorporate Math Planet into their lessons, I strongly recommend using this app to reinforce a skill that has already been taught. 

Overall, I think Math Planet provides a unique gamified learning environment for students to reinforce a wide variety of math concepts and for teachers to gain meaningful insight into their students' progress. Click the image below to check out the Playpower website!


Digitize Math Manipulatives!

I have recently shared the following apps as math curriculum resources in the Cube for Teachers database. Each app has been organized into the database based on what math strand that particular manipulative supports. Images below of all the apps and screenshots. 


Why not combine hands-on activities with the digital world? Clarity Innovations has created a set of free high quality math manipulatives for the Math Learning Center. These apps still provide the visual/symbolic representations of math concepts that traditional manipulatives have for years, but they do so in a virtual space. With the math manipulative apps, educators can support the unique learning needs of students today in the 21st century! 

All of these math manipulatives have a whiteboard feature built in. This means students can not only use the digital manipulatives, but they can also write numbers, equations, or explanations of their thinking as they work with the manipulatives. This is an important feature of math education as teachers are realizing more and more the importance for focusing on students' ability to think and communicate their understanding of math concepts. Today's mathematician can not only memorize and solve equations, but they can further communicate their understanding of the math and why it is important in the real world. 

The Math Learning Center manipulative apps also enhance pedagogical documentation. After students have demonstrated their understanding of a concept with the manipulatives and whiteboard writing tools, teachers can then save the image of their work to review and formatively assess later. This would be a great image to upload to the assessment portfolio Sesame Snap app that is designed for educators to easily document students' progress. 

Structurally, these apps would make great math centre activities. I would further suggest incorporating them into your next problem-based learning activity. After posing a math question for students to solve in pairs, this app provides a digital platform for students to work with manipulatives and come up with their own strategy to solve the problem. Furthermore, since the image of students' work can be saved, teachers can then review students work to pick out a few groups who solved the problem differently. This would then support the teacher in deciding what groups to have present during the math Congress or Bansho. 

The following math manipulatives not only enhance curriculum concepts, but they also enhance students' ability to demonstrate their understanding in mathematics. Here is an overview of each math manipulative and what mathematics strands it could be integrated into. You can further see a visual of the potential math thinking and communicating that could be demonstrated by students within these apps. These screenshots are what could then be saved for later assessment.

Number Frames
Number Sense & Numeration
Geoboard
Number Sense & Numeration. Geometry. Measurement

Number Line
Number Sense & Numeration
Pattern Shapes
Number Sense & Numeration. Geometry. Patterning


                         
Number Rack
Number Sense & Numeration
                        

 Number Pieces Basic (Primary) & Number Pieces
Number Sense & Numeration
                   

Overall, these apps are extremely easy to use and are very versatile for integration into multiple math strands across all grades. I have currently been teaching with the Pattern Shapes app for patterning and fractions, Geoboard app for sorting quadrilaterals, and the Number Line app for addition and subtraction with the grade 6 student I am tutoring. These math manipulatives are something my student looks forward to and asks to go on before I even start my math lesson! I find that students in general respond very differently to digital-based learning compared to traditional methods, and I truly believe that EdTech has the natural ability to intrinsically motivate students and make learning more meaningful and relevant for them. 

Click their logo below to view the free app catalog!