This review reflects the observations and experiences of independent teacher volunteers, and is provided as a service to Education World readers. The review in no way constitutes an endorsement of the product or its manufacturer by those teachers or by Education World.
Kidspiration, a product of Inspiration Software, Inc., is a concept-mapping program for elementary students. Originally developed for students in grades K-3, the software has been found to be appropriate for use with students in grades K-5.
Recently, Education World asked five reviewers, all K-3 teachers or educational technology specialists who work with K-3 students, to check out the Kidspiration visual learning program in actual classrooms. Each teacher was asked to use Kidspiration with his or her students for a period of at least one month, note specific strengths, weaknesses, and/or quirks of the program, record personal observations or suggestions -- both positive and negative -- and rate the software on a scale of 1-4.
The results are in -- and this is what our reviewers had to say!
"Kidspiration can be used in all curriculum areas; it allows students to apply their classroom learning."
"As an open-ended tool, this program is useful for a variety of purposes, allowing teachers to develop a variety of activities for students."
"This is one of the best teaching tools I've come across in a long time!"
"Kidspiration was very popular with my students. As I demonstrated the various tools on the white board, they were so excited, they began to 'oooh' and 'aaah.' ('Just like fireworks,' one student said.) When they began to work independently, they were so focused, you could hear a pin drop. We printed copies of both the Picture View and Writing View of their independent projects, and they proudly shared their work with their friends and families."
"Kidspiration is a wonderful tool to help students organize their ideas as they write across the curriculum. Because it is open-ended, students of varying abilities can use it for different purposes and experience success. A special-needs student in class used the symbols to create a collage of 'pink' things; another student used the symbols to plan a short report about maps and landforms. My students were excited to try Kidspiration and very motivated to use it for independent writing ideas."
"This is a great tool. In three weeks, I used it in 15 different ways -- all successfully."
"'Can I do another book report?' (Sam A. after using Kidspiration to complete his first-ever book report.)"
"I really liked this program, and so did the kindergarten teacher who used it with me. I'll probably purchase it, but I don't have the funds this year. I wish the company offered deals so schools could purchase the program at a lower price. I don't like having to purchase a few each year because then teachers have different versions and may not have the same display, options, and so on."
"I would recommend this program for purchase. In fact, we will be purchasing some copies this year, although, because of the cost, probably not the entire number needed for both lab and classroom."
"Pricing is a bit high in my opinion. I'd like to see better pricing for multiple copies of the program. I work in a small school district and it would cost about $1,500 to purchase enough copies (45) for my lab and the K-3 classrooms."
Editor's Note: Site licenses are not available for either Inspiration or Kidspiration. The company does, however, offer both volume licensing and cumulative pricing for both software programs. In volume licensing, the price of the software is based on the number of computers a school or district wants to load it on: the larger the license, the lower the price per computer. In the cumulative pricing program, if a school buys a 20-computer Inspiration license today and an 80-computer Inspiration license next month, they receive the lower volume-licensing price on the second purchase. Pricing also is cumulative across a district, whether a district representative or an individual school purchases the licenses.
"The program installed with the typical Mac installer and was ready to go in less than a minute, if the computer it was being installed to already had the software needed for the text-to-speech capability. If it did not, the installer gave you the opportunity to install that first."
"Installation is very quick and simple."
"The program runs without the CD -- a great school feature!"
"On page 14 of the Quick Start Guide, the text directs users to click the 'rectangle'; audio instruction refers to this shape as a 'box.' The instructions on page 35 neglect to tell users they must highlight the text before attempting to change font color, size, or type."
"I liked the fact that there's a button for student names."
"The program allows teachers to add content and edit existing activities."
"We used the program to do a sorting project with our kindergarteners. We imported their photos into the program easily created a new library; then the kids sorted their pictures for whatever questions we asked. The program was very user-friendly, and the project was easy to do. The kids thought it was great, especially when they got to see their own pictures on a computer screen."
"The tutorial pamphlet that was included gave a very easy introduction to most capabilities of the program. It also included 48 activities -- providing a teacher with activities for students to do right away -- and many suggestions for types of activities that can be adapted to individual classrooms and students."
"Our ESL teachers are very excited about using this program with their students."
"The computer skills required are pretty basic, but younger students do need some instruction at the beginning. The many graphics are wonderful, and the kids especially liked hearing the names of the pictures. We did have to allow time for exploration before getting into any activities."
"Students were able to use Kidspiration independently after one demonstration and two 'do-together' class projects. The first project was an autobiography; the second was a project of the students' choice. The program is very intuitive for young students, containing icons they're familiar with, such as a web (story webbing), paper (text format), eraser (delete), and ear (listen to their own work)."
"The pronunciation of some objects on the Symbol Palette was terrible (sheep sounded like steep, for example.), which confused some of my early learners. It probably bothered me more than it bothered the students, however."
"Some of the templates take a while to show up on the screen; young students generally are impatient and keep clicking."
"The voice is very computer-like."
"The sound capability is wonderful, although in some cases, pronunciation is not exactly right."
"Once students were shown how the program worked and were given time to try out the different aspects of the program, they found it easy to navigate."
"The program was reliable; it worked every time with no problems."
"This program is a tool that can be used to meet a wide variety of educational objectives. Tasks can be designed for any grade and purpose; its use is limited only by the teacher's imagination."
"Kidspiration is very appropriate for activities combining language arts and other curriculum areas, such as science and social studies."
"In the Writing View, the program allows students to reorganize ideas by dragging sentence boxes; consequently, they're more willing and able to edit their work. This is particularly good for teachers who use 6 + 1 trait writing as part of their instruction."
"Technical support was not needed with the program, although I did go to the Inspiration Web site and found technical support in the form of FAQs, technical discussions, step-by-step instructions, and a way to contact technical support online with a one day turnaround."
"Help was easy to use and available at any time. You could find a topic, use an index, or look at a table of contents."
"The Quick Start Guide and the Users' Guide were both easy to read, helping me learn how to use the software very quickly. The Users' Guide was also helpful as a reference when questions arose. The tutorial in the Users' Guide is a great place to begin."