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ED-u-rateEducators Review Kidspiration 2

Recently, Education World reviewers checked out Kidspiration 2, the new version of a popular visual learning program for students in grades K-5. The reviewers used Kidspiration 2 in actual classroom situations, rated it on a scale of 1-4, and then shared their thoughts about the program's strengths and weaknesses. Discover what they had to say! Included: Compare Kidspiration 1 and 2.

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 2 by Inspiration Software Inc., is the latest version of a popular visual learning tool for students in grades K-5. Kidspiration allows kids to sort and organize information; synthesize, analyze, and evaluate ideas; create graphic organizers, such as diagrams, webs, and concept maps; follow the writing process; and then combine pictures, text, and narration to produce stories and reports.

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Kidspiration 2 adds to the original Kidspiration software a "Symbol Maker" drawing tool, "SuperGrouper" images, symbols paired with words, 75 ready-made activities, a new Venn diagram option, one-click transfer to word processors, and a number of exciting new teacher options.

Recently, Education World asked our reviewers, all teachers or educational technology specialists, to check out Kidspiration 2 in actual classroom situations. Reviewers were asked to use Kidspiration 2 with their students for a period of at least one month, note specific strengths, weaknesses, and/or quirks of the program, record personal observations -- both positive and negative -- and rate various qualities of the software on a scale of 1-4.

The results are in -- and this is what our reviewers had to say!

Go to Educators Review Software: Kidspiration to read Education World's first ever software review -- of Kidspiration, version 1.

"This is an extremely versatile package that can adapt to a range of teaching and learning styles in virtually every area of the curriculum."

"The whole package is put together in a very child-friendly way, including a soft toy version of the associated mascot spider."

"Most of the time, I worked with individual children with SEN (special education needs), but occasionally I had two or three children work together on small projects, such as sorting activities. At times, I felt that I would have been more comfortable having them work with physical objects rather than with screen images, but there's no doubt that the extensive libraries of attractive clip art offer a wider range of such activities. My visually impaired student had some difficulty with the size of the images, but a little tweaking with the magnification software he uses soon got over that."

"I am aware of having only scratched the surface of the software, as most use has been with the downloaded files, but I am greatly looking forward to developing more files of my own and new ones by the children in the months to come."

"The students truly enjoyed using this program to integrate technology with different areas of the curriculum. The variety of clip art was extremely useful in expressing written ideas. While teaching a unit in the study of plants, one student remembered that he had seen a picture of seeds in the clip art section. He immediately shared this with the class and asked if the students could use Kidspiration to create a web describing the parts of a plant."

"We used this program in a variety of ways. It first was used as a whole group project to introduce verbs. The verb template was modified to accommodate the needs of the lesson. While introducing it to the entire class, students were able to preview the mechanics of the program. Next, we viewed the tutorial packaged with the program. We created a sample project, "All About Me," giving students the opportunity to ask questions before going to the computers. After reading the story "How to Eat Fried Worms," by Thomas Rockwell, students used the character web template to compare/contrast two characters in the story. The clip art was exceptionally useful in illustrating the text."

"We definitely recommend purchasing this program. Kidspiration2 has the ability to seamlessly weave itself into any area of the curriculum. It holds the user's interest in that it is open-ended and allows for self-expression and individualized learning."

"Thank you for affording us the opportunity of reviewing this program."

"I like the changes that have been made, especially with more super grouper options and the lock feature. The look of the graphics has been changed, as has the look of the tool bar across the top."

"I'm a real advocate of the use of this program. I have not only taught my staff about it, but I also have presented it at conferences to show to teachers from other districts."

"A group of students in a single classroom worked with Kidspiration over several class periods to create poetry based on the theme of spring. Students worked both individually and in partnerships. They worked for 20 to 30 minutes with minimal teacher instruction and then printed out copies of their work in both Picture View and Writing View. All students were excited to be using Kidspiration as a writing tool and were very proud of their finished products."

"Student comments from my fourth graders included the following:
'It has many great photographs.'
'I like the picture library and the new pictures.'
'It is so easy to fix your mess ups.'
'It is easy to open your file.'
'It was easy to get pictures to use.'"

"This is a program no elementary school should be without!"

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"Installation presented no problems at all on the Windows XP Acer Laptop we used for review activities."

"Instructions for installation were concise and easy to understand."

"I have both versions of Kidspiration; it was nice that I could install the software so I still could use both versions."

"Kidspiration was very quick and easy to install on the classroom iMac. The on screen instructions were helpful."

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"Because I work with children with special educational needs, I was using the program at somewhat higher grade levels than the software would normally target, but I found the software sufficiently flexible to work that way. I was particularly interested in using it with a child with visual impairment, and I found some of the images a little indistinct for his purpose initially, but that is a quibble. The other values of the software more than compensated."

"Some students in the class had minimal computer skills; therefore, they had trouble clicking and dragging, changing fonts and completing simple computer related tasks. Most of the students, however, were able to accomplish the tasks with little assistance."

"The students enjoyed the pleasing interface and found the content appropriate."

"Some of my students had a bit of experience with Kidspiration 1 and they were able to start off with this updated version with no problems. A few students had not used Kidspiration previously, but they learned how to use it fairly well in just a few sessions with help from their more experienced classmates."

"Students used Kidspiration to write poetry because that's a topic they were working on during April. The ability to switch back and forth between outline and symbols helped them to edit and revise their writing 'on the run.'"

"Students at a wide range of technology ability levels from basic to advanced were able to work successfully with this program."

"Students enjoyed using the new feature that allowed them to place a small picture or symbol next to their words or sentences in writing view."

"Although my students had minimal experience with the Venn diagram feature, I see that option as being very useful for a variety of writing experiences, especially compare and contrast activities."

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"On the machine I used I found occasional lulls as images loaded, but those seemed to frustrate me more than the children. The sound offers a wide range of voices for text to speech, including accents for a number of languages including French, Spanish, and Italian. As a teacher in rural Ireland, I found none of the options ideal, but the voice of an American child was acceptable."

"The students encountered problems switching from picture view to writing view. Many times, the picture icons were lost when going from writing view back to picture view. They also encountered problems changing font type and size. They found it difficult to highlight the text and sometimes lost the text completely."

"The students especially enjoyed the sounds and having text read to them. The sound component brought another dimension to their writing."

"In Kidspiration 1, when the computer freezes (which happens most often when children use animated graphics), the program allows for a restart and will recover the file. That is the best thing when working with small children. I'm not sure whether this version has the same feature, since the program never froze during use."

"When students do not have good mouse skills they have a tendency to click all over -- which puts one graphic on top of another. If I use a square from the drawing tools, and then have students sort, if they click on the square it covers up the other graphics. Something new in this version is the ability to lock graphics. This is a great feature and very much needed!"

"We had no performance problems at all. Students were able to use the program very quickly. They enjoyed exploring the many new graphics, which were easily found due to the new interface of this update."

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"This is the kind of software that can make the reviewer feel something of a fraud because it has clear potential far beyond what can be found in a relatively short review period. My visually impaired student shortly will transfer to our local post-primary school, which should make him more a candidate for Inspiration, but this software has given him a first experience of concept mapping which will, I believe, be invaluable to him in many areas of his new curriculum."

"This program can be used as an introduction to a lesson as well as reinforcement of a lesson."

"I also used the program to create worksheets that students completed in class and for homework."

"This program was very engaging to students. They were anxious to complete assignments and looked forward to completing new projects using this software. Failure was not a component of Kidspiration, in that each student worked at his or her ability level, leading to a high success rate for each child."

"Kidspiration makes the writing process more flexible and engaging for students at a wide range of ability levels. Students are able to use the mode that works to their strength, either Picture View or Writing View. The ability to move from one view to the other also helps students when it's time to edit or proofread their work. Students who are used to/or need to use keyboard shortcuts will find them easy to access."

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"The package includes a training CD for the teacher, which along with a standard User's Manual, is an invaluable introduction. The addition of a book of standards aligned lesson plans in reading/writing, social studies, science and math bring the support to another level. There is, however, a somewhat odd marketing strategy in that the files for use in the Lesson Plans have to be downloaded from the Web. It is perfectly understandable for a company to have a stock of such files (which grows over time) available for download, but when the book is provided with the package why not also include a CD of those specific files?"

"The materials packaged with Kidspiration are excellent. The tutorial CD was used to introduce the class to the program. The teacher resources were robust, in that they provided activities and examples in different subject areas."

"I used many of the lesson plans and created my own. I really like some of the new additions."

"Because I already was familiar with the program, I did not need tech support."

"The User's Guide, especially the instructions on how to save in different formats and how to open files in Word or Appleworks, is very helpful."

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