Chris Drage finds much to celebrate in 'Inspiration 9'
screen Inspiration 9The Inspiration program has been around for a considerable time and has undergone evolution to the point where the professionally tuned Version 9 has a huge amount to offer all key stage 3-4 and special needs students – and teachers too.

Inspiration 9 is software for visual mapping, outlining, writing and making presentations. It is an exceptionally good thinking and learning tool for visual communication. With it you can brainstorm ideas, structure thoughts and, using both the Diagram and Map views, visually communicate concepts to strengthen understanding.

You can use Inspiration 9 to take notes, organise information, structure writing for plans, essays and reports. Now with Inspiration's Presentation Manager you can transform diagrams, mind maps and outlines into really first-class presentations that communicate ideas clearly and demonstrate understanding and knowledge.

As it stands the software offers more than 60 templates for English, history, science, thinking and planning. However, these sample mind maps are supplemented by a massive image library covering all key stage 3 topics and so can be used in any subject where ideas need processing and linking. Included are a Venn diagram, a concept map, a simple cycle and a comparison map. However, you can just start with a central idea and create your own template from that and that’s where the RapidFire option is really helpful as it allows you to simply type ideas as students call them out.

By entering ideas on the fly, the program organises them into topics for you; links can then be added at the end. The extensive image library helps liven up diagrams and again a further online image library is available should you need it.

'The new features create a truly world-class communication tool'

I don’t propose to describe every little feature of Inspiration 9 as it is such an established educational software resource. However, the new features of version 9 are definitely worth commenting on as they combine to create a truly world-class communication tool.

Since I last used Inspiration some years ago, it has undergone considerable upgrade and enhancement: the Mind Mapping View and Diagram View being central to how the software now operates. In the ‘Map’ view, students are able to follow the natural process of building a mind map to visually represent concepts with branches of associated thought. Following Buzan-based mind-mapping processes (the inventor of mind mapping is Tony Buzan) students can add branches with symbols, colours, patterns and fonts to create visual diagrams that reflect their thinking process.

They can add new branches to represent ideas with just one click, format and move branches as a whole unit and create mind maps that look like as if they were hand drawn. Ideas can be brainstormed quickly with linked or unlinked symbols and ideas organised using the Arrange tool or use Auto Arrange to automatically format the diagram as new thoughts are added.

A single click transforms this view into the Outline View which makes it easy for students to organise their information for writing. Here thoughts can be organised and arranged by dragging topics and subtopics, and topics can be developed into written reports using 'notes' text. You can even insert and play multimedia files directly in diagrams, outlines and mind maps to enhance projects. A helpful Word Guide is always at hand to provide a dictionary and thesaurus including parts of speech, definitions and synonyms. I am particularly relieved to see that there is now a UK spell-checker.

Enhanced video and sound capabilities

Also welcome are the enhanced video and sound capabilities of the program which bring it right up to date with a multimedia approach. You can even export documents as PDFs – ideal for creating resources to use within a VLE (virtual learning environment). If the software’s built-in resources aren’t sufficient then access to Inspiration web resources with more than one million additional symbols and on-demand training videos should prove a clincher.

With its easy-to-operate, intuitive toolbars, Inspiration 9 is ideal for dyslexic and dyspraxic learners, and mind-mapping software has influential supporters working in inclusion. Wendy Keay-Bright, the graphic communication lecturer at Cardiff University who created Reactickles, has done extensive research with dyslexic children: “Mind-mapping software is another useful tool – it allows anyone to express their ideas freely, For SEN teachers, mind mapping is a particularly useful technique because it gives them the chance to see the different ways their pupils think.”

In its latest version Inspiration has truly come of age. It enables students to visually represent ideas through mind-mapping diagrams, quickly transform these diagrams into written outlines and then represent thoughts and information with pictures, images, words and multimedia. It's a very potent learning tool that quickly quickly makes itself indispensable. 

Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose    5
Ease of use                4
Features                     5
Quality                        4
Value for money         5

Inspiration 9
Cross curricular multimedia software for visual mapping, outlining, writing and making presentations for all ages. Available from TAG LEarning (Bli) from £51 for single copy. Full range of licences available from early learning and primary through to secondary and sixth form.
Inspiration at TAG Learning

More information

TAG Learning has produced a video walk-through for Inspiration 9: