THE TEKS: INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY IN THE CLASSROOM
An Essential Tool in Every Classroom
Instructional strategies in many classrooms today remain an
inheritance of the industrial age, especially at the secondary and higher
education levels. Content drawn largely from textbooks is presented to students
in a lecture format, students are expected to take copious notes, prepare for
written exams, and regurgitate on cue the essential lessons from the text
emphasized by the teacher and the curriculum guide.
One problem with this traditional school model, however, is
that many students do not learn as well when confined to Roman numeral
outlines, five paragraph essays, and multiple choice exams. Theorists contend
students not only have different learning styles, but varying levels of
intelligence in different areas, including visual intelligence. As Roger Wagner
has observed, we live in an increasingly 'mediacentric' society, where visual
communication is both powerful and ubiquitous. Recognizing the limitations of
traditional, text-only instructional methods as well as the need to address
different learning styles, teachers at every level should celebrate that
Inspiration software (www.inspiration.com)
is available to help learners of all ages bridge the gap between visual and
textual literacy, and aid in concept development in virtually every content
Sample literary diagram from www.inspiration.com
Graphic organizers have been used by teachers for years, but
Inspiration software makes the creation, manipulation, and transformation of
graphic organizers an intuitive exercise on the computer. Perhaps most
importantly, with the option to view any created file in either Outline mode
(traditional text / verbal structure) or Diagram mode (to include shapes,
graphics, and connecting lines of relationship), Inspiration can serve as a
conceptual bridge. Inspiration can serve as a tool both for the teacher in
direct instruction and for the student in constructing their own meaning during
a lesson. Inspiration is a tool limited only by the creativity of the student
and the teacher. Whether teaching
math, language arts, reading, PE, art, music, science or a foreign language,
Inspiration can help learners document and understand the parts of a process or
concept. It can be used to organize student writing, and to highlight
relationships in a visually engaging format. This article will focus on
Inspiration software (version 7,) recommended for students in grades 3 and up.
Kidspiration software is also available for grades K-3, with similar
functionality and a simpler interface for younger learners.
One of the best ways to use Inspiration during direct
instruction is to facilitate brainstorming. Break students into small groups,
and provide a fixed amount of time (like 2 minutes) for groups to brainstorm on
a given topic. Have one student serve as secretary for the group, recording
(but not discussing or judging at this time) as many responses as possible to
the provided topic.
After brainstorming time expires, ask group members to share
their results. Rather than write these on an overhead projector, use a computer
with Inspiration software installed on it and a LCD projector. Classroom
televisions are better than computer monitors for showing students a computer
screen's information, but even larger models are not big enough for this
activity. The best option is to borrow a LCD projector for this lesson, and
project on a screen or a blank wall the largest possible image of the computer
To start using Inspiration as a brainstorming tool:
and close the 'Tip of the Day.'
typing - you do not need to click the mouse - this will be your MAIN IDEA
the RAPID FIRE button on the toolbar at the top of the screen.
- Type a
word or phrase related to the topic, then press ENTER. Each word or phrase
will be spun off your main topic (created as a separate idea bubble
connected to the original.)
as many times as desired.
finished, either hold down SHIFT and press RETURN, or 'click away' from
the diagram (in unused white space.)
After creating a web of ideas in Diagram mode, click the
Outline mode button in the upper left corner of the screen to toggle into the
Outline View. It can be easier to organize the results of brainstorming in the
Outline view, especially if subcategories need to be created.
To organize ideas in Outline view:
and hold down the mouse button ON THE NUMBER OR LETTER of an idea you want
to move. (Clicking on the text of the idea itself will let you edit, but
not move the idea.)
the NUMBER OR LETTER of the idea to the desired location. This can be at
the same organizational level as other ideas (Roman numeral C, D, etc) or
at a subtopic level (little 1, 2, etc under a letter.)
of clicking and dragging to create subtopics, the RIGHT and LEFT arrows on
the top toolbar can be used to indent and outdent ideas. This
functionality is like MS Word, when creating a numbered or bulleted list.
After organizing and reordering ideas in the Outline view,
switch back to the Diagram view and let Inspiration visually arrange the idea
bubbles. Click on the Arrange icon in the top toolbar and choose the desired
organizational method (left tree, right tree, web, etc.) Experiment with
different methods. Then color code idea bubbles in different subcategories.
To change the color of idea bubbles in the Diagram view:
once on one of the idea bubbles you want to change.
down the shift key and select others you want to change to the same color.
selecting all desired ideas, release the shift key.
the bottom of the screen on the toolbar, click the fill color icon (to the
left of the font color button) and change the bubble color as desired.
and remind students using Inspiration to use contrasting colors (dark font
color / light background, or light font color / dark background.)
Student Lessons in 45 Minutes
A fundamental concept for successful technology integration
is the idea of creating a 'template file.' A template is a partially created
document including different parts of the student assignment. Depending on the
ability level of the students and available time on the computer, more or less
structure can be provided within the template file for students. The reality of
instruction at all levels is that time is a precious commodity, and many
students would not complete a lesson in the available time if they had to start
with a blank document. By even including internet hyperlinks within the
Inspiration template file, teachers can minimize the amount of time wasted by
students on the computer locating websites or making technical changes to their
files. Instead, time on task focusing on the lesson of the day can be
After creating a student template file in Inspiration 7, one
of the easiest ways to make it into a 'true template' is to make it a read only
file. A true template allows
multiple students to open the file at the same time over the network—without
being shown an error that the file is already in use—and be provided with their
own, unsaved version of the document. To quickly make a finalized Inspriation 7
document into a template file, right click (or control-click on a Macintosh)
the unopened file and choose Properties / Get Information. Click the checkbox
to make the file 'read only,' then close the properties window. Move the file
into a directory/folder on the school network which students have at least READ
access rights. To start the lesson, provide them with the PATH to the file on
the network, and have each student open (and immediately save as appropriate)
the file from the network.
Included Template Files
One of the most welcome features of Inspiration for teachers
is a large collection of provided template files, available from the FILE menu.
These are organized by content area. Before creating your own template, take a
look at several of the template files that are provided with Inspiration and
determine if one can be readily modified for your instructional purpose.
Inspiration is a remarkable program because of its power and
intuitiveness. The toolbar in Inspiration 7 has been refined to include font
and text size tools, as well as 'the hand' (move diagram tool.) By selecting
one or more objects as previously described, then selecting desired formatting
using the lower toolbar, Inspiration users can readily customize the appearance
of their ideas in both the Diagram and Outline views.
When any idea bubble in Inspiration is selected (clicked on
ONCE), several 'handles' appear around the object. These have different
functions. To resize an object, click and drag on the square, corner handles.
To create a new line of relationship (link) between objects, click on the
diamond handle in the middle of a selected object's side and drag to the object
you want linked.
Just as idea bubbles can be selected and moved or edited,
linking lines of relationship can also be selected and changed. Just as idea
bubbles can be changed in their font, font size, or color, they can also be
given different shapes or a graphic. Click on an object and then choose a
graphic in the Inspiration symbol palette to make a graphic change. Pressing F8
will toggle the symbol palette on and off. During classwide instruction, it can
be helpful to hide it. Internet graphics can also be copied and pasted directly
onto Inspiration idea bubbles. When a graphic is used (instead of a shape,)
labeling text for an idea bubble is displayed below instead of superimposed on
top of the picture.
An official and thorough (36 pages) Inspiration Quickstart
Tutorial is available on www.inspiration.com/download/pdf/insp7_quick_start.pdf.
The Inspiration website also includes helpful, animated demonstrations of the
software. A shorter Quickstart guide to Inspiration I have used this year with
junior high teachers in Plainview, Texas, is also available on www.wtvi.com/plainview/inspiration_quickstart.pdf.
Feel free to also use a sample 'All About Me' Inspiration activity, perfect for
teachers being introduced to Inspiration during a staff development training
session, on www.wtvi.com/plainview/allaboutme-ins.zip.
Helpful Inspiration Tips
Navigate with the Mountains and the Hand: As Inspiration mind maps grow larger, it is
possible to get lost and have difficulty navigating around in the diagram. Two
key tools that can assist navigation are the 'mountains' (in the lower left corner
of the bottom toolbar) and 'the hand.' The mountains allow users to zoom in and
out, changing the viewable (but not actual) size of the diagram or outline.
Click on the icon that looks like smaller mountains to zoom out and see a
smaller version: click on the larger mountains to zoom in and obtain a closer
view. Once zoomed in, click on the hand (position or move diagram tool) to
literally grab the diagram and drag it up, down, left or right.
Content First, Then Bells and Whistles: Use a template file to focus student attention on
the concepts of a lesson, and require them to complete textual / conceptual
parts of the diagram first before getting preoccupied with changing fonts,
colors, graphics, etc.
Use Embedded Hyperlinks: Another superb addition to Inspiration 7 is the Hyperlink tool,
available on the top toolbar. After finding a website for student use in a
lesson, use the hyperlink tool like its counterpart in Word or PowerPoint. An
individual idea bubble can be hyperlinked to a website, or a text box of links
can be created within the file.
To create an internet hotlist within an Inspiration file:
a website you want to include in your hotlist with your web browser, and
copy its website address to your computer's clipboard (Edit-Copy / Control
or Command-C / Right-Click Copy)
sure the file is in Diagram view.
on the Draw Objects button in the lower toolbar and select text box.
and drag in a blank area to create an empty textbox.
and center a title for the hotlist.
return, and type the name you want to display for the first website.
Example: Yahooligans Middle East Info
the text you just typed.
on the Hyperlink tool in the top toolbar.
in the link area and paste the internet address (Control or Command-V /
Right-Click Paste.) Example: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/fc3/yahooligans/middleeast
OK to create the hyperlink.
for as many sites as desired.
Create Header for Student Names: Whenever students are going to print files in the
classroom or computer lab, it is always advisable to have them put their names
as a HEADER in their document. By using a Header, the student name will be on
EVERY page that prints out, not just the first one. In Inspiration 7, the
Header settings have been moved from the File menu (which was not very
intuitive compared to MS Office) to the familiar View menu.
Segway to PowerPoint:
If students use Inspiration to organize an essay they plan to write or present,
a nice technique is exporting the Inspiration file (in Outline mode) as a rich
text file, and then opening that file in PowerPoint. This will automatically
create a new slide for every new subtopic off the main idea of the diagram, and
include subpoints on each slide.
To export Inspiration and open it in Powerpoint:
sure Inspiration is in Outline mode.
File - Export, Word RTF format.
the exported text file in the desired location.
PowerPoint, choose Open File.
to the location where the exported Inspiration text file was saved.
users may have to choose SHOW ALL FILES at the bottom of the file open
dialog window, to show the .rtf file (which is not the usual extension for
on the RTF file and open it.
Students can then save and modify the PowerPoint file as
desired. This technique provides an excellent way to use the organizational and
planning power of Inspiration and connect it with a familiar technology presentation
Evaluate the process, not just the final product
Teachers can use rubrics to assess student planning
documents, students' created Inspiration file, as well as their final draft or
presentation during the course of a project. Rubistar is a free online tool
that can help in the development of rubrics (http://rubistar.4teachers.org).
Obtaining the Software
Inspiration software is available for Windows as well as
Macintosh computers, and a 30 day trial version is available for download (www.inspiration.com/freetrial/).
Alternatively, trial CDs are available (800-877-4292). Multiple-licensing terms
are available for schools and districts.
Technology Integration Today and Tomorrow
Prior to our current economic hard times, schools in the
United States were spending over $7 billion annually on educational technology.
School administrators have traditionally been very good at spending money for
hardware and software, but generally reticent to invest in technology training
and HUMAN infrastructure to assist with technology integration, despite
research consistently recommending such investment. The information age is here
to stay, and technology integration will continue to be a buzzword in
educational circles as well as a moral responsibility in our digitally divided
communities. Inspiration is a wonderful tool that can open windows of
opportunity and understanding for students of all ages. Budgets may be
strained, but software like Inspiration should be considered part of the 'standard software package' loaded on
every computer in schools today.
Wesley Fryer is the Director of Distance Learning for the
College of Education at Texas Tech University. He provides technology
integration training for K-16 educators nationwide, as well as training for
school administrators interested in more effectively leading teachers to
transparently integrate technology use within their classrooms.