Learning Apps: Is Newer Better?

Mind Mapping Tools: Inspiration 9 Review

Is your child struggling with getting their thoughts on the page? Is planning a school project a nightmare?  Well, there’s an app for that. Many in fact. But which ones work best? And are the newer web-based apps better than some of the older “tried and true” software programs?

One program that we have used with good success over the years is Inspiration www.inspiration.comDesigned for middle school students and older, this program for Mac/Windows, provides diagramming and outlining tools that help students organize and plan their ideas and writing. With so many new options available today, we wanted to see how it stacked up to the new app based tools out there. We found that Inspiration continues to have some advantages, especially for kids with learning challenges.


  1. It includes dozens of subject-specific templates, including English, Humanities, Social Studies, Science, and Thinking & Planning.
  2. Inspiration 9 makes it easy to transfer a document over to MS Word and Power Point. For many of my students, this can make the draft stage of writing much easier, allowing them to simply turn their outline into sentences and paragraphs. (I often recommend that students spend more time on the map to make the drafting process easier, and to really focus on getting their ideas clearly expressed.)
  3. For more visual learners, pictures and pictographs can help spur creativity and clarify ideas. Colour-coding options help organize things further.
  4. A one button switch between Mapping View and  Outline View separates the actions of brainstorming and sequencing. This function is a  personal favourite, since so many students with learning disabilities struggle to do both at the same time.



  1. Cost. Inspiration offers a free 30 day trial, with the software running around $50.00, and monthly web subscriptions starting at $6.00 a month.  Other web-based apps like Coggle http://www.coggle.it or Google Read & Write are completely free for the basic version.
  2. Inspiration is not as widely used these days. Schools in Ontario are using Google Read & Write, so working collaboratively can be more challenging using Inspiration.

Rapid shifts in technology means that Inspiration is sort of the big sister to some of the new app-based visual organizers on the market. In my opinion, for easy interface with MS Word and Power Point, it’s preferable. But it is hard to compete with free. Apps such as Coggle, Freewrite and Google Read & Write also offer a bit more flexibility, and are just more widely used, making collaborating much more straightforward.

So, if you’ve invested in Inspiration, it’s still a great program, especially for the seamless interface with MS Office, and the easy Map to Outline View. But I’m afraid we’re  following  the Google revolution, and adding these new kids on the Assistive Tech playground to our repertoire. In the coming weeks, we’ll be digging into these new apps in more detail. Stay tuned! And check out our Facebook page for regular posts on technology and trends in education. https://www.facebook.com/oncourseeducation/


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OnCourse Education

OnCourse Education