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Keepin’ it organized

So I don’t have any thought-provoking questions to ask this week.  But I do have something I want to talk about: Inspiration.  Remember getting a paper assignment in high school?  “OHHHH MANNNN I have to write how many pages?!? five???”  (These days I dread five pagers- It’s too short to say what you want to!) After the initial stage of moaning and groaning what comes next? researching and writing.  I know how I used to take notes: ok the book says blah blah blah so I’m going to write it down word for word in my notebook and not put any thought into organization.  The notes are a proverbial mess and the only thing that is less organized are the students’ arguments.  I like to think I’ve improved in my paper-writing capabilities since high school, you write enough of them as a history major.  But it took a ton of practice until I got up to 70 pages.  It took four years of academic writing at the collegiate level.  I would compare it to bench pressing in the gym: you start off with the bar and work your way up (I haven’t gotten that far past the bar yet J).  In high school I would do the standard take notes, sit down and write a paper (with very little preplanning), and quote whatever I got from the sources.  I’ve graded high school level history papers before and every time I see the same issues: a lack of organization and an inability to form arguments and support them.  Well folks, I’ve got the answer.  Inspiration.  If you’re a teacher and have never heard of it before, google it, ASAP.  This is the answer to the problem with teenagers’ difficulties with organizing their thoughts and coming to a good conclusion.  Study after study confirms how graphic visualizes can improve a student’s academic performance.  And we know that technology fascinates kids and gets them involved in class.  Inspiration is the best of both worlds.  You get students organizing their thoughts and doing it in a technological way.  Venn Diagrams are boring, who makes them when they are reading?  But do it on a computer and it’s suddenly cool.  I had fun creating the sample inspiration diagram for the lesson plan assignment.  Fun? Assignment?  together? I know.  But it was really enjoyable getting to mess around and manipulate the info.  The best part, you can edit it.  If you’re using pen and paper, and you make a mistake, suddenly there are all these scribble lines and it’s hard to understand.  In Inspiration you can add graphics, move bubbles, make notes, imbed hyperlinks, and so, so much more.  It’s amazing how much we should teach kids in school that often goes unmentioned.  I don’t remember getting too much formal instruction on visually representing my ideas.  This might be a common occurrence in schools.  But Inspiration could really help with this.  I could get started on how schools waste their money on building state of the art stadiums rather than buying books, but that’s not the point of this entry.  There needs to be room in a school’s budget for this kind of technology.  It really can make a difference in a student’s writing capabilities.  Maybe not as big of a difference as a brand new astro-turf, but still…

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3 responses to “Keepin’ it organized

  1. When we first learned about inspiration I wasn’t as exited as everyone else. It seemed helpful, but it wasn’t till I actually started making a lesson plan with it that I realized how great it was. I was telling everyone about the software, and when i met with the department head at the school i will be observing in I was shocked she hadn’t heard of it.

    I agree with you that inspiration could be instrumental in helping students write papers. The fact that it can take material from a web to an outline is genius. If I get a job in a district that doesn’t have this software I will definitely be advocating for it.

  2. adunn7

    I agree Mike, Inspriation is an amazing tool. Aside from all of the scientifically proven benefits, as a teacher I love the capabilities it has for scaffolding assignments for students. Right now I am teaching in a long term-sub job as a special education teacher in Kindergarten. Since they are all 5, they seem to need one on one attention and support ALL THE TIME and I am just killing myself in preparation for every lesson to make sure there is enough scaffolding to help students perform the task semi-independently so I can focus on helping whoever REALLY needs my help in the moment. I assume that special education in higher grades can sometimes be that way too.

    Inspiration and Kidspiration have AWESOME scaffolding capabilities. I love how you can link to outside web resources, add notes to help students through a process, include visual suport and add audio. In my kidspiration lesson, every object and word had a sound file attached. That way, if my KG kids forget what sound a letter makes, they click it and hear me making the sound. The level of support these programs can offer are just amazing. Thank you Inspiriation Inc. for attempting to make my job easier and learning more attainable for my students.

  3. Stephen Ransom ⋅

    @Liz… welcome to the insulated education bubble where so many have not heard of important tools that have been around for years. This is partly the reason for the importance of developing a learning network outside of your immediate peers and school – especially if your physical environment is less than innovative and your administrator is as uninformed in new learning tools and innovations as the rest of those in his/her care.

    @Mike, there is no doubt that one reason why students’ thoughts and organization are, well, disorganized is that they don’t take the time to organize them and teachers have not equipped them with some purposeful tools to do so either. A benefit of the “tool approach” is that the tool can often lighten the mundane parts of the cognitive load and free the mind to focus on what is most important. In this case, the physical act of organizing (and reorganizing) ideas with pen/paper requires far too much effort low down on the cognitive scale. A tool like Inspiration can instantly free the learner to focus on what is more important… and perhaps even enjoy the process !

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