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CD-ROM Review

Title: Inspiration® Education Edition
from Inspiration Software

Writing an organized paper or creating a persuasive presentation can be difficult for even the most intelligent of individuals. The reason is not lack of creativity, nor is it lack of verbal skills. These individuals frequently have difficulty organizing their thoughts. They know what they want to say, but cannot present it in a clear and logical manner. The result of their efforts can be a jumble of thoughts and words. Despite the brilliance of their ideas, if their audience can't follow them, they are worthless.

Description
This program is designed to help students develop their ideas and organize their thinking by allowing them to create pictures of their ideas or concepts in the form of diagrams. Users are encouraged to play with ideas, to arrange them and group them, and to find and correct any gaps that may exist. Many types of visual diagrams can be created with the program, including concept maps, idea maps, webs and storyboards. Multiple toolbars allow students to point, click, type, and edit, creating pleasing looking diagrams with ease.

Inspiration also provides an outlining section to help students develop their ideas into organized written documents. In this section, or 'view', users input and edit as with word processing programs. Because the program is fully integrated, users can switch between 'views', converting diagrams to outlines, and outlines to diagrams.

Installation/Ease of Use
The program includes four floppy disks, allowing quick and painless installation. The serial number required to complete set-up is listed on Disk 1.

An intimidating looking user's manual is included with the program. In addition to detailed explanations of the program's many capabilities, the manual provides a brief tutorial that is an absolute must before attempting to use the program.  I am not the type of person to read the manual first and so I, grudgingly, found out the hard way.   Requiring approximately 30 minutes of undivided attention, the tutorial runs through the basics of the program in an easily understood manner, focusing on simple techniques that make the program instantly accessible for the beginning user. 

Educational Value
Inspiration is both a tool, aiding students in the development and organization of their thinking, and a teaching aid, demonstrating the value of webs, outlines and diagrams in preparing clear and concise written presentations. Its word-processing capabilities allow the user to play with concepts and ideas, re-prioritizing, re-conceptualizing, and rewording until the end result is optimal. I found that the program worked well as an instructional supplement. Another teacher I asked to check out the program remarked, "(students) enjoy using the program because they can rework their efforts, much as they edit their word-processing documents."

Target Audience
The program is designed for students ages 9 and up.  This program includes very little that can be termed "fun". The appeal of the program resides in the fact that it can facilitate a task that is often considered onerous. It helps the student wade through those initial moments (too often becoming hours) of total lack of idea organization. Rather than sit before a blank page or screen wondering 'where to begin' the student can immediately churn out ideas, inserting and deleting as the process progresses.

Inspiration's many tools are both complete and easy to use. Students who have used this program were impressed with the symbol palette, which contains multiple libraries of fun and useful idea symbols that could be added to their diagrams.

Conclusion
This program is recommended for older students and teachers who need help organizing their thoughts, whether for oral reports or written compositions. Students who are already competent in this area will appreciate the program's editing capabilities and professional looking results.

System Requirements

Macintosh®
Windows®

Macintosh or Power Macintosh; Mac Plus or higher

486 processor or higher; (386/16MHz or higher for Windows 3.1)

System 6.0.4 or higher

Windows 3.1*, 95, 98 or NT 4.0

2 MB available RAM

8 MB RAM (4 MB Windows 3.1)

Apple compatible graphics card

VGA, SuperVGA, or other Windows compatible graphics card

Hard disk drive

Hard disk drive

CD-ROM drive

CD-ROM drive

Minimum 2MB available RAM

VGA, SuperVGA, or other Windows 3.1, 95, 98 or NT 4.0 compatible graphics card and monitor

Macintosh compatible printer optional (B/W or color)

Optional: Windows compatible printer (B/W or color)


*Windows 3.1 disks available upon request.