Visual Learning Software
Students use visual learning software to explore ideas and demonstrate their understanding through a combination of pictures and words. Inspiration® is a popular online graphics tool to help students visualize, think, organize, and learn (Silverman, 2005). It was developed for older students (grades 6–12), and a simpler version, Kidspiration®, was designed for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. Students use these software programs to practice strategies and skills they’re learning in reading and across the curriculum. In word-identification activities, for example, they make maps and diagrams of words representing a phonogram, words with prefixes and suffixes, words sharing a root word, or etymological information about words (Gill, 2007). This software is especially useful for English learners: By visually representing information and adding links to show relationships, ELs convey their understanding more clearly than they could orally or in writing.
Kidspiration is an easy program for children to navigate. To begin, they choose the picture view on the starter screen and click on icons arranged on a tool bar to create graphic organizers, write words, search for appropriate images from the more than 3,000 pictures in the Symbol Library or create their own pictures, and add links to highlight relationships. There’s a SuperGrouper tool that children use to categorize words, a word guide with a 13,000-word combined dictionary and thesaurus, and an audio feature that allows children to describe and document their work. In the writing view, their graphic organizers are transformed into skeleton compositions, and children expand the words into sentences and paragraphs. Afterward, they can export the texts into multimodal projects or print them.
Inspiration is similar to Kidspiration. Students create dia-grams using the Inspiration software that can be transformed into outlines and used for writing and Web-based projects. They use tool bars to navigate the program, choose images from the Symbol Library that’s loaded with more than one million pictures or design their own, consult a word guide with a combined dictionary and thesaurus, and monitor their spelling with a spell checker. Students integrate video and sound clips, record their own audio, use a hyperlink tool to connect to research documents and websites, and export Inspiration documents to word processing, PowerPoint, or other programs.
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