Tuesday, November 6, 2007

ELC Month 2a (Inspiration)

For the October Technology Professional Development session, I worked with our Renzulli Enrichment teacher, Mrs. Cole, to present the concept mapping software, Inspiration®. Inspiration is a program that allows students to create visual webs and graphic organizers that can then be turned into writing. The process of linking ideas to each other helps students to plan, organize, evaluate, comprehend and analyze their ideas, which leads to improved written proficiency. We spent several hours modifying the existing FCPS Inspiration handout to suit our goals and objectives. Mrs. Cole and I first decided we needed real world examples of how Inspiration is used in the classroom.

During one of our school's PLC dates, she and I covered a class of directed level 6th graders. Our lesson was about the use of "power verbs" and their meaning as it related to taking the MSA. The standard lesson was a paper and pencil pre-test and a PowerPoint slide show that reveals the answers one at a time. Neither Mrs. Cole nor I felt the group of students with whom we would be working would be able to sit through that lesson as it was written. So we decided to have the students use Inspiration software to create a vocabulary concept map for each of the power verbs. The students used Inspiration to create a web of all the power verbs and used the searchable symbol library to find pictures or clip are that best represented each of the words.

The students were still off task a lot while we walked them through the task of typing the power words into their Inspiration diagram. However when it came time to insert the pictures, the off task behavior declined dramatically. Students who worked diligently and completed the task we asked to add the definitions of each power verb to the diagram. These definitions were provided for them on a blue book mark which we handed out to all of the students.

In the future, we could modify this lesson a bit more by preparing the diagram with the power verbs already entered. This could reduce the off task behaviors we saw as we led the students through the task of typing each word. The drawback to this is that many students have never used Inspiration and bypassing the basic functions of the software won't give them the opportunity to use such a valuable tool.

When we met as a staff, I wanted to show teachers real examples of how Inspiration can be used without creating a lot of extra work. We downloaded the county's BCR Planing Guide and used Inspiration to make a simple organizer based on this common tool. Unlike many of the sample diagrams which are used to "show off" Inspiration's capabilities and flexibility, we wanted to Keep It Simple. We also showed the staff how to access the sample, and sometimes complex, sample diagrams. This would give them a better understanding of how Inspiration can be used as well as trigger ideas. Finally, we walked the teachers through the creation of a basic diagram. As a follow up, teachers are to use Inspiration in some capacity with students and reflect about how it helped or hurt the effectiveness of the lesson. As a challenge, I asked teachers to export their diagrams as a picture file and include it in the discusion message they post. All of the steps to do that are in the handout I created.

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