Searching for a way to teach my students to visually (and digitally) organize their thought process about reading texts, I came across Kidspiration 3. It is organized into two age groups: K-2 and 3-5. There is a sound button that enables a mechanized female voice to read any moused over word. She is annoying enough to increase any child’s motivation to read on his/her own. With a little practice (and pre-built templates) students can build graphic organizers by combining pictures, texts, and spoken words to represent thoughts and information. There is a library of over 3,000 symbols and images for students to use, as well as a symbol maker that allows students to create their own. The interface is colorful and engaging to elementary age students. At first glance, the program appears to be very user-friendly, with written and verbal directions for each concept map's use. However, it seems young students will still need significant demonstration and coaching to utilize this tool. Yet, once understood, students could easily create Venn diagrams, cause and effect relationship maps, character maps, storyboards, and many other concept maps. Although as yet unexplored by me, there is also an impressive math, science and social studies section. The sample lessons included in the download are helpful to both spur ideas and to cut down on the time intensive task of creating the concept map you may want your students to use.
Although the program allows for some teacher editing, it is not easily done, and there is not a good system for interactive sharing with another student. The pricing is rather high. A single license is about $70, and a 20-computer license runs about $700.
I am making tentative plans to use Kidspiration 3 in my classroom, although I would much prefer a program that allowed students to interact about their project with other students and the teacher.