I’ve always liked Inspiration and Kidspiration for quick, easy to use ways of brainstorming. But with a $900 price tag for a 20 computer license, there just didn’t seem to be any reason to pay that money when there are several robust, free alternatives. In the past couple of years, these alternatives have come close to matching, and in many aspects, surpassing what Inspiration and Kidspiration can do to help students organize their thoughts. Here are my three favs, with a few honorable mentions thrown in to boot.
Just discovered this one and it’s already my favorite. Easy to use (really) drag and drop interface. Intuitive tool bar. Decent amount of shapes, lines, and clip art. You have the ability to right-click on any shapes for editing options. Diagram.ly has a very Microsoft feel to it so if you have students who are used to using Office products, the learning curve with Diagram.lywill be easy. Another great feature is that there is no sign up, no registration and no download. You simply create your mind map and save (.xml, .jpg, .png, or .svg).
Grapholite is another great diagramming site that is, like diagram.ly, very “Microsoftesque.” Grapholitehas a generous amount of shapes, text boxes, arrows, flow chart icons, and blocks. Colors, fonts, and sizes are easily changed, and it’s easy to insert your own pictures directly into the diagram. Without creating an account (demo mode) users can create diagrams (there doesn’t seem to be a limit as to how many) and export their work as either a .jpg, .png, or .pdf. If you sign up for a free account, you can save your work online to be able to come back and edit it at a later time.
Another great tool, bubbl.usallows you to easily create and save mind maps. Without an account you begin brainstorming straight away and are able to print or save your mind map as a jpeg or png. Sign up for a free account and you can save the mind map to work on later and/or have others edit it.
Hewe are some other sites worth checking out for brainstorming and flow chart creation:
In a recent Foss science unit, a third grade class was learning about the structures of life. The teacher wanted her students to be able to focus on a specific animal and learn about the following things: Physical Traits, babies, habitat, food, behaviors/interactions and anything that “wow’d” the student about their animal. What made this project different from other animal research projects is that the students could only choose their animals from a list of “animals with a bad rep.” This included animals like anacondas, sharks, cockroaches, human bot flies, killer bees, wasps, bats, and naked mole rats, just to name a few. In order to speed the project along, the teacher pre-selected a couple dozen websites which I dropped in a network folder that the students have access to.
Sharks - by Nicholas
After gathering all of the information, I had the students begin an Inspiration diagram about their animal. The diagram had three levels: The main topic (the animal); the research category (physical traits, habitats, etc.); and the information that the students found. After all the information was entered (the rapid fire feature in Inspiration makes this step go quickly), the students were then instructed on how to arrange their diagrams to better display their findings in a hierarchal way.
Watch this video to see how rapid fire works.
Monkeys - by Ellen
The open-endedness of this project made differentiation effortless. Some students were able to get their research organized with a few facts and display it in an organized way. There were others who listed over 30 facts on their given animal, and then went on to change the font, create new line colors, add new shapes, and insert pictures. Read more of this post