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MirandaNet Fellowship Casestudy

Membership List | Publications | Research | Specialist Area List | Braided Learning Ejournal

Inspiration(al) use of concept mapping on PDAs

A study of the impact of the introduction of PDAs, Inspiration 8 to a primary classroom

Jane Finch

Year of posting: 2006


This study involved the introduction of 10 PDAs to a first school (YR to Y4, pupils aged 5 to 9 years). The pilot focused on the use of PDAs to support aspects of writing with all children, but with a particular interest in the impact on a group of reluctant writers causing concern in Y4 (aged 9 years). Neighbouring Local Authorities were beginning to report interesting results on their studies in this area, which justified the support for a local pilot project. This was also an opportunity to develop the author's observations in two other dimensions i.e. that of flexible, personalised learning and multi-modal mapping.

Personalised learning has become a high priority in the UK education system. In the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) pamphlet "A National Conversation about Personalised Learning" ( personalised learning is described as "the drive to tailor education to individual need, interest and aptitude so as to fulfill every young person's potential." Mind mapping is defined as "visual representations of hierarchical information that include a central idea or image surrounded by connected branches of associated topics or ideas" ( This is just one of a number of styles of multi-modal mapping that were used in the study.

The teachers involved had no experience of using PDAs or multi-modal mapping in a classroom context so they were learning these technologies and techniques with the students. When using multi-modal mapping tools to scaffold the writing process the web-like structure seemed to give the learners permission to start writing wherever they preferred. Links guided them along a particular path, but these were changed, added to and deleted as the writer progressed. The learner remained in control of their writing environment.

The impact of this process on one child in the group was clear. When he moved from the Inspiration Diagram View to the Outline View he exclaimed "Did I write all that?" Transferring the work onto a word processor provided further encouragement when he discovered that he only had to add connectives and punctuation to create a piece of prose... "So I just add 'ands' and full stops and I've done it?" There were a number of other significant interactions which demonstrated ways in which the children were highly motivated by the resources and were supported to develop their thinking beyond prior performance with paper and pencil.

Over the whole class teachers noted a significant improvement in output, quality of writing, motivation and engagement. The school was so convinced of the efficacy of the investment that they purchased a further 20 PDAs in the following term. Read the full report to see samples of resulting student writing and learn more improvements of multimodal mapping on PDAs.


PDA, Inspiration8, change management, primary, concept mapping


Mobile Mind mapping - an expensive gimmick or a tool to improve standards? (Word 627KB)

If you have a copy of Inspiration, you can view this presentation as a series of linked Inspiration Maps. For convenience the files have been compressed into a single item, so you will also need a routines such as Zip to extract them.

Download the maps (zip format isf files, 1.7MB)

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