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MirandaNet Fellowship Casestudy

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

Investigating the impact of ICT-based multimodal mapping in developing effective learning dialogues


Nigel Riley

Year of posting: 2006


Assessment of children's writing shows a deficiency in developing coherent ideas. More often than not, student writing follows the prompts of the teacher and shows little individual extension outward. The author of this paper is looking for an intermediary tool between talk and writing to provide structure for thought, revision, refinement and finally presentation. The study explores the use of Inspiration® from Inspiration Software® and other ICT tools and their use in the area of writing.

In writing, composition involves retrieval and evaluation of information, the evolving and synthesis of ideas and drafting, which promotes writing as 'revising inner speech' (Moffett, 1981). Concept mapping provides a means by which such compositional ideas are made explicit. Further, it is recognised that ICT can produce discussion of a type that has educational significance when children work in small groups at computers (Fisher, 1997:81; Wegerif, Littleton and Jones, 2005). This practice based case study investigates the use of Inspiration, an ICT-based multimodal mapping software, to stimulate and develop learning dialogues that enhance thinking and ideation that transfers into compositional expository writing.

The sample is a group of 22 students aged 10-11 years old within a large urban primary school in the United Kingdom (UK). The students have a wide range of academic attainment and social backgrounds. The intention was to use Inspiration -based concept mapping as normal routine in whole class teaching and in group work where the class is familiar with using laptops individually and in small groups. Concept maps consist of "concepts" linked together by descriptive words or links which show relationship. The more descriptive the link, the better students can understand the concept (Diagram 1).

Data for this study is collected from transcribed discussions of groups while concept mapping, Student maps were analysed for complexity based on the number of nodes and links. The pre-test and post-test scores were compared, wherein students used concept mapping in the post test. The number of propositions and concepts in writing and in the discussion increases post-test. When comparing the examples of writing by the same groups it is noted how the pattern of mapping has increased in concepts formed and links labeled. Further, the ideas are more developed post-test. These findings suggest that Inspiration maps increase the incidence of higher order thinking during the compositional process.

Read this study in its entirety to learn specific examples of how Inspiration was used to improve student writing.


Concept mapping compositionality


Interpretations from concept mapping


Interaction between the visual and linguistic elements.

Cat - Mat straight link

could mean;

The cat ate the mat.

The cat went to the mat.

The cat walked over the mat.

The mat belongs to the cat.

The mat is near the cat.


The number of possible interactions and types of different relations between the cat and mat are many and diverse.



Cat - Mat right arrow link

could mean;

The cat went to the mat.

The cat saw the mat.

The cat likes the mat.


The directionality given by the vector is explicit although the definition of the relationship is unclear. It gives a structure to the possible linguistic interpretations in terms of subject/object order.

Cat - Mat 0:1 straight link


could mean;

The cat ate on the mat.

The cat ran on the mat.

The cat sleeps on the mat.

The mat is on the cat.


Although the relationship has been given more clarity in terms of relation by naming the link, the interaction is still lacking clarity in terms of the order of relationship.


Cat - Mat right arrow 0:1 link

could mean;

The cat went on the mat.

The cat is on the mat.

The combination of vector and naming of the link reduces the number of possibilities in interpretation. The relationship achieves more definition and the whole representation becomes more meaningful.

Cat - Mat right arrow 1:1 link

could only mean;

The cat is on the mat.


The inclusion of a more constrained label to the vector achieves an accurate and meaningful proposition in terms of objects and their relations.



Learning dialogues;multimodal mapping; creativity; ICT; literacy; thinking skills.


My professional study takes the form of a PowerPoint presentation made to a seminar at the Institute of Education in London.

The paper itself has been published in Reflecting Education


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