Although the authors (an elementary school principal and a university dean) note that they rarely review software in their column, they offer this praise for Inspiration software: “Seldom have we found a software package so versatile and adept at helping users enhance thinking and learning.”

Inspiration (http://www.inspiration.com) is an education-oriented software package that helps organize ideas for writing reports and conducting analysis. Commonly used by middle-schoolers and high-schoolers, it also is popular with adults who are preparing reports or, in the case of educators, lesson plans.

With a series of graphical templates, Inspiration helps users recognize patterns and define relationships between ideas and concepts. The templates enable users to diagram these relationships and even make preliminary notes for the text of a report. For secondary school students, sample projects are provided that illustrate how Inspiration works.

At its best, the authors say Inspiration will help students clarify their thinking, reinforce their understanding, integrate new knowledge, and identify what they still don’t understand.