June 21, 2007
For years, my students have used Inspiration to brainstorm and create visual diagrams to support learning. It's a great program designed for grade 3 and beyond (its sidekick, Kidspiration, is designed for K-3 learners). Recently, I've noticed several free web-based alternatives for diagramming. My favorite so far, Gliffy, allows you to download your diagram as a picture file, publish it on the web, or share it with others to collaborate on the same diagram from a distance. Gliffy has an impressive palette of built-in shapes, including images of furniture for redecorating, networking objects (routers, switches, etc.), flowchart symbols, etc., and it's palette can be customized (My Images). The palette even has an integrated search tool to locate images via Yahoo's image search engine! While Inspiration and Kidspiration still have some advantages (i.e., outline mode, synchronizing diagrams with a handheld computer), services such as Gliffy and Bubbl.us are definitely giving Inspiration a run for its money.