airplaneChildren and young adults can use creativity resources to develop exciting classroom projects that involve writing, drawing, recording sounds, and incorporating video. Think of these as the tools of technology. Just as students use paper, pencils, markers, calculators, rulers, and other traditional classroom tools, they can use software to assist them with designing, developing, and delivering effective communications.

Read the following materials related to specific software packages:

Read the following materials for children and young adults on this page: Writing Tools, Publishing and Visual Tools, Data Tools, Multimedia Tools, and Design Tools.

Writing Tools

Electronic writing tools such as word processors have been popular since the late 1970s. However with the recent emphasis on emailing, IMing, text messaging, the nature of electronic text is changing.

eye means readRead Writing, Technology, and Teens (4/24/2008) from PEW/INTERNET to learn more about teen practices and views on writing.

Read 'OMG!' Electronic Communication Isn't 'Writing,' Teens Say by Joan Oleck in School Library Journal (4/30/2008). Learn about young people's views of technology and writing.

Professional productivity tools such as Microsoft Word can be used for writing projects at most levels. Microsoft Works and Appleworks are well-known integrated applications. However, many educators prefer to use software designed specifically for children and young adults.
Writing Center

These include writing, organizing, and calculating software. Ultimate Writing & Creativity Center by The Learning Company comes with project suggestions and clip art that students can use in reports and projects.

Amazing Writing Machine helps students write and "spin" stories, letters, journals, poems, and essays.

Stationery Studio from FableVision encourages children to write stories, reports, letters and other writing projects. Curriculum based borders and shapes are available for topics including animals, insects, holidays, seasons, earth, space, people, places, school, home, and more. Try the free demo for ideas (see examples from the FableVision website).

Stationary Studiostationary

With these creativity tools, students can easily view writing as a process rather than a chore. Prewriting activities such as brainstorming, listing, questioning, freewriting, clustering, webbing, and outlining are designed to make writing easy. With the computer hooked to a large monitor, the teacher can lead students through the writing process as a large group.

The ideas generated in the prewriting stage easily flow into the composing stage where students write prose, rearrange information, and elaborate on ideas. Projects can be stored and extended at any point.

Revision activities such as polishing, clarifying, rewriting, and rearranging can be easily directed on the computer. In the past, many teachers and students became frustrated with the editing and rewriting process because of the physical tasks associated with paper and pencil. In addition, word processing allows peer writing and critiquing without complaints about penmanship.

Editing has become a much less time consuming stage with the addition of spelling and grammar checking software. Instead, students can concentrate on improving their word selection and sentence structure.

Writing Ideas for the Classroom

Sequencing tasks
Story starters
Chain writing
Just endings
Picture writing
Dictated stories
Invisible writing
Group writing
Peer writing
Journals & diaries
Letter writing

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Publishing and Visual Tools

kidspix 4Publishing has become more professional. In addition to adult tools such as Quark, Microsoft Publisher, and Adobe Pagemaker, many software tools are available for kids.

Students can add attractive, eye-catching graphics and color report covers to their projects. Print Shop and Print Master by Broderbund, Super Print by Scholastic, and Kid Pix (shown on left) by Broderbund are long standing favorites for children wishing to create signs and draw color pictures.

Art Explosion BoxMany clip art resources can enhance these packages. Art Explosion by Nova Development and Big Box of Art are a popular source for hundreds of thousands of images. Animals, holidays, sports, education, business, comics, and food are just a few of the clip art CD areas.

In addition, most popular animated films from companies such as Disney have their own printing studio software to create signs, banners, and greeting cards.

Knowledge Adventure’s Kid Works is another useful package for beginning writers. With large text, lots of pictures, and painting tools, even young children can be successful authors. Storybook Weaver by The Learning Company provide tools for writing and illustrating storybooks. Some software combines reading and writing tools.

Creativity tools associated with particular themes are a software trend. For instance, the Imagination Express series by Edmark contains resources for creating projects in areas such as neighborhoods, oceans, rainforests, history, and castles. Students can incorporate objects related to the theme. In the castles software, students can place guilds outside huts. Students learn about the use of guilds and other medieval objects as they are incorporated into the project.

Comic LifeThe creation of comics as exploded in popularity with tools such as Comic Life. Try the demo for Mac or Windows.

Tools like Comic Life have many options for exporting. You can save your project as a JPG image, PDF file, or create web pages that can be uploaded to the Internet. Connect Comic Life with reading comics or graphics novels. Or, think about ways that young people can create their own comics for subject area projects.

Tools such as Poser, Anime Studio, and Manga Studio by MySmithMicro also provide tools for creating comic projects.


eye means readRead Sequential Art, Graphic Novels, & Comics and Graphic Novels, Photo Essays & Illuminated Term Papers by Annette Lamb for ideas.

Visual learners enjoy using Kidspiration or Inspiration. These tools for visual thinking provide students with a way to create concept maps, idea maps, webs, brainstorms, outlines, and many other visual diagrams to explore patterns, interrelationships, and interdependencies. Templates come with the software. Increasingly creativity tools are being produced in a variety of formats. For instance, Inspiration is available for Mac, Windows, Palm OS, and PocketPC. Webspiration is a web-based version.


Download a trial version of Inspiration or Kidspiration to try. Or, try the new Webspiration online tool.

If you're looking for some fun tools, consider ProtoZone Interactives. Use their software including DollHouse, Collage Machine, KaleidoPix and KaleidoDraw for a wide variety of projects.

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Data Tools

Electronic databases and spreadsheets are popular computer productivity tools for adults as well as students. Students need skills in locating, evaluating, analyzing, classifying, comparing, calculating, and drawing conclusions based on a set of information. First graders classify animals, fourth graders compare and contrast information about states, and high school government students analyze political systems. Middle schoolers conduct what-if's on business ventures, and senior math students graph trigonometry problems. The computer is a logical tool to help store, calculate, retrieve, and visualize information. Although some classrooms use adult tools such as Filemaker or Excel, others are discovering data tools designed for K-12 students. For example, Crunchers by Knowledge Adventure is a software package that helps students learn and use spreadsheets and graphs for problem-solving projects that involve mathematical concepts.

Graph Club BoxSome tools have been developed to help students explore and analyze information in particular subject areas. For example, Geometric Sketchpad by Key Curriculum Press and Algebra Sketchbook, Geometric superSupposer, Geometry Inventor, and Probability Constructor by Sunburst are designed to help students explore concepts related to mathematics. Tom Snyder's Tessellation Exploration encourages students to make 2-dimensional tessellations that slide, turn, flip, and glide on the screen.

Graphing is a skill that crosses all content areas. Tom Snyder's The Graph Club for younger children and Graph Action for older students help students learn to gather, sort, and classify information. They then construct graphs and analyze data.

There are many tools to help students with creating maps and other kinds of visuals. Tom Snyder has a number of products including Neighborhood Map Machine and Timeliner. The later package allows students to add to, edit, and merge ideas into timelines on many different topics.

Also, try InspireData. This tool combines that power of a database, spreadsheet, and graphic tool. Students can investigate, analyze, and represent data in many ways.

Download a trial version of InspireData and explore their sample data and activities (see example below).


Data Ideas for the Classroom
Spreadsheet Ideas for the Classroom

Animals, Pets, & Zoos
Boom Towns
Cities & Countries
Consumer Report
Early Civilizations
Famous Expeditions
Native Americans
Plant Nursery
Pond Life
Travel Agency

Fund raising
Quality of life
Fast food comparison
Peer grading
Calorie counts
Effects of smoking
Human/Animal growth
Energy usage
Construction costs
Endangered animals



When selecting data tools, consider your goal. Will students use a product that already contains information or will they be creating or locating the data themselves? If students will be entering data, who will check for accuracy? Misspellings, misplaced decimals, and notation can all cause problems.

If students are entering data, consider a peer-proofing approach. What do you want students to do with the data once it's entered? Consider higher level questions. Rather than "listing the state bird," try comparing the populations and square miles of states. If students are studying inventions, explore the agricultural inventions. How many were before 1900? Is there a relationship between time periods and the types of inventions produced? What and why?

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Animation-ishMultimedia Tools

Multimedia has emerged as an effective way for students to develop projects that incorporate text, graphics, sound, and video. Many K-12 students use Microsoft PowerPoint as a tool to create presentations and multimedia projects. Kid Pix Deluxe, Kid Pix Studio, and JumpStart Artist by The Learning Company provide tools for students to paint pictures as well as add text, animation, video, sound effects, and music to create an exciting multimedia project.

Explore tools such as Animation-ish from Fablevision (shown on the right). A trial is available for this easy-to-use drawing and animation tool.

HyperStudio by Mackiev was a popular tool in the 1990s and has been reintroduced with Web 2.0 features such as YouTube connections. It provides tools for creating interface features such as menus, popup text, and pictures. The multimedia chapter provides information about creating materials using HyperStudio (example below).


Many tools are available for students interested in creating, manipulating, and editing visuals such as photographs. For example, Adobe's Photoshop and the entry-level Adobe PhotoElements can be used to modify photographs. Practica Musica, Songworks, and KidMusic

Many of the adult tools for audio and video production such as imovie, work great for children and young adults. However some tools are designed for children and young adults. For example, Sound Companion is a great tool for recording and editing sounds. Consider Broderbund's MovieShop for kids.

Clay Animation BoxMany children like a mixture of on and off-computer activities. For example, Clay Animation Kit by Tech4Learning provides the materials to create animations. There are many other examples at the publisher's website.

Go to Tech4Learning. Explore the software for children and young adults. 30 Day Trials available.

Whole suites of tools are available for specific multimedia needs. For example, for young adults wanting to develop web materials, Adobe Creativity Suite is popular. Containing Photoshop, Flash, Fireworks, Dreamweaver and more.

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Design Tools

Family Tree Maker BoxFrom designing a home to building a family tree, there are many design tools available. Although designed for adults, many of these tools are easy enough for children or young adults.

Explore the many great tools for creating 3-D objects. The 3-D modeling tool GollyGee provides activities that involve students in creating many 3D projects that promote spatial reasoning. Crazy Machines is another 3D tool for greating Rube Goldberg type machines.

For example, many families like to create family trees as a project. Family Tree Maker from Broderbund (shown on left) is one of many tools available for this

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Proceed to Creativity Apps.

Adapted with permission from Chapter 5 in Lamb, A. (2006). Building Treehouses for Learning: Technology in Today's Classroom, Fourth Edition.

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