Using a simple, easy-to-learn spreadsheet-style data-entry system, students can quickly create a variety of graph types (such as Venn diagrams), rearrange the data in a variety of ways, and even add controls to animate the data based on different criteria. This last feature is one of the most useful, as it allows students to see the effects of changes to data in an engaging and interactive environment, and it is much more interesting than static charts.
InspireData also allows students to capture the graphs they’ve created as slides. They can also play around with the data and capture the new graph as a slide, or click on the Previous Slide icon to return to the former slide. Slides can be used as a part of a presentation, although they cannot be exported for use as a part of a Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote presentation. It includes several classroom-oriented projects to get would-be statisticians started, and teachers can guide students through these, or students can use the step-by-step guides provided in PDF format. However, other than a quick tour, InspireData does not include any interactive tutorials, which would be especially useful for students at home or in larger classes.
The data visually represented in InspireData is not just limited to points on a graph. In addition to a variety of square, round and diamond-shaped points, students can choose from an assortment of pre-built icons. They can also edit or design their own icons using the icon editor. This provides a variety of common bitmap-editing tools (pencil, brush, eraser, lines, shapes and fills, colour palette) and allows bitmap images, including photos, to be imported (vector-based icons cannot be used).
One excellent feature is the ability for students to quickly build their own questionnaires rather than having to enter data directly into tables. For students not familiar with spreadsheets, this is an excellent bridge, and is a good way to collect data from outside sources. However, the questionnaires can only run from within InspireData. It would have been truly inspirational if the questionnaire could act as a standalone application, a web-enabled questionnaire, or even a Word or PDF form.
InspireData is for those looking for a superior tool to help students turn raw data into meaningful information. However, the limited data output options, inability to output slides, low-resolution bitmap images and inability to distribute questionnaires are drawbacks.