Students Get Laptops. Students Visualize Words. Reading Soars.

What's the synonym for "exciting?" At the American School of the Deaf in West Hartford, CT, high school students don't have to thumb through a dog-eared thesaurus to find out. "That'd be boring," says teacher Arlene Blum.

NEW YORK, April 2006 - Thanks to an innovative new initiative called the Laptop Pilot Program, reading students here have all been assigned computers. As they read a book in class, they enter words they don't know into an award-winning software program called the Visual Thesaurus. The program creates interactive word maps for each entry that blossom with meanings and branch to related words.

"When I showed this to one of the kids, his eyes almost popped out of this head! He found so many words with similar meanings," says Arlene.

Now that's exciting.

"Our goal here is to teach our kids more vocabulary and more language so they're competitive with their hearing peers," says reading teacher Arlene Blum.

The teachers also have computers, connected to overhead projectors. They put up the Visual Thesaurus word maps for the entire class to see.

"It's inspiring for the kids because they like the computer part. It's easier for them to type a word into the computer as opposed to the other option, to look for a word in a dictionary," says Francisco Abeyta, the school's technology coordinator. "It also starts conversations about new words - they check out other words just from what they've seen in the Visual Thesaurus," he adds.

"It's opened a lot of avenues for us," says Arlene.

A free demonstration of the Visual Thesaurus is available at Type in a word, click "Look It Up," and you're rewarded with a colorful, interactive map of the meaning of your entry. Every word and meaning can be "clicked," which encourages exploration and discovery. Connected to a database with nearly 140,000 words and related meanings, Visual Thesaurus search results are truly inspiring.

Thinkmap, Inc. develops and markets software that uses visualization to facilitate communication, learning, and discovery. The company specializes in user interfaces and visualization mechanisms that allow end-users to more effectively browse and understand complex information. Thinkmap customers include Deutsche Bank, Mitre, Unisys, Pfizer, and NOAA. Thinkmap is located at 155 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012. The general phone number is 212-285-8600; Web site is; and general email is

Thinkmap. Visualize Complex Information.