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Topic: Featured Event: Sketchpad for Young Learners
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Subject:   Featured Event: Sketchpad for Young Learners
Author: gerirose
Date: Jun 18 2005
These resources were discussed as part of a featured event during the June 2005
Virtual Tool Fest.  The participants in this online chat were software
developers, professional development providers, college faculty and curriculum
writers.  There were no current elementary classroom teachers.  Thus the
conversation was somewhat different from had been anticipated.

More information about the event, including a transcript of the chat, can be
found at

The Sketchpad for Younger Learners sketches are 'highly authored' sketches,
which means that students (and their teachers) do not have to know very much
about Sketchpad to use the sketches.  All of the sketches are mean for
exploration of a mathematical idea.  An immediate question posed was why
Sketchpad rather than Java (or Flash) because that would make the sketches
accessible to more students.  For some of the sketches that would work, for
others not; however these sketches have two purposes -- the first as already
mention to teach or explore a math idea and the second is to begin learning how
to use sketchpad.  Java would not serve this latter purpose.

Five sketches were explored during the conversation: Circles and Squares where
players try to determine the secret value of circles and squares using
arithmetic reasoning and logic.  The values are integers.  The sketchpad skills
required are 'Use a button' and 'Change the value of a parameter.'  The next
sketch was Balance which required the same sketchpad skills and worked much like
a balance beam with five unknown of weights.  The students answer questions
about these weights posed by the teacher.  The weights can be changed for
subsequent problems.

The third sketch was from a middle school collection being developed to support
Connected Math.  Chips shows a board of positive and negative chips on one side
of a line.  As the chips are moved to the other side, the program determines the
value of the chips.  As with the similarly used red and yellow plastic chips,
the students are asked for example, to show three ways to have a sum of

Exploring Balance and Chips led to a discussion of when to use virtual
manipulatives rather than non-virtual ones.  The answer, of course, is not a
list of situations but rather a recognition that the manipulatives serve
different purposes and different types of learners; thus both should be used in
an elementary classroom to provide the widest and deepest learning experiences.

Before the discussion evolved into a total Flash conversation, the participants
looked at both Ghost Paths (an exploration of lines, segments, rays, circles and
some polygons) and RooBooGoo (an exploration of transformations).  Both of these
can be very useful in lower elementary explorations as well as introductions in
upper elementary.


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