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Topic: hands-on interactive software

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Subject:   hands-on interactive software
Author: Cathi Sanders
Date: Mar 17 2003
A agree with Susan - I also believe that there are two types of software, but I
think the two types are:

1) software that does things for you because the software comes with files that
are set up to teach you things

2) software that lets you create things yourself, and/or explore things to learn
about them.

The Geometer's Sketchpad is my favorite, for math, because it falls into the
second category. I use Sketchpad in three ways in my geometry classes:

1) to do demonstrations (with a projector)

2) for students to work hands-on with exploratory activities that I've created
for them

3) for students to explore geometry by constructing their own geometric figures
and testing their own conjectures.

Getting to the point where students can do #3 is my goal each year.

In order to get to the point where students can "own" their own learning, they
have to start with learning how to use the software. I know th"SketchGuide". In
SketchGuide, there are 4 types of files:

1) Demos: GSP files that show the students how to do something, or about a

2) Activities: Interactive GSP files that teach the students how to use the
software, a bit at a time, while actively learning the geometry from day 1 of my
Geometry class. These files  are organized by the chapters of most geometry

3) Worksheets: printable MSWord files that accompany the Activities

4) Notes to the Teacher: printable MSWord files that accompany the

I find that a combination of the Demos and Activities works well with my
students, and we use them throughout the year. I used to take them to the
computer lab from time to time, but over the years have managed to scrounge up
and buy enough computers so that they now can work hands-on in groups in my
classroom. Also, I am fortunate to have a projector to use with the Demos.

Of all the activities that I have done with students, in many years of teaching,
the ones I like best involve letting them work in groups on Sketchpad, solving
somewhat open-ended problems like "What is the center of a Triangle?" I have
found this particular activity so interesing that I created a set of web pages
about it. These web pages can be seen at

My students have really done some really amazing things with GSP, and have
taught me a lot too!

If any teacher would like copies of my "SketchGuide" files, I would be happy to
share them.

Aloha from Hawaii,
Cathi Sanders

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