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Discussion: Software Help
Topic: Online tutoring software.

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Subject:   Online tutoring software.
Author: S.G.Botsford
Date: Sep 15 2014
I'm looking for a web app for tutoring math remotely to high school and junior
high kids that ideally has the following:

Build in graphing.  The exemplar for this is the application Geogebra, which not
only allows graphs, but also has a table view, sliders, and animation, and is
scriptable.  Indeed, a networked multi-user large canvas version of geogebra
would meet most of my requirements.

(In passing:  I've tried for 2 days to get a VMT room set up, but while the room
creation goes without a hitch, it doesn't show up in My Rooms)
Built in drawing tools.  At a minimum:  freehand, line, polygon, text, and
eraser.  Drawing tools should be vector based and not pixel based, so they can
be easily moved and edited.

Editing tools:  It should be possible to change stroke, fill, fontsize, font
color, location, rotation.

Additional desirable tools:  Marque select, group, layer, lock, bezier, arc,

Desirable Stationery:  Various kinds of lined/graph paper including graph paper
with index lines (heavier lines) Polar coordinates, log, log-log etc.  This
could be done as a PDF or GIF image layer, or best, would be as a fill you could
position in a rectangle.

Multipage canvas.  Application should not be limited to a single screen.

Persistent sessions.  I want to come back tomorrow and see it how I (or my
partner) left it.

Multiple simultaneous editing.  I should be able to edit one thing
while another user is editing elsewhere.  This may mean that the
other user may be on a different page from me.  As an adjunct, a way
of seeing what changes were made while I wasn't looking at a page
would be useful -- deleted items in pink, and new ones in green
Handwriting recognition for math.  This one is tough.   MyScribe MathPad looks
good, but it's online demo only does a single equation at a time.  webFluidMath
has one approach, but it's not really ready for prime time. It took me 6
attempts to get ax^2 +bx + c = 0, and I never was able to do a 2x2 matrix.  In
principle I could create the equation in one app and paste it in, but this makes
editing difficult, and gets in the way of teaching the derivation of a theorm or

A keyboard approach is an acceptable alternative.  The best of these I've found
so far is Lyx, which has a combination of keyboard and mouse selection. MathML
requires lots of extra () to be added.  FrameMaker's equation editor got one
thing correct with the use of a space character to exit one level of nesting.
Lyx does this too.  I do *NOT*  want to type full TeX.  

For this reason I'm not considering various TeX enabled chat room programs.

Handwriting recognition is desirable, but not required.  I will live with my
scrawls if need be.
Compatible with iPad.  Apple limits script functionality on their platform.
Notability is has a decent approach on the ipad.  You can draw, you can bring in
PDFs and annotate, add images, and draw on them etc.  

Note that none of the applications mentioned (Geogebra, Mathpad, webFluidMath,
Lyx, Notability) is collaborative software in the sense that multiple people can
use it in real time, seeing the changes that the other party has made with only
minor delays.

The use of 'networked' here means Internet -- The two parties will NOT be on
the same LAN.  I do not care if it is application based, or web based, except
that if the former, it has to run on iPad, Windows >=XP, and Mac >= 10.6 (Snow

TeamViewer is one example of a desktop sharing app.  This is one approach, but
only one user can control the mouse/keyboard at a time, and whatever app you are
using is limited to the present screen.  Teamviewer is clunky to use on a
network with significant latency (over 100 ms)


*Real Time Interactive: (RTI)*  All parties can write at the same time, on
different parts of the canvas, possibly different screens, using different
tools. Delay between updates measured in seconds.
*Turn Based Interactive: (TBI)*  Only one person can draw at a time.  All people
see the same screen/zoom/view.  TeamViewer works like this.
*Shareable:*  One person can create a document, publish it to some form of cloud
repository, then other people can edit it.  Google docs works  like this most of
the time.
*Presentation* Other people have read only access, possibly in real time,
possibly saved as a recorded session.  

*Persistent*  A session can be stopped then later resumed even if there is a
period when no one is using the document.
*Transient*  Session vanishes when creator or last client quits the

*Pixel based graphics (PBG)*  Tools change the color of pixels on the screen.
Generally impossible to edit.
*Vector Graphics (VG): *  Entities have individual existence, so you can move
parts around after creating them, and change attributes such as line width,
size, stroke color and fill.

Existing product limitations:  Most of these evaluations were done quickly, and
stopped once I ran into 2-3 items not on my wish list.  Some of these may be
useful for other purposes.

*Baiboard* is one collaborative app that has possibilities.  It's sketch + PDF
annotate with the ability to save snapshots at any time.  This is a good example
of the collaboration aspect. The drawing tools are weak.  Only available on iPad
and Mac, and the Mac version is much more limited.  Persistent, RTI

*Groupboard:*  Limited VG: Objects can be moved, but not modified, RTI. Math is
limited to pasting from a limited symbol set.

*Groupworld:*  This is from the same people as Groupworld.  Same problems.

*Board 800:*   Limited VG: Objects can be moved, but not modified, RTI. Limited
drawing set. No math.  Multi page.

*Tutorsbox:*  VG, RTI.  Objects can be moved but not modified.  Limited tools.
Line, circle, square. Function grapher.  Has wysiwyg math editor, but it
operates in a modal window, which makes deriving something tricky -- you
cannot see the previous line. Plans start at

*Show me:* Pixel based.  No editing. P.o.S.

*iDroo:*  VG, RTI.  Limited drawing set. Pencil, line, rectangle, elipse, text.
No color. No math.  Objects can be moved and rotated.  Marque select to move
multiple objects.

*AWW A Web Whiteboard:* Pixel based, no erase except clear, 4 colors.

Scribblar:  $9/month.  Free plan doesn't have many features.  Untested.

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