Thursday, July 7, 2011

GeoGebra 4 Teachers

My current logo attempt.
I had a great experience this summer co-leading with Michelle Bunton a GeoGebra workshop for teachers. We decided to do a loose structure, emphasizing algebra one day and geometry the second. People were free to register for one or both days. We got about 22 teachers, with 14 for both days. One teacher was bitterly disappointed because they wanted premade activities, and our focus was on learning the program.  Though we tried to connect people to plenty of resources and the wide-world of GeoGebra sketches, this teacher left before that.  Most of the teachers took the freedom and ran, and it reminded me of what a joy it is to be in a room full of independent, motivated learners working on stuff that matters to them.  I learned a lot, which is typical of such situations.

We decided to run the workshop using GeoGebra 4, as it's being released at the end of the summer.  Unfortunately - I was a novice on it.  I'm an enthusiastic GGB 3 user, but have been weak on spreadsheet use. Adding more novel features was a little scary. Turned out well, as it made us co-investigators with the teachers.  And the program is great. I mean it was great, but now it is greater. They've managed to add features without making it perceptibly more complex.  That's rare; I love this software and its developers. Guillermo Bautista's GGB4 sneak peek series was very helpful. (Of course!)

We structured the workshops with time to get software loaded. And I wanted the teachers on Twitter to converse on backchannel through the day.  That was hit or miss, due to Twitter's tendency to ignore new users as an anti-bot measure. I wound up having people follow me so I could follow them, then retweeting their tweets. This made some people show up but not others... mystery.  I thought it was important because I get some of my best GeoGebra support on Twitter. And, in fact, during the workshops we got some excellent input from @mike_geogebra and @lfahlberg .

So startup, a demonstration sketch to show some of the potential for classroom use, an overview of the program parts (tool bar, menus, views, etc.), specific tasks to figure out how to use, and then free explore time. The workshop website has all of our materials (see the workshop page), plus the sketches created by participants. One exciting feature is that participants spent time sorting and classifying sketches by standards strand in a Google spreadsheet with links to the sketches.

One problem were still working on is the "now what?" We're trying a Google group and want the website to morph into a place for teachers to share sketches. (If you are interested in joining the page to share your materials, just drop me a line.)  Teachers also wondered aloud what made this experience useful in comparison to some other professional development, and that's worth looking into.

As I said, I learned a lot: about professional development, workshop development with a new partner, and a lot of GeoGebra. The GeoGebra knowledge I could put into a sketch!  Note that the sketch links below use GGB4, which can download as a Beta.

Dave made a nice height vs time projectile sketch that used text box inputs. (That is my favorite new feature so far.) Cristine got me thinking about more subtle show/hide condition with her beautiful Unit Circle.  One of the participants made a face sketch for which he figured out how to limit the domain of a function. (Which he seems to have never uploaded!) @lfahlberg taught us how to make a reset button for a sketch.  Chris and Jason just pushed and pushed and explored in general. I can't remember why we figured out that sliders can have calculated min and max now.... I was seriously impressed at what good use everyone made of their time. 

After the workshop I made this projectile sketch to practice. It's a projectile in the x-y plane, where the slider advances or animates time. You put in the initial height by textbox, set the vector of your throw by dragging the vector, and can do target practice to a garbage can or by throwing at a seagull. (No actual seagulls were harmed yotta, yotta.) The button resets the targets.  This was fun to make. 

The big screen shot is an animated gif - one of GGB's new export formats. Go ahead and click on it!  The garbage can was inspired by Dan Meyer's WCYDWT ball toss, which is also a sketch.

GeoGebra is a supertool, which even has the power to get more powers, and I definitely want my students and preservice teachers skilled in its use.


  1. "What a joy it is to be in a room full of independent, motivated learners working on stuff that matters to them. I learned a lot"

    On this, i showed Geogebra to my year 8 pupils, we messed around with plotting curves, animating etc. For homework they were asked to produce something, anything, using geogebra.
    One set of pupils turned in this sheet..

    Yeah, fair to say i learned a lot myself.

  2. That is sweet! (It's an animate-able race illustrating constant - maybe - speed.) Thanks for sharing that! Plus your student is better at embedding pictures than I am.

  3. I am glad to hear your workshop went well! Michigan and Ohio have got to pull something off next year!

  4. And you should look into starting your own GeoGebra Institute in Michigan!

  5. Hi John. I am glad that my blog has helped you. I have applied to be a member of your google group.

    Keep up the Good work.

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    Please link my blog to your blog.

    Sanjay Gulati