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Adapting Sketchpad to Your Available Technology

Many teachers have limited access to class sets of computers, either in a computer lab or with a mobile laptop cart. While giving your students direct experience with Sketchpad using a class set of computers is ideal, here are some suggestions for teaching with Sketchpad for a variety of classroom settings.

One computer but no projector

If the only computer in the room is your teacher computer, you can have small groups of students take turns using it. (You might want to make sure your students use a restricted login.) Each group might do a complete Sketchpad activity, or they might use Sketchpad to augment something that they did offline, for instance to investigate or confirm conjectures made while working with standard geometry tools such as a compass and straightedge. You can give each group an opportunity during a class period to use the computer for a short time, or give each group a day on which to do an investigation on the computer while other groups are doing similar or different activities at their desks. Make sure to give students a written explanation of the investigation or problem they’re to work on. This might be a worksheet with room for students to record their findings, or you might ask students to submit their work in the form of a sketch with text captions.

One computer and a projector or interactive whiteboard

If you have one computer and a projector or an interactive whiteboard, virtually all Sketchpad activities can be modified to work as a whole-class activity. Either you or a student can act as a guide to an investigation, asking the class questions like, “What should we try next? Where should I construct a segment? Which objects should I reflect? What do you notice as I move this point?” You and your students can also prepare demonstrations or presentations of findings. Sketchpad becomes a “dynamic chalkboard” on which you or your students can draw more precise, complex figures that can be distorted and transformed in an infinite variety of ways without having to erase and redraw. Use large display text and labels and use thicker lines to make text and figures clearly visible from all corners of the room. Read More tips for using Sketchpad with an interactive whiteboard.

A handful of computers

If you have a few classroom computers, you can divide your class into groups of two to four students so that all (or half) the groups have access to a computer, then plan whole lessons around doing a Sketchpad investigation. Make sure that you introduce the whole class to what they’re expected to do, give students a written explanation of the investigation or problem they’re to work on, and ask that they submit their findings by completing a worksheet or submitting a sketch with text captions. Also make clear the expectation that students who are not operating the computer are expected to contribute to the group discussion and give input to the student who is, and that each student in every group must have an opportunity to actually operate the computer.

A computer lab or mobile laptop cart

When using Sketchpad, in general it’s best to have students work at computers in pairs, even if there are enough computers for each student. Students learn best when they communicate about what they’re learning, and students working together can better stimulate ideas and lend help to one another. If you do have students working at their own computers, encourage them to talk about what they’re doing and to compare their findings with those of their nearest neighbor—they should peek over each others’ shoulders! If you also have a computer projector in your room, you might want to give one or two introductory demonstrations with Sketchpad in front of the whole class to prepare students with a minimum of time lost to training. The more you work with Sketchpad in front of students yourself, the easier it will be for them to use Sketchpad when they have the opportunity. As students work in pairs, move among them posing questions, giving help if needed, and keeping students on task. Make sure to leave enough time at the end of class for students to summarize their findings in a whole-class discussion to bring closure to the lesson.

A class set of iPads

Download the Sketchpad Explorer app onto iPads. Students can use Sketchpad Explorer to interact with, and investigate, any mathematical document created with Sketchpad. Without menus or tools, the interface is easy to use and enables multitouch interaction. Some sketches come with Sketchpad Explorer, and more can be accessed from Sketch Exchange, where you can load and share sketches you create. You can also open sketches from email, from web pages, or via iTunes File Sharing.

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