Clicky Goodness: Free and Easy Software

Although I’ve railed against the idea of the use of technology for it’s own sake, when technology is done well, the impact is profound.

It’s also the case that – shock – the best, most effective resources are free, open source and simple to use. For example, you can pay hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds for software that is used once after a CPD session and then lost at the back of a cupboard not long after.

However, there are programmes and apps that are relatively simple to get started with, can take learning to complex stages and yet are completely free.

Dynamic geometry packages come in all shapes and sizes, but for me, Geogebra is the easiest to use, quickest to get set up and most flexible in terms of its potential for use in the classroom. Geogebra comes in both downloadable (for PC, Mac and Tablet) and web-based flavours, is backed up by a wealth of free lesson plans and interactive materials, and is designed to be used from Primary level right up to University.

Where Geogebra combines geometry and algebra in one package, sometimes products that focus on one concept do it most effectively – Desmos is one of those things, an online graphic calculator that’ll take anything that you throw at it. Whilst Geogebra is good at algebraic graphs, and does have some statistical potential, Desmos specialises purely in graphs. Again, simple to use, but once you get started, you’ll be doing some amazing things. Have a look at the pre-made resources too, they’re fantastic.

Finally an oldie, but a goodie. Many moons ago, those of us of a certain vintage learned about the geometry of polygons sat in front of a BBC computer playing around with LOGO. It was one of the few (and for me very few) times where a ‘discovery’ learning approach properly worked: by playing around with the ‘RT’ (right turn) command you’d start to learn how exterior angles worked and understand the proportional relationship between this and the number of sides in a regular polygon. Two decades later, and LOGO is still going strong. Again, LOGO starts from the same principle as Geogebra and Desmos. Simple to use, but can be powerful in the right hands.

For many people reading this, I’m sure profiling these three packages is old news – but sometimes, we need to be reminded of what’s out there to refresh our practice.

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About workedgechaos

Teacher. Critic. Geek.
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