Classroom Tools

The "classroom" here is broadly interpreted as any interaction with an audience.

Name Comments
Axon2007

What it Does: Organize and process ideas in multiple ways.
Runs on: PC only
Price: $135
Uniqueness: It's one of only a few tools to provide this combination of functions
Best Feature: The extraordinary versatility of the program
Worst Feature: The unfamiliar (but logical) and sometimes awkward interface
Learning Time: Hours --- Export/Import: Good
My use: Regular --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: "The Axon Idea Processor provides a specially designed environment that supports and empowers the thinking processes. Objects and Links form the basic entities for idea processing. These entities are displayed in a multi-level, 3D workspace." It's true.
Classroom note: Allows including student input
CmapTools

What it Does: Concept relationships - Useful in group situation
Runs on: PC, Mac, Linux
Free
Uniqueness: It's one of only a few tools to provide this combination of functions
Best Feature: Public server allowing group projects.
Worst Feature: Initially difficult to see how powerful it is.
Learning Time: Hours --- Export/Import: Medium
My use: Infrequent --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: I have used it quite successfully in several courses. It was particularly helpful in promoting class interaction.
Classroom note: Develop group consensus
Dreamweaver

What it Does: Web page creator - The industry standard
Runs on: PC only
Drexel Site License
Best Feature: Doesn't add extra "code" like MS products.
Worst Feature: Learning curve is fairly steep.
Learning Time: Hours --- Export/Import: Good
My use: Daily --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: Frontpage, the obvious competitor, is licensed at Drexel and is very good so long as you don't want to leave the MS world.
Classroom note: Useful for preparing course websites
Firefox

What it Does: Web browser
Runs on: PC, Mac, Linux
Free, Open Source
Best Feature: Add-ins that provide additional fucntions.
Worst Feature: Many large institutions are not friendly to FF - e.g. Drexel.
Learning Time: Half Hour ---
My use: Daily --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: I use Adblock, NoScript, and All-In-One Sidebar extensions a lot.
Classroom note: Useful to present external material - in my case my students produce web pages and we review them in class.
Review & Comments about Firefox in Academic Tools Blog
Google Earth

What it Does: View and zoom the entire world
Runs on: PC, Mac, Linux - Uses Web
Free
Uniqueness: It's one of only a few tools to provide this combination of functions
Best Feature: Wow factor when exploring a geography-related aspect of a course.
Worst Feature: Interface a bit clunky when going beyond basics.
Learning Time: Minutes --- Export/Import: Medium
Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: What a splendid, ever-improving tool. If you use it regularly it's worth it to spring the $20/year for the "plus" version.
Classroom note: Wow factor is still high
Review & Comments about Google Earth in Academic Tools Blog
MS Powerpoint

What it Does: The standard slide-show creator
Runs on: PC, Mac
Drexel Site License
Best Feature: Professional appearance made easy.
Worst Feature: It's difficult to change course in mid-stream presentation.
Immediately Useful: Yes --- Learning Time: Hours --- Export/Import: Medium
My use: Regular --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: It's not fair to blame the tool for its misuse, but many people do.
WebCT Vista

What it Does: Course Management system with many features
Runs on: Web
Drexel Site License
Best Feature: Very powerful - particularly for tests, quizzes, homework, remote learning.
Worst Feature: Confusing and cumbersome for all but the simplest tasks.
Immediately Useful: Yes --- Learning Time: Hours --- Export/Import: Medium
My use: Infrequent --- Confidence in Evaluation: Good
Comment: Drexel's major online courseware management system. We also have Blackboard in some departments.

 

 

Update: 2006-11-26