Friday, August 3, 2007

Agile Mind software: impractical for most classrooms

Today's workshop, which focused on ThinkFive's Agile Mind software, was unfortunately not as productive or useful as the TI workshops had been. Agile Mind isn't really practical for everyday use in most classrooms--unless your middle and high school students are incredibly patient, self-motivated, and reading WAY above grade level.

Created in collaboration with the University of Texas-Austin's Dana Center, Agile Mind has awesome animations covering topics from middle school on up, but the accompanying lessons are at an unreasonably high reading level and just plain wordy. My students would have a lot of trouble and get distracted from the clarity of the animations (whether they tried to actually read it or not).

In addition, if you don't have time for or access to a functioning computer lab (which is most of us, even in districts where technology is relatively well-funded), only the animations are useful as an aid in introducing, clarifying or reteaching a given topic.

If your district has this software, get an LCD projector and use the animations to supplement your teaching when appropriate.

If your district doesn't have it, I don't think it's really worth the investment. We have it in our district and only a small handful of teachers at my school actually use it, but when I argued that we should get rid of it in the face of this year's budget cuts, they not only decided to keep it, but send us to more training that doesn't solve any of the software's core problems (thereby wasting more money). This is the third workshop I've attended about this software, and I've used the animations in my classroom as I suggested above, but I still think there's better uses for our technology dollars (like on more LCD projectors).