Friday, December 9, 2011

Wolfram CDF

I have been experimenting with Wolfram's new Comuptable Document Format. I think it is a great asset for math teachers to deploy interactive visualizations to their students. Now I can create Manipulations in Mathematica and have my students interact with them without having the software. Additionally, they can download Demonstrations from the Wolfram site!
In the example below, I show the input and the Manipulate output for a problem that we did in class (find the quadratic function that has x-intercepts at 5 and -3 and passes through the point (2,2)).
Since I use blogspot, I toggled over to the HTML part and pasted in this code:
All you need to do is change the location of the site hosting my CDF file and the width and height of the embed (in my case width=400 and height=800).

<script src="" type="text/javascript">
<script type="text/javascript">
var cdf = new cdfplugin();
cdf.embed('TheWebsiteThatHostsMyCDFdocument', 400, 800);

If you are having trouble hosting your document, you can put it in a public document on Dropbox. If you don't have an account yet, I get some extra space with a referral and you get 2GB free! My referral link: Dropbox referral link. Currently, you cannot just host your document in Google Docs and embed it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Email Mail Merge: Creating Custom Comments in a Google Doc Spreadsheet

Now, that we have created a Form and are ready to collect data, I want to use the built-in functionality from Google Doc Spreadsheets to create more substantive comments on the assessed skills. The Form will automatically populate the spreadsheet when it is submitted.

Let's enter some test data into our Form to use while we create our customized email message:

Once we hit submit, our data will be populated into the spreadsheet:

From this data we want to expand on our entry for Skill#1, Skill#2, and Skill #3. We want to turn G, A, and B into more substantive comments.
First, we will create 3 new column headings labeled Comment for Skill #1, Comment for Skill #2, and Comment for Skill #3.

Notice that the new column headings are white and not grey like the previous headings (for Timestamp through Skill #3). This is because the grey columns are populated by the Form. One thing to remember is that if you add another question to the Form it will copy over the new column heading you created.

Now create a new sheet in our spreadsheet by clicking on the plus key at the bottom of the page:

Create 2 new sheets, 1 called Email Template (which we will use later) and 1 called Comment Sheet. Make sure to keep the Email Template sheet the second one from the left (important for our future purposes of creating an Email Mail Merge).

Now, go to the sheet labeled Comment Sheet. Here we are going to create the more substantive comments for each Skill that we are assessing and the 3 levels: Good, Average, Bad. For my example, I will use a soccer example for Skill #1 and Skill #2.

Now create the comment detailing each level of ability for each of the skills. For example for Skill #1:
(Notice that I have personalized it with names and gender specific comments. Later, we will edit this to put it in a different format so that Google Docs will Email Mail Merge it.)

Do the same for Skill #2 and Skill #3

Now that we have our substantive comments, we want to paste them back into the Data Collection Sheets. We will use a built-in function, IF, to do this.

You can also find a list of all the built-in functions here (where I got this info):

So, in Cell I2 (which represents the Comment for Skill #1) use the IF function. This will check the entry in F2 (where we assessed Skill #1) to see which comment to use. If it is a G, we use the comment for Skill #1 that we created in the sheet titled "Comment Sheet", the Good comment is in cell B2.

Repeat this function for Comment for Skill #2 and Comment for Skill #3. The only thing you need to change is the cells that you reference. (For Comment for Skill #2, replace F2 with G2 and B2,C2, and D2, with B3,C3, and D3).
This will automatically fill in the cell with the comment we created in the other sheet.

I have detailed my steps in this video as well.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Email Mail Merge: Creating a Google Form

In this series of posts, I am going to detail how you could create and send personalized emails from data collected in a Form.
The first thing that you need to do is create a Form in Google Docs.

I like to have the questions in the Form be the information I am collecting. For example, I use First Name, Last Name, Email Address, Gender for all of my forms. I need this information to create my personalized email messages.
Now, the next questions I create in my form are the items that I want to assess. I put the skills in there and I will then have a measure for each skill when I enter the data in the form. (I also put a description of the shortcut I would like to use as the help text for the questions).
This finishes the form (you may add as many skills in as you want to assess as additional questions). I believe that Google Forms are great as a standalone tool to collect data, but the real strength comes from the spreadsheet that gets populated from the submitted data.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Using Aviary

Let's say you are browsing and see something you want to copy on the web, left-click on the aviary icon to bring up the menu options.
Click on the "Capture Visible Portion of the Page" (or Capture Entire Page).
This will open up a new window with the Aviary image editor and your webpage selection.

As you can see there are a plethora of tools for editing your image. My favorite is the cropping tool:
Once you crop and edit your image you can save it online with many options, you can even share right to twitter.
I like to Copy the Image URL. This way, I can take the image and render the image online to paste into Gmail messages. (See my other next blog post for information on how to do this.)
By the way, I used Aviary and the steps I outlined to snip all of the images in this blog post.

Aviary and Installing the Chrome Aviary Extension

One of the most difficult parts about teaching math online is that it is cumbersome to represent math digitally. One of the best ways to overcome this is to utilize Aviary. Aviary is an awesome tool that will "snip" anything that is on the web and you can host it online, it is also part of the Google Enterprise Suite of available tools.
You can find out more at

I like to use the Google Chrome Aviary Extension. It is easy to install, even if you do not have Administrator rights on your computer. Just click the Install button. It will then appear on your browser bar on the right.

It will then appear on your browser bar all the way to the right.
Now, the Aviary Extension is installed and ready for use.

Welcome to Math Tech Tips

The goal of this blog is to relay techniques that I use to communicate mathematics digitally to my students.