Desmos aims to reduce the problems of being locked in to board-specific IWB software by offering platform-agnostic software that enables users to build and share rich educational content.
Desmos builds interactive lessons that are completely browser-based — it gives the users the ability to collaborate in realtime to create lesson resources. You can do many of the things regular IWB software can – type text, write with a freehand pen, use simple shapes and insert graphs.
I’m very aware that this is a beta version, so not every feature is in place just yet – but I like what I’ve seen so far.
If you are familiar with the standard IWB software then the tools should look pretty similar. The pen, text and shapes tool are pretty easy to use. Pen and Font size is changed by a slider on the top toolbar.
Making drag and drop activities is very quick and simple. Text, arrows and shapes can be grouped and moved about. Images can be uploaded from your hard drive and locked in place on the page. Currently there’s no add from the web (add url or copy/paste) but hopefully that will be added in the future.
Adding graphs is very simple. Drag a graph onto the page and change the axes.The equation editor lets you type an equation onto the page. When you drop this onto the graph the graph immediately adds that line. There’s no table tool at present that I could see for adding data sets to the graph. I’m hoping that will come later.
The equation editor is pretty neat with all the symbols and formulae that you would need. The symbols tool also lets you easily add foreign letters and accents.
Desmos uses a browser to create the resources, so you will need a live internet connection to create a resource. It is saved to your dashboard area of your account. When finished a resource can be “published” which means anyone can view and access it. You can download the file as a pdf or as a zip file that contains everything to play that resource in your browser even if offline. This would be handy for local use in schools.
The online nature means it would be easy to share finished lessons with colleagues or students. Online resources can be shared for collaborative group work, so several teachers or students can be working on the same resource.
Finished files can also be embedded into a blog or VLE – here’s a (quick) example that I produced. (if that doesnt work, here’s the direct link) Strangely the layers have moved about, but this is a beta.
Desmos uses Flash so at present this leaves out iPad users but according to their FAQ an iPad app could be something developed in the future.
Once Desmos leaves private beta and becomes open to more users it is definitely something that you should take a look at. Especially if you’re not a fan of your current IWB software, or want something that you can produce to use on any brand of IWB in the future. http://www.desmos.com
So is the future browser-based? Are classroom teachers ready for working in the Cloud yet? let me know in the comments!