Why not to use multiple windows in your applets

Jonas Hall, Michael Borcherds


The short story is: They take up space, create clutter and probably hide what you are trying to teach behind a screen of complexity.

Sample construction

Why not to use multiple windows

Typically, when you want to produce high quality GeoGebra applets you want the students to be interacting with these applets in such a way that:
  • they are focused on the concept/task
  • they think for themselves, constructing their own understanding as they go along
  • they are given space and time to reflect on what they have learned
Obviously, there are indeed situations that call for more complex visualizations, but in general the old rule to Keeping it simple is very much valid here. Showing too much is just going to de-focus the students, making them more prone to rely on your mechanics than to think for themselves and take up both time and space on both their screen and in their minds, making it difficult for them to reflect on what they have learned. Perhaps you want them to measure values in your construction. One way to do this would be to create a data collection table in the applet itself, but to keep it simple, perhaps it is easier to have the students record this data on paper? Perhaps you want to show many different representations of the same concept, such as both geometrical/graphical, algebraic and numeric views of e.g. the circumference of a rectangle with a given area. But to keep it simple, perhaps it suffices to show tho two values of area and circumference as dynamic text objects in the graphic window, rather than showing the spreadsheet and the algebra windows. And think of the space multiple windows take up. If you are creating applets for use with phones then multiple windows are almost impossible and even if you are creating material to be put on a web site you probably have some sort of size restriction to make all materials look similar and fit on the web site. More windows greatly reduces what fits in each of them and add the overhead of window boundaries. So, unless you have something really special to show that really really requires them, avoid multiple windows when creating applets. They are great for bigger explorations in the classroom or for projects but not for creating "one concept per construction" applets.

What to do instead

Using only one visible window does not really limit you since other windows may be visible in the background and you can pull information from these windows into your main display.
  • Values from the spreadsheet can be put in a table using the Table[...] command.
  • Values from the Algebra window can be dragged into the Graph window, creating text objects

More examples

Here, CAS is used in the background to facilitate increased accuracy to an ordinary input box. Download this to see the javascript instructions.