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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


LiveGraphics3D

by Martin Kraus
 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

4.7 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 4.5 stars
Ease of Use: 4.5 stars
Reviewed: Jun 02, 2006 by Mathematics
Overview: LiveGraphics3D is a non-commercial Java 1.1 applet that enables users to put
almost any three-dimensional graphics computed by Mathematica directly onto an
HTML page. It can then be viewed and interactively rotated without any
additional software. LiveGraphics3D also shows animations and supports
parametrized graphics.
Learning Goals: To facilitate visualization of 3D objects by allowing interactive
experimentation with existing objects or custom creation of new objects.
Target Student Population: Students in any course that would benefit from being able to see, and rotate, 3D
objects (e.g., geometry, multivariable calculus, topology, chemistry, physics).
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Comfort with using a computer mouse and a web browser to manipulate a Java
applets. No prerequisites to simply view examples; familiarity with Mathematica
to create your own examples.
Type of Material: Java applet.
Recommended Uses: Examples can be viewed for student enrichment purposes. Creation of new
examples could be useful as a student project or for faculty use.
Technical Requirements: Users must produce (or find) graphics generated by Mathematica
(www.wolfram.com). No knowledge of Java is required, but users might need to
install a JAR file (installation instructions are provided on the LiveGraphics3D
website).

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: At the new user level, as a way to view existing examples, this applet is
effective, easy to use and offers powerful visualization experiences for
students at all levels. At a more advanced user level it also provides a
simple, powerful tool suitable for student projects or for individual faculty
use.
A variety of already made examples includes basic graphics such as butterfly and
Borromean rings, graphics with hyperlinks such as a flock of birds, animations
and sound such as a New Year explosion, and parametrized graphics such as a
Spirograph.

For those interested in creating their own examples, LiveGraphics3D can be
downloaded and there are tutorials on the appropriate use of Mathematica and
links to other pages that incorporate LiveGraphics3D.
Concerns: Users who do not know Mathematica are limited to the graphics generated by other
users.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: This applet offers powerful opportunities to improve students’ abilities to
visualize 3D objects at all levels of mathematics and in courses such as
chemistry and physics. The built-in examples are visually appealing.
It also offers the ability to create material to use in your own web pages
Concerns: The restriction to Mathematica graphics is limiting.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: The instructions provided on the website are detailed, clear, and indicate an
awareness of issues that users might face. Documentation, examples, links and
the ability to directly contact the author are included. The documentation
section includes guides to user interface, installation and production of
graphics. The homepage includes a “latest news” section.
Concerns: Again, users who do not know Mathematica are at an initial disadvantage in terms
of creating new material.

Other Issues and Comments: This applet provides a wonderful enhancement to the standard three dimensional
calculus course.
Students at all levels have a hard time thinking in three dimensions. While
Mathematica itself (and other such software) offers the ability to rotate 3D
graphics, it takes time to teach students how use Mathematica. This applet
allows students to inspect 3D objects from the comfort of a web browser without
first having to learn Mathematica.
An instructor can choose from a variety of examples offered at the website
and/or create his/her own if he/she knows how to generate graphics using
Mathematica. Use of this applet involves some planning: graphics must be
generated using Mathematica, then run through the applet for display on a
webpage.