So, what is exportability and how does it relate to open source educational technology? Exportability is the ability of an instructional product to be utilized in a setting other than the one for which it was designed. How do you make an educational product exportable? It’s not as complex as it sounds. You simply need to create an instructor’s manual providing information about how to employ the product. That’s it. So, if you have a student for whom you’ve created some great instructional materials, be sure to create instructor’s manuals so the educators with whom your student will work in the future will know how to use them.
So, what is LibreOffice Math and why is it so important to computer programming? While most people are familiar with LibreOffice, LO Math, the equation editor, is arguably the least known component. On a whim one day, I decided to check out LibreOffice Math. The experience was an eye-opener. This is a wonderful tool for building equations. The interface is clean and there are features that any mathematician would savor.
Looking at the screenshot to the right, we see that the LibreOffice Math window is divided into three panes. The two stacked panes on the right constitute the Equation Editor. The pane on the left is referred to as the Elements window. The elements presented here are mathematical in nature and can be dragged and dropped to the top pane at right. The pane below the top right pane presents the equation in a written format, similar to that used in programming languages. The equation can edited here or in the pane above. This whole interface is topped off with a toolbar and menu bar at the top of the window. In regards to elements offered, these include unary/binary operators, trigonometric functions and mathematical relations, as well as providing examples and allowing users to customize the appearance of their equations.
What makes LibreOffice Math so ideal as a learning platform for burgeoning programmers is the fact that it provides them with a means to experiment with and to become more familiar with, Boolean Operators (and, or, not). Boolean Operators are used by computer programs to tell the computer that a decision must be made at a given point. For example, the line “if A=no then 100″ tells the computer that if the value of A equals ‘no” then the computer should proceed to line 100 of the program. It’s a fairly straightforward concept and a skill that should be cultivated early in would-be programmers. If they have this principle mastered when they first start writing computer programs, then they will be that much farther ahead in the game.
The equations can be fairly complex, depending on the need. There is a fairly all-inclusive library of equation expressions to draw upon. Looking at the screenshot above, you can see my modest creation. It is a circuit created in discrete mathematics. To the layman, it simply reads “‘A and B’ or ‘B and C’ not ‘A and C'”. Imagine what an enthusiastic learner could accomplish.
My advice is to take a look at LibreOffice Math for yourself. You’ll see my point. When you’re comfortable with it, introduce your students to LO Math. Once they are familiar with it, you should be able to step back and watch the magic unfurl.
LibreOffice 5.4 help: Instructions for using LibreOffice Math. (n.d.). Mozilla Public License.
Retrieved from https://help.libreoffice.org/5.4/gu/text/smath/main0000.html?DbPAR=MATH.