Sunday, January 15, 2012

Review: Xournal

Xournal is another cool technology tool that I've been using in my class sessions lately. There may be other similar programs out there for Windows or Mac, but my reduced-functionality laptop is running Ubuntu (a Linux OS), and this program is free (Linux Link, Windows link, no Mac link)

The icon
Basically, Xournal is a digital piece of paper that you can write on. You can change the page background to give it lines, grid lines, or make it blank. It has a tool bar that allows you type text, draw shapes, draw lines, move things, select items, change colors, etc. 

It looks a lot like your basic Paint/Drawing program. In fact, the only real benefit of using this program over something like Paint is the one that I like the most: all of the pieces in the document retain their integrity and you can move them after the fact (even if they are layered). It's great for demonstrating good note-taking skills in class or for recording emergent language. I take notes and project it from my laptop while my students are talking, and then when I get home, I clean it up, convert if to a PDF and mail it out.

screen shot of a fake diagram I made :)

  • Using this program and projecting it frees the students from worrying about taking notes so that they can actually participate in the conversation
  • It helps the visual learners understand what is being said because it is written down
  • I also find that it is good for making corrections salient without embarrassing the student
  • I think it might work with well tablet, but I'm not sure
  • You can also use the program to edit and annotate PDFs - nice for personal research or modeling research/reading skills

  • It's pretty basic
  • It has your basic type, line, and color functions, but not much else
  • It can be a little glitch-y at times.

More reading:
  • Wikipedia article
  • The website of math teacher who allegedly uses it (French language, but you can still see the screen shots). I say 'allegedly' because her PDFs look WAY better than mine ;) 
  • A blog entry about using it to develop diagrams

Have you used any other similar programs? How were the features? Recommendations, anyone?