Saturday, August 28, 2010

Why I Nspire? Part 2 - software

I wonder how many of my students' parents read Good House Keeping. It was neat to see the positive review from the experts at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute lab for the kind of technology we are using in my classroom. Also of interest, that I've been meaning to link to, is a news release about the TI-Nspire Touchpad that came out about the time I was in San Diego for the large annual math teacher conference NCTM. Finally, here are answers to the top 10 questions parents ask about graphing calculators.

So back to the topic of ...
Why do I use the TI-Nspire CAS Touchpad in my classroom? Why would a parent want to get the TI-Nspire or TI-Nspire CAS for their child?

2. the SOFTWARE - When you buy a typical graphing calculator, that is all you get - a handheld device that is nice and durable (I wouldn't recommend subjecting it to extreme frigid temperatures). The batteries last a lot longer than a laptop. But if you get the new TI-Nspire, you also get the student software included. A few months ago you would have to buy it separately, retail price close to $100, and I suppose it is still available. But NOW it comes with the software. As TI's website says, it is a 3-for-1.

There are many schools now that are using laptops. I've heard of schools were the underclassmen are getting tablet PCs. The Nspire Student Software would be a perfect fit for this situation because they can use the emulator-like software and then when it comes time to take tests like the AP, PSAT, SAT, etc, then they are familiar and comfortable with the handheld Nspire that works just like the software.

More ways to distribute files
There are a lot of great activities that are ready to use that are available on sites like and Teachers today also have ways to post them to secure school websites. Our school uses edline. I've also heard of schools that use RenWeb and Angel. When students check to see what the assignment is they can also click the tns (Nspire software file) that I have posted. If they are using one of the computers they installed the software on then it will open right up. In addition to the password protected website, our school also has a website where I have posted activities.

Collecting files
These files that students do can be collected or turned in for a grade via email or by sending the files to their handheld. No longer does a student need another piece of software (like TI-Connect for the TI-83/84 or TI-Computer Link for the Nspire). The TI-Nspire Student Software or Teacher Software makes the process of transferring files to a handheld connected to their computer as easy and drag and drop. Files sent to their handheld can be collected from students with TI-Connect-to-Class or with the TI-Nspire Navigator.

Pedagogical benefits
It has been my experience that students with the software explore mathematics more. This is huge! It is the dream of teachers that students would engage with the subject on their own. This additional opportunity to use mathematical technology empowers students to wonder 'what if' and then actually investigate it. I think this is particularly true for the TI-Nspire CAS (computer algebra system - for a comparison to the numeric Nspire check out this link).

It is easier for students to navigator the menu options and 'mouse around' with their computer. With the latest TI-Nspire 2.1 operating system larger files like those found on Math Nspired open so much faster and response with the Touchpad has improved as well, but when you use a computer to explore math and science topics with TI-Nspire technology then everything is extremely fluid and quick to respond.

I also think there are a number of pedagogical benefits of color. Students who use the software enjoy mathematics in color.

Sure there are reasons to use the handheld:
(i) It is useful on high stakes tests where a computer isn't allowed - you wouldn't want students looking things up on the internet or 'phone(text)-a-friend' to find an answer.
(ii) The handheld is useful for easily grading and keeping track of formative assessment when the teacher uses Navigator.
(iii) The handhelds are great for portable data collection with Vernier probes. You can go outside in the snow and use temperature probes or walk around in the hallway to learn about slope with the CBR2. It is nice not to be constrained to a computer.

Another feature of the software that students are likely to use include screen shots for lab reports. Stat
students will enjoy copy pasting data and easily porting it to their handheld. The software enables students to maximize the benefits of multiple representations of split screens. Currently I will not likely often use the computer view on the software for presentations in class or at conferences, but you get a lot more real estate with the smaller font of the software's computer view.

I am excited about so many improved features of the software that came about with the 2.0 OS.
The release notes do a nice job at explaining what new.

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