Tuesday, March 29, 2011

TI-Nspire Lab Cradle: Part 1

I just got back from a great T^3 STEM Conference in the Atlanta area. It was a blast* sharing "Colorful ConneXions" between math and science with the TI-Nspire CX CAS. (*Yes, I did show a video of the blast off of a recent Space Shuttle launch and gave links to NASA TI-Nspire activities, like this Alg 1 activity.) These CX sessions had an excellent mix of teachers and technology coordinators, including physics, physical science, calculus, and algebra instructors. One participant from Florida, who I hope to see at a Summer Workshop, wanted the session to keep on going because he enjoyed it so much.

Some of the participants were excited to learn about the new Vernier DataQuest application and wanted to know more about the TI-Nspire Lab Cradle, like how much it costs. For the participants who were familiar with Vernier's Logger Pro, they felt right at home with the DataQuest. They were pleased with the options available, like the built-in Motion Match, along with the versatility of the functionality.

Regarding connecting sensors, to use one CBR2 or an Easy Temp you do not need any interface device. Plug it in and you are ready to go and have students make discoveries and connections about slope, sinusoidal cures, parabolas and more. Two of my students won a trip for themselves and me to the Kennedy Space Center for their research and presentation regarding parabolas with the motion detector. (Here is the press release from last year.) Teachers will appreciate that you can just plug in the motion detector and click the green start collection button to get the position-time and corresponding velocity-time graph simultaneously.
Update: With OS 3.6 in December 2013, you don't need to move your cursor or press TAB to get to the green start collection button. It is active and ready for you to press Enter to begin collecting data. 

By pressing menu, Analyze, Tangent (derivative) or Integral, calculus classes will find themselves easily making real-world connections.

The Easy Link, an interface between one probe and the TI-Nspire handheld, enables you to plug into a good number of sensors. It costs $59. However, you are still limited to one sensor unless you plug into a computer. You can connect as many sensors as you have USB ports and Go! Links.

Data collection is extremely fast and easy when you do two sensors at the same time. Currently this can be done with the old TI-Nspire Navigator Cradle or with the software.
Now with the TI-Nspire Lab Cradle you can connect the mini-USB port on the top to the USB of your computer (no TI-Nspire handheld required) and enjoy demonstrating data collection with the 3 analog (for most sensors, including voltage, pressure, etc) and 2 digital (like for the CBR, microphone, rotary motion sensor, etc) channels.

Some examples of data collected with two sensors include: 

- Magnetic Field Sensor, current probe, and a slinky to get great linear data
- magnetic field sensor and motion sensor for distance for an inverse relationship
- light intensity and distance - an inverse square law relationship
- voltage and current - the slope of this linear data is resistance, based on Ohm's Law.

With the Lab Cradle you will even be able to plug in two CBRs if you have a mdc-btd cable. Students can then investigate motion parametrically. One motion detector can be oriented in the x-direction and the other in the y.

YES, you read that correctly. With the Lab Cradle you can use the old Vernier probes and sensors you've had in a science storage room or mathematics teacher's closet. This includes the CBR! I'll try to share more on this and include pictures this next week.

Also, the TI-Nspire Lab Cradle is like getting 3 Easy Links plus a lot of things you couldn't get or do with the Easy Link. So in that regards the $145 doesn't seem so bad. Especially if you got the 5-pack bundle that comes with a 5-unit charging bay, that would be enough for just about any class size. With the experiment set up, every student could collect the data on their own Nspire.

In a similar price range is Vernier's LabQuest Mini. It is $149. With that you will need a computer with Logger Pro or Logger Pro Lite. Of course with the Lab Cradle you need a TI-Nspire OR a computer with Nspire software (http://www.vernier.com/calc/ti-nspire/interfaces-and-sensors.html).
Vernier's stand alone device is LabQuest. This impressive colorful touchscreen device is $329, but it comes with the emulator software.

So if your school, or even if it is just you using the TI-Nspire Software, or if you have some students with the TI-Nspire, what should you get?

I'll try to answer this in more detail next time...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What does CX stand for?

In the effort to achieve success in the classroom through the appropriate use of technology the CX brings some exciting improvements. Just yesterday I had a student ask what does the CX stand for in TI-Nspire CX. So here is my response to this question.

C is for color or colour for those outside the U.S. And what might the X stand for? Well,
eXtra color obviously. Or perhaps it suggests that it is
eXciting and new. As you can see from picture, it is
eXtra thin. It is flatter than many cell phones. I put it on the table next to a blackberry and they were about the same thickness. It is
eXtra bright. With the backlit screen it makes it so much easier to read then its predecessor. The screen is so crisp and clear, students have commented that it is a better screen than their cell phone. Many teachers will especially enjoy that it has
eXtra battery life. No longer will teachers or students need to replace the AAA batteries. It doesn't use any. It can run for weeks without needing recharged. When it does need recharged, this can be done with the wall charger that comes with the purchase, or the mini USB can be connected via a wire to the USB of a computer, OR it can be docked into a CX docking station, OR it will be charged from the Navigator cradles. Another extra is
eXtra memory. When I turn on my TI-Nspire CAS Touchpad and look at the status it says it has 27.8MB; the TI-Nspire CX CAS has 115.2MB. Maybe the X stands for
eXpandable. There is a special CX TI-Navigator Wireless Network Adapter that is yellow and sits atop the CX. This plugs into the new port on the top and has little metal 'grips' that are secured in the groves on the side. Our school has purchased through a couple of distributors over the past years, including Bach Company and School Mart. The latter says the CX Navigator hardware will be ready to ship in May. Another way to expand the TI-Nspire CX is with the Vernier Lab Cradle. This tool which will be available in April will enable data collection in ways that were not previously possible. Finally, I suggest that the TI-Nspire CX is
eXtra nice, because it plays well with others. The Lab Cradles work on any TI-Nspire. If you already have the TI-Nspire Navigator, those cradles fit really well on the CX and you can have a mixed class of Clickpads, Touchpads and CX. However, I would recommend only having a class of Touchpads or CX because all the buttons are in essentially the same location. I've heard many teachers and students who first get their hands on the CX exclaim how much they like the button on the new CX. They also quickly notice the responsiveness of CX's touchpad. That's right, it still uses the touchpad and is not a touchscreen. This means that it is still allowed on all the major tests. The TI-Nspire CX CAS is permitted on the PSAT, SAT, AP exams like AP Calculus, AP Statistics, AP Physics, AP Chemistry, etc. In addition to the above, the numeric TI-Nspire CX is permitted on the ACT and IB exams.

For those wondering, 'What is this information about a graphing calculator doing on a Godly Dominion blog?' I would answer both you and myself that technology, especially educational technology that seeks to "inspire all students to achieve to their potential and become innovators of tomorrow," is an integral part of the cultural mandate, or the dominion mandate, in Genesis 1:28.

And in the words of one of history's greatest mathematical physicists,
“Almighty God, who hast created man in Thine own image, and made him a living soul that he might seek after Thee and have dominion over Thy creatures, teach us to study the works of Thy hands that we may subdue the earth to our use, and strengthen our reason for Thy service; and so to receive Thy blessed Word, that we may believe on Him whom Thou has sent to give us the knowledge of salvation and the remission of sins. All which we ask in the name of the same Jesus Christ our Lord.” - James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

TI-Nspire CX at T-cubed in San Antonio

At the recent Teachers Teaching with Technology International Conference in San Antonio, I had a great time seeing friends and new technology that will be a blessing to the math and science classroom. There have been questions about how clear is the CX color and backlit screen. To the right you can see a picture I took with my camera. The picture of the flowers were taken by my daughter Lydia in our backyard. This gives new meaning to graphing and rotating a polar 'rose.'

Inserting images makes mathematical modeling a lot more fun. I was showing the picture of the Alamo with the equations on it to a TI-Nspire Online User Group (The next meeting is April 14.), when someone asked about how the circle was draw. When you are on a Graphs or Geometry page you can press menu > Shapes > Circle.
After the circle is draw, you press menu > Actions > Coordinates and Equation and click the circle to show the equation of the circle. I like to move my cursor over the circle and press ctrl menu for right-click and choose Coordinates and Equation. Showing the coordinate or equation is a feature that can be turned off by teachers who do not want students to have access to this. To do this they would use Press-to-Test.

Not that too many high school teachers use 3D by graphing z(x,y), but there is definitely a lot of excitement about this functionality on the TI-Nspire. It is so much more powerful than what was available with the TI-89. When z1(x,y)=x^2+y^2 is entered in the 3D graph view, a paraboloid is almost immediately rendered. This used to take a lot more computing time on the 89. Then something the 89 couldn't do, graph another 3D graph on top of that and z-trace. Auto-rotate by pressing A or just use the arrows.
Here is a video of a 3D graph that is rotated. I guess I need a better video camera if I want to do any future videos like this. To the right is a much better picture of what the heart looked like on the TI-Nspire CX handheld. (Here is a link for more graphs of hearts.) I was showing this to some middle school students last night. My oldest daughter was begging me to show her friends the CX. Some of her basketball teammates were spending the night on Friday before they went on a service project on Saturday morning. This group of girls said they had never heard of a z-axis. By easily changing the orientation of the axis by pressing x, y, and z or rotating using the arrows, it was fun to watch the 'light bulbs' turn in in their minds. They were so excited about math and learning some things their teachers hadn't taught them. They were exploring and explaining to each other what the z-axis was. With color, images, and fun 3D shapes, math becomes a lot more cool, even for 8th grade girls at a sleep over.

Yes, 3D and the new differential equations graph type, now enabling the drawing of slope fields from anywhere - even the Scratchpad, will be features that are available for the CAS or numeric TI-Nspire or TI-Nspire CX when they upgrade to 3.0.