This past weekend saw Cemetech administrator Christopher "KermMartian" Mitchell spending his second T^3 International Conference in Las Vegas. We reportedthoroughlyallweekend; now that the conference is over, it's time to review all of my notes and report everything of interest that didn't already pass across the Cemetech front page at some point. Many of these bits of information come from the generous and always-accomodating Dale Philbrick, Directory of Professional Development for TI Education, though some come from other sources. Without further ado:
TI-84+CSE OS 4.2 Updates: When we first discovered TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition OS version 4.2, we thought it only contained updates to make TestGuard more secure. Discussion with Texas Instruments suggested that some of the updates also went hand-in-hand with the recent release of CellSheet for the TI-84+CSE. Investigation by community leader Brandon Wilson revealed the following changes and facts:
:: CellSheet works properly on 4.0 and 4.2, and does not include any version checks.
:: The status area at the top of the TI-84+CSE screen is redrawn whenever the calculator is turned off.
:: The text shown in TestGuard mode is now sometimes "TEST MODE" instead of "TEST MODE ENABLED".
:: TestGuard now contains (or perhaps always contained) hashes of all OSes from 1.00 to 4.2. It uses those hashes to allow "host" calculators to check the validity of the OS on "slave" calculators entering TestGuard mode.
:: Two new page 0 calls of no particular import.
TI-84+CSE OS 4.2 Bugs: Cemetech has collected 19 bugs in TI-OS 4.0 and 4.2, documented in The Big Bad Bundle of TI-84 Plus C SE OS 4.0 & 4.2 Bugs. They range from "fatal" bugs that can cause permanent memory corruption to minor bugs like misaligned numbers in the user interface. The community had previous discovered that none of these nineteen bugs had been repaired between TI-OS 4.0 and 4.2 when we announced TI-OS 4.2. I spoke with members of TI's product development team, and unfortunately, their best suggestion was that we contact TI-CARES to make sure that these bugs get reported. Although I know (and shared with them) that people here have had disappointing results trying to report OS bugs via TI-CARES in the past, it's worth a try.
One Year with the TI-84+CSE: Students, teachers, and the programming community have been using the color-screen TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition for over a year now. At T^3 2013, it seemed like TI was hesitant to commit completely to the new color calculator, preferring to wait and see how it was received. Now that they've had a year to listen to feedback, my contacts indicated that reception has been overwhelmingly positive. Teachers who are used to the TI-83 Plus/TI-84 Plus line and districts that can't afford or don't want to upgrade to the TI-Nspire have indicated their happiness that all the skills from the monochrome z80 calculators carry over, and the new model ensures that the pedagogical advantages of the color screen are available to both TI-84 Plus and TI-Nspire users. I was interested to hear the TI-84 Plus line and TI-Nspire line referred to as the two "hero" lines, indicating in what is a surprise to absolutely no one that while TI continues to support and sometimes even update lines like the TI-73 and TI-89, the focus on the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition and TI-Nspire CX has allowed them to devote effort into depth. This leads to...
Pedagogy and Professional Development: Now that the TI-Nspire CX and TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition are relatively mature products, TI has been putting a great deal of effort into building professional development material and classroom activities to fit the calculators into more areas of math and science development. One catalyst for this push has been the Common Core (CCSS), Texas state standards, and other new teaching standards have been introduced; Mr. Philbrick indicated that TI has been updating both TI-84 Plus series and TI-Nspire CX-focused professional development curricula to be compatible with the new standards. For example, the Common Core focus on "progressions" has led TI to produce content somewhat different than what they've created in the past. The Stem Behind Hollywood set of activities has been fantastically popular, and new modules will be released throughout this year. With the established product lines, more development effort can be put into giving teachers curriculum material and activities without the teachers needing to do all the work themselves.
TI-Nspire Features and Content: Mr. Philbrick noted that one of the attractive aspects of relatively powerful but high-level Lua on the TI-Nspire is that adding new features doesn't necessarily mean releasing a new OS version. It seems TI Education is embracing Lua as a way to add features by way of new Lua programs, as well as to continue to create interactive content to be included in classroom activities. Lua has also made it easier for TI and teachers to develop programs that work on the TI-Nspire CX, the TI-Nspire Apps for iPad, and the computer TI-Nspire Lua emulator. Both new content and existing content are being examined to make sure they look and function correctly with touch and non-touch devices and different screen dimensions.
Needless to say, I appreciate Mr. Philbrick's (and his colleagues Andrew's and Marianne's) willingness to speak to me and share this information. If you have any follow-up questions, I'll do what I can to research them, although no guarantees. Who knows, maybe there could even be calculator programming curricula one day if teachers fully embrace graphing calculators as a cross-discipline teaching tool, eh?