As you know, Shaun "Merthsoft" McFall, Adrien "Adriweb" Bertrand, and myself, Christopher "Kerm Martian" Mitchell, have been spending the weekend at Texas Instruments' T^3 conference. One of the big focuses has been TI's new TI-Nspire Apps for iPad, which are intended to be essentially a new handheld in the TI-Nspire family. We have seen quite a few domonstrations, and this afternoon we attended a panel with Dr. Mayim Bialik, Ms. Sheri Abel, and Ms. Stephanie Ogden. Dr. Bialik mediated a discussion about the teachers' experiences integrating the Apps into their own classrooms, then they took questions from the audience. The highlights of the Q&A:
Q: How have the Apps changed how you teach math in the classroom? A: Surprisingly, not much. Helps facilitate the lessons already being taught
Q: How has the technology changed the level of engagement in the classroom? A: Students have many more of the "aha!" moments when you know that the concept has clicked for the students. Students seemed to have many of the same experiences with the TI-84 Plus series and the TI-Nspire series, where they get to the point where they say, "I get it!". In this case the main advantage is that the learning curve to overcome for the technology itself is much lower.
Q: Can you highlight specific activities or skills the Apps for iPad have helped? A: "Domain and Range", and "Domain and Range 2", have given the students the ability to drag the functions and see what changes.
A: Presenting all sorts of problems more visually with the Apps give students a more intuitive grasp of the concepts across the board.
A: It forces the students to understand a lot of the algebraic structure behind the problems; they learn about the math by putting it into the Apps' templates properly.
Q: Can you talk more about how the integration into the classroom looks? A: In my class, they pick up an iPad before class and drop it off at the end of class, as well as a handheld. Why both? Because I prefer to use the handheld for Navigator-based evaluations. Plus they'll need the handheld skills for standardized tests, where they can't use the iPad.
A: In my class, they have the textbook as an eBook on a second iPad, looking at the two side-by-side. They are able to use many of the Navigator features on the iPad, so I don't know if they'll need the handheld except for standarized tests in the future. I'm hoping because the handheld and the iPad are similar, they'll be able to make the transition seamlessly.
Q: What challenges did you encounter? A: Getting files to the iPads via Dropbox proved challenging; they kept forgetting their credentials. As far as the math skills, there were few challenges.
Q: How much benefit do you see if just the teacher uses the iPad for instruction, and not the students? A: We had something like that experience in our classroom, because we didn't keep the iPads after the pilot ended. I now have my own iPad, while the students have the handheld, and it is still helpful as a teaching tool.
A: My school did something similar; you get many of the same benefits without the additional cost.
Q: You touched on the engagement of the students with the software. How has the engagement between students and teachers changed? A: They can communicate in different ways and more ways with the students; doesn't seem to distracted them much.
Q: If we have the TI-84 Plus now, should we go to the TI-Nspire handhelds, or the iPads? A: You can indeed use just a single iPad to drive the instruction, as long as you're willing to let the students occasionally use your iPad to help drive the lesson, as they will have a good deal of intuition into using it. They'll then have a leg up when/if they need to transition to the handhelds.
A: The TI-84 Plus is still a very rich environment, and if you can integrate the two together, you'll continue to make the classroom more interactive and more exciting.
Q: Have you been using the calculator mainly as a player for activities, or as a graphing calculator? A: In my classroom, we tend to do both. For conceptual understanding, I want them to be able to visualize the problems that they're working with in class.
A: I would say that I have used it in both ways, but that I mainly use it for sending and receiving documents to and from students. I can send out assignments directly through the iPads, then back through email.
Q: How do you present the activities from the iPad? A: AirPlay. A: Via Apple TV. You can also do it via an adapter if you can plug your computer in.
Q: My department is concerned about how this would work in a test environment. The iPad is connected; how do we deal with this? Have you had this problem? A: I fixed this by restricting the iPads with a passcode, so they couldn't access the internet during a testing situation. (Follow-up: we have a problem because it's their iPad).
A: It is a problem, and I can't say that we have solved it yet.
This did indeed help us to learn more about the applicability of the Apps, especially since none of us here at Cemetech have had an opportunity to try out the TI-Nspire Apps for iPad in person yet. We look forward to continuing to hear more opinions about the new Apps from more educators as the conference continues. Cemetech global moderator comicIDIOT plans to review the TI-Nspire Apps soon, so we look forward to hearing what he finds.