I have been reading about more classrooms using blended learning as technology becomes a natural part of education. One article stressed that it doesn’t always have to be students 1:1 on computers. It could be a YouTube video, a teacher made video, Twitter chats using personal devices, etc. Of course I immediately thought, “What about CAS?” Although there are CAS applications on computers, there are CAS apps on tablets and of course the TI calculators. I have yet to come across a teacher in middle school or high school that did not have access to a calculator. The key is asking for the correct device.
Blended learning according to Google is “a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through delivery of content and instruction via digital and online media with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace.” This definition varies with different sources but all have the same basics: The student is not sitting and listening to a teacher talk for the whole class and some part of the learning is digital. Most sources state there is a student-controlled path and pace also. Using CAS covers all of these things. TI has activities for their devices that allows students to learn by just using the device and following instructions. Teachers can create lessons ahead of time and send to the device for students to use. CAS apps allow for downloading pictures from the internet to be used with investigations of skills. It is not meant to be the ONLY tool in a blended learning environment, but it definitely should be in your toolbox.
This part of the blog post is going on a little tangent, but I get this excuse all the time. “My school does not have the money for technology.” Money is always an issue with technology but there is state and federal money allotted to schools for instructional technology. There are also grants that are fairly easy to get.
- The first step is to let your administrator know that you want new devices. Be prepared to negotiate. The word “calculator” is usually easier to sell than “device” or “iPad”. If you feel your classroom will benefit more from the tablets, agree to 5 or 6 and use in groups but don’t forget the money needed to purchase apps. If needed suggest stages, i.e. get 3 each year until we have a classroom set.
- The next step is be willing to follow through by finding out when the district orders technology and keep gently reminding your administrator. Do the leg work and find out the costs of different solutions and have it ready at all times.
- Look for grants! Donorschoose.org is designed for schools and has companies just waiting to give you money without you having to find them yourself. A science teacher in our building received TI-Nspires and probes this year by using this website.
- Finally be patient. It may not happen over night, but eventually your school will get you what you need. Assuming your school does not have the money will get you no where. Not asking will get you nothing. I have only worked for two different districts but both were not “rich” schools. Both were rural and one has even been in financial distress. I have had to wait 6 months, but have always been able to get some technology that I have asked for. One year I had been asking for a TI-Navigator system which then was going to run around $6000 for the handhelds and systems. My administrator said they would try but didn’t know when. I was in my classroom when the office said they were sending a sub because the superintendent wanted to see me. I tell you I was scared to death! What had I done that I had to go straight to the top? It turns out the school had to spend some technology money by the end of the month or they were going to lose it and the amount was very close to the amount I needed for my system. He asked for a summary of what it was, what it did, and how it would help our students. He liked my answer and I had the system before the end of the school year.
Blended learning is the future and has been proven to motivate students. What we once thought would be impossible is now not only possible but inevitable. Are educators ready? Ready or not it is here.
I promise I am working on another CAS lesson to share (Hint: think proportionality) but I also love to share stories of students’ first impressions of a CAS device. As most of you know by now for me this is the TI-Nspire CX CAS handheld or the TI-Nspire CAS iPad app. In this case it was the handheld.
This week my students took a categorical self-assessment on categories such as utilization of class time, level of effort, learning new skills, staying focused on assignments, etc. Next the students averaged their rating for an overall percentage. They had their choice of a TI-84 Plus, a TI-84 Plus CE, their phone, the computer calculator, or the TI-Nspire CX CAS handheld to do the calculations. Fifty percent of the students chose the CAS handheld. Now our CAS handhelds are new to all of these students at this time. I did not give any instruction I promise. I just handed them out. Only one student had a question about how to operate and that was because it opened on the setup screen. The only other question I received was, “Why does it give me a fraction instead of a decimal when I divide?” Now talk about a teaching moment! This happened in six different classes, grades 7th-12th, gifted students to students with 504’s and IEP’s. Merry Christmas to me!
Moral of the story
One of the biggest obstacles I have to getting teachers to use CAS is they claim that students won’t know how to use them and they do not have the time or knowledge to teach them. I just proved no EXTRA teaching is necessary and the teaching you do need will be math skills and practices that should be in every class. I also want to add the Texas Instruments has getting started docs and tutorials for all of their devices for anyone willing to look at them.
So can I do CAS? The answer is YES! Everyone can do CAS.
I attended the Arkansas Curriculum Conference last week, and it was awesome as usual! Thanks to Lynne and all the people that put it together. There were several sessions I wanted to attend and had to choose. From all the sessions I attended and presented, I gathered a common theme: Students learn more when they create the “rules” themselves.
By “rules” I mean properties, algorithms, theorems, postulates, etc. This is why CAS should be a part of every math and science classroom. CAS can enhance any lesson and any activity to draw those conjectures from the students and motivate them to discover the “rules” for themselves. In my sessions I met the same old stereotype that the TI-Nspire CX CAS is just another calculator. I hope I enlightened some educators to the fact that CAS devices are a teaching and learning tool not just a calculator. If you are assessing the students on if they know their multiplication facts, do not give them a device. (Just to be clear I have strong opinions on this topic and am in no way advocating requiring students to memorize facts.) If you are assessing the students on how well they understand the math, having a device should not matter if you ask the questions correctly no matter what it is called. CAS devices such as the TI-Nspire series are TOOLS and should be used appropriately and strategically…Did I just quote a best practice? (MP5 for CCSS and computer algebra system is stated specifically under this practice.) Feel free to check.
In closing I enjoyed all of the sessions and appreciate the educators who attended mine. A special thanks to Linda Griffith for leading the ACTM group and Tony Timms for being my sidekick in my sessions. See everyone in Orlando!
Wanted to share the good news. One of our science teachers received a grant today for some TI-Nspire CX CAS’s. She plans to use them for data analysis and with the activities from the TI Education website. Hopefully this will catch on in our school and her PLN. This is one small victory for CAS. We can change the educational world one teacher at a time.
We are 6 1/2 weeks into school and it seems we just started. I have convinced one science and one math teacher to Use More CAS. Now the issue is training. With all the webinars, conferences, and of course a regional instructor in the building one would think this an easy task. I have found that is not the case. Finding time during the school year for PD seems to be impossible especially if administration prefers it to be only during off hours. Now I have the dilemma of how to make it easy for teachers to learn more CAS. I go back to my thought from this Summer: Don’t do it all at once, but do it bit by bit. I plan to work on this in the upcoming months. I also need to start thinking about how Use More CAS can be offered in the standard Summer PD. How do I be proactive without being pushy? How do I convince other schools this is worth a day of your time? Only time will tell.