Tag Archives: ipad

FREE TI-Nspire iPad App Workshop

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On Saturday, 31 May 2014, Texas Instruments (@TICalculators) and @HawkenSchool are hosting a FREE TI-Nspire iPad Workshop at Hawken’s Gries Center in Cleveland’s University Circle.  The workshop is designed for educators who are interested in or are just beginning to use the TI- Nspire App for iPad® (either CAS or numeric). It will cover the basics of getting started and teaching with the Apps.  Tom Reardon will be leading the training!

Sign up for the workshop here.  A pdf flyer for the workshop is here:   iPad App Training.

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Algebra Explorations Before Algebra

Here’s a short post to share two great tools for students to learn algebra–long before any formal algebra course and without seeming like you’re even learning algebra.

ACTIVITY ONE:  The first is a phenomenal recent set of posts on Imbalance Problems (here and here) from Paul Salomon.  If you’re on Twitter, interested in math or math education, and haven’t already, you should definitely follow him  (@lostinrecursion).

Paul is (or was) hosting an Imbalance Problem competition (mentioned at the end of his first post on  imbalance problems), but the following image from his post gives the general idea. Can you figure these out?  Better yet, can you write some of your own?  Can you encourage your students (or kids) to create some?  The process of thinking about the values of the unknown measures of the circles, squares, and triangles necessary to create these puzzles lies at the very heart of the concept of unknown variables that is so critical to algebraic reasoning.  Best of all, this feels like a game, and puzzle solvers don’t even realize they’re learning algebra.

ACTIVITY TWO:  Several months ago, a Westminster alumnus (Thanks, Phillip!) suggested an iPad app that my 3rd grade daughter instantly fell in love with–Dragon Box.  The app is available for $5.99 on both iOS and Android platforms. Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 9.07.05 PM Jonathan H. Liu (@jonathanhliu) wrote such a great overview of the play on DragonBox for Wired.  Rather than trying to imitate his post, I recommend you read his review:  DragonBox: Algebra Beats Angry Birds.  

The play of the game is great for teaching algebraic skills, again without ever seeming like it’s teaching as much as it is.  As a parent, I was THRILLED to see an educational game pull my daughter in so effectively and completely.  A high point came when I was driving carpool last week and my daughter recommended to a friend who was wondering what app would be fun to play for the ride, “Try DragonBox.  It’s fun!”

As a math teacher, I certainly can appreciate the game’s end-of-level challenges to get the box alone (solve for a variable) in the right number of moves (efficiency) using the right number of cards (also efficiency).  Still, there were a few times when I noted that a particular scenario could have been solved using a different sequence of equally-efficient moves that were not appropriately acknowledged as such by the software.  My teacher side wasn’t particularly pleased with the only-one-way-earns-top-recognition approach of the app, especially when other alternatives are equally valid.  Too many times, I fear students are faced with similar scenarios in their math classes.  Efficiency and elegance are certainly valuable skills in mathematics, but I think we too often try to impose rigor on young learners long before they have achieved basic understanding.

My grousing aside, my daughter and her friends weren’t bothered at all by the rare times where I had identified alternatives–I don’t think they even noticed.  Back to my point about too much emphasis on “the ‘right’ way” too early, I decided not to mention it to them.  As Mark Twain noted, I decided not “to let schooling get in the way of [their] education.”

CONCLUSION:  I hope you get a kick out of Paul’s imbalance problems (no matter what your age) and DragonBox if you have some younger kids around.  As always, make learning fun and not obvious–your charges will learn in spite of themselves!

New Nspire Apps PLUS Weekend Savings

TI finally converted its Nspire calculators to the iPad platform and through this weekend only in celebration of 25 years of Teachers Teaching with Technology, they’re offering both of their Nspire apps at $25 off their usual $29.99, or $4.99 each.  This is a GREAT deal, especially considering everything the Nspire can do!  Clicking on either of the images below will take you to a description page for that app.  

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In my opinion, if you’re going to get one of these, I’d grab the CAS version.  It does EVERYTHING the non-CAS version does plus great CAS tools.  Why pay the same money for the non-CAS and get less?  You aren’t required to use the CAS tools, but I’d rather have a tool and not need it than the other way around.  If you read my ‘blog, though, you know I strongly advocate for CAS use for anyone exploring mathematics.

Now, on to my brief review of the new apps.

MY REVIEW:  From my experimentations the last few days, this app appears to do EVERYTHING the corresponding handheld calculators can do.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few things the computer version can do that the app can’t, but I haven’t been able to find it yet.  In a few places, I actually like the iPad app better than either the handheld or computer versions.  Here are a few.

  • When you start the app, your home page shows all of the documents available that have been created on the app.  It’s easy enough to navigate there on the handheld or computer, but it’s a nice touch (to me) to see all of my files easily arranged when I start up.

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  • A BRILLIANT addition is the ability to export your working files to share with others.  Using the standard export button common to all iPad apps with export features, you get the ability to share your current doc via email or iTunes.
  • The calculator history items can now be accessed using a simple tap instead of just arrow key or mouse navigation.

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  • Personally, I find it much easier to access the menus and settings with conveniently located app buttons.  I prefer having my tools available on a tap rather than buried in menus.  A nice touch, from my perspective.

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  • Moving objects is easy.  I was easily able to graph y=x and the generic y=a\cdot x^2+b\cdot x+c with sliders for each parameter.  It’s easy to drag the slider values, and after a brief tap-and-hold, a pop-up gives you an option to animate, change settings, move, or delete your slider.

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  • Also notice on the left side of the three previous screens that you have thumbnails of your currently open windows.  With a quick tap, you can quickly change between windows.
  • One of the best features of the Nspire has always been its ability to integrate multiple representations of mathematical ideas.  That continues here.  As I said, the app appears to be a fully-functional variation of the pre-existing handheld and computer versions.
  • The 3D-graphing option from a graphing page seems much easier to use on the iPad app.  Being able to use my finger to rotate a graph the way I want just seems much more intuitive than using my mouse.  As with the computer software, you can define your 3D surfaces and curves in Cartesian function form or parametrically.

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  • A lovely touch on the iPad version is the ability to use finger pinch and spread maneuvers to zoom in and out on 2D and 3D graphs.  Dragging your finger over a 2D graph easily repositions it.  Combined, these options make it incredibly easy to obtain good graphing windows.

For now, I see two drawbacks, but I can easily deal with both given the other advantages.

  1. This concern has been resolved.  See my response here. At the bottom of the 3rd screenshot above, you can see that variable x is available in the math entry keyboard, but variables y and t are not.  You can easily grab a y through the alpha keyboard.  It won’t matter for most, I guess, but entering parametric equations on a graph page and solving systems of equations on a calculator page both require flipping between multiple screens to get the variable names and math symbols.  I get issues with space management, but making parametric equation entry and CAS use more difficult is a minor frustration.
  2. I may not have looked hard enough, but I couldn’t find an easy way to adjust the computation scales for 3D graphs.  I can change the graph scales, but I was not able to get my graph of z=sin \left( x^2 + y^2 \right) to look any smoother.

As I said, these are pretty minor flaws.

CONCLUSION:  It looks like strong, legitimate math middle and high school math-specific apps are finally entering the iPad market, and I know of others in development.  TI’s Nspire apps are spectacular (and are even better if you can score one for the current deeply discounted price).

Air Sketch app follow-up

I mentioned in my Air Sketch review last week that one of its biggest drawbacks, IMO, was that I could not use multiple blank pages when running the app.

PROBLEM SOLVED:  I created a 10-page blank document in MS Word by inserting 9 page breaks and nothing more, and printed that doc to a pdf file in Dropbox.  From my Dropbox app on my iPad, I open the 10-page blank pdf into Air Sketch.  Voila!  I now have a 10-page scrollable blank document on which I can take all the notes I need!  As a pdf, Air Sketch and compress any inking into a new pdf and save it wherever I need.  Obviously, I could create a longer blank pdf with more pages if needed, but I couldn’t see any classes going beyond 10 pages.

I still don’t get some of the hot linke or multiple image tools of SMART Notebook (see below), but this work-around clears a major usage hurdle for me.

OK, one problem solved, but a few more are realized:

  • It would be very cool if I could copy-paste images within Air Sketch–something akin to cloning on a SMART Board.
  • Also, while I can import images, it seems that I can operate on only one at a time.  Inserting a 2nd erases the writing and insert of a previous image.  It can be undone, but I still get just 1 image at a time.  Worse, inserting an image takes me out of editing my 10-page blank pdf, so I can’t layer images on top of my pdf files in the current Air Sketch version.

These issues aside, Air Sketch remains a phenomenal piece of software and MY STUDENTS LOVE IT!  I hope the Air Sketch editors take note of these for future editions.

Aside:  Another teacher at my school independently discovered one of my suggestions in my first review of Air Sketch–that you can run one piece of software (as a math teacher, I often run CAS, nSpire, or statistical packages) through the projector while my students keep the written notes on their laptops/iPads/smart phones via the local Web page to which Air Sketch is publishing.  Having two simultaneous technology packages running without flipping screens has been huge for us.

Air Sketch iPad app

I’ve rarely been so jazzed by a piece of software that I felt compelled to write a review of it.  There’s plenty of folks doing that, so I figured there was no need for me to wander into that competitive field.  Then I encountered the iPad Air Sketch app (versions: free and $9.99 paid) last Monday and have been actively using in all of my classes since.

Here’s my synopsis of the benefits of Air Sketch after using it for one week:

–Rather than simply projecting my computer onto a single screen in the room, I had every student in my room tap into the local web page created by Air Sketch.  Projection was no longer just my machine showing on the wall; it was on every student machine in the room.  Working with some colleagues, we got the screen projections on iPhones, iPads, and computers.  I haven’t projected onto Windows machines, but can’t think of a reason in the world why that wouldn’t happen.

–In my last class Friday, I also figured out that I could project some math software using my computer while maintaining Air Sketch notes on my kids’ computers.  No more screen flipping or shrunken windows when I need to flip between my note-taking projection software and other software!

–When a student had a cool idea, I handed my iPad to her, and her work projected live onto every machine in the room.  About half of my students in some classes have now had an opportunity to drive class live.

–This is really cool:  One of my students was out of country this past week on an athletic trip, so he Skyped into class.  Air Sketch’s Web page is local, so he couldn’t see the notes directly, but his buddy got around that by sharing his computer screen within Skype.  The result:  my student half way around the globe got real-time audio and visual of my class.

–This works only in the paid version:  We reviewed a quiz much the way you would in Smart Notebook—opened a pdf in Air Sketch and marked it live—but with the advantage of me being able to zoom in as needed without altering the student views.

–Finally, because the kids can take screen shots whenever they want, they grabbed portions of the Air Sketch notes only when they needed them.  My students are using laptops with easily defined screen shot capture areas, but iPad users could easily use Skitch to edit down images.

–Admittedly, other apps give smoother writing, but none of them (that I know) project.   Air Sketch is absolutely good enough if you don’t rush.

By the way, the paid version is so much better than the free, allowing multiple colors, ability to erase and undo, saving work, and ability to ink pdfs.

Big down side:  When  you import a multi-page pdf, you can scroll multiple pages, but when creating notes, I’m restricted to a single page.  I give my students a 10-15 second warning when I’m about to clear a screen so that any who want cant take a screen shot.  It would be annoying to have to save multiple pages during a class and find a way to fuse all those pdfs into one document before posting.  The ad on the Air Sketch site was (TO ME) a bit misleading when it showed multiple pages being scrolled.  As far as I can tell, that happened on a pdf.  Perhaps it’s my bad, but I assumed that could happen when I was inking regular notes.  Give me this, and I’ll drop Smart Notebook forever.  Admittedly, SN has some features that Air Sketch doesn’t but I’m willing to work around those.

Overall, this is a GREAT app, and my students were raving about it last week.  I’ll certainly be using it all of my future presentations.