TI-Nspire Day 2 – Round Robin

We ventured off track from “the plan” for day two.  There are nine National T3 instructors facilitating learning at our site.  We decided to have our teacher-learners change classes so that they could work with and learn from four additional T3 instructors.

The Middle Grades teacher-learners had the following learning opportunites on day 2:

  • Investigating Computer Algebra Systems with Paul Alves
  • Creating Sliders with Josh Mize
  • Data Collection with the CBR with Margaret Bambrick
  • TI-Nspire Presentation View with Alicia Page

I had the opportunity to facilitate the following learning:

Here’s feedback from one of our teacher-learners:

“Hey y’all,

I am so excited!  I gave myself homework, which was to recreate the document that Josh (TI instructor) taught us how to do today, without looking at my notes or the previous document.  I did it!  Change the leg lengths by increasing or decreasing the sliders and the figure changes shape.  It also calculates c (hypotenuse) by measuring, but then look at the second page and you can see where the c value is calculated using c = square root of (a^2 + b^2) and the two columns (one measured and one calculated) match each other.  Too hard for 6th grade but useful in 7th and 8th.


I can also report an interesting story from Josh.  He says that he showed the Middle Grades teacher-learners several documents with sliders and then asked them which one they would like to create.  They said “none of them; it’s not what we teach.” So on the fly, he taught them to use sliders to illustrate the pythagorean theorem just as described above.  He was learning with his “students” to teach them what they wanted to learn.  Exciting!  Isn’t this how it is supposed to be?  Josh dropped his plan when it wasn’t going to work for his learners.  He taught how to use sliders to make math dynamic while meeting the needs of his learners.

When formatively assessed this morning, the Middle Grades teacher-learners could successfully work through the spiral activity showing they had acquired the essential skills of day 2 without marching through the standard curriculum.  Wow!

Middle Grades TI-Nspire – Day One

Tuesday, July 19, was the first day of the TI-Nspire summer learning experience in Atlanta.  I am the lead-organizer and the instructor for the section with middle school teachers.

The brief outline of our activities, work, and learning:

  • Age Estimation
  • Phases of the Moon
  • Fractions, Percents, and Decimals
  • Basic calculator functionality
  • Exploring the options for a page when creating a TI-Nspire document.
  • A discussion of CAS.
This is actually backwards from the stated agenda…I wanted to try teaching the context first and then going back to the skill to see how the participants would react.  Do I have to teach the “basics” first or will we learn the “basics” while in the middle of a problem?  It was an experiment in learning by doing.
We started with Age Estimation which has learners estimate the age of people they may or may not know.  The math of the lesson lays the foundation for vectors.  We talk about magnitude and direction without directly using those terms.  The point is to make meaning of the sign of a number.
Then Phases of the Moon was our next investigation.  Can we make connections between math and science?  Can we interpret graphs while learning the vocabulary and other facts about the moon?  Can we right mathematical statements describing the time the moon was waxing?  The point was to learn to plot points AND interpret the graph in the context of something real.

Now, how to visualize the connections between fractions, decimals and percents?  The fractions, decimals, and percents document is dynamic.  Learns can explore and geometrically express percents, fractions, and decimals by interacting with the document.  The screen shots below do not do the document justice, but each learner can drag the rectangles and squares into the 10×10 grid to illustrate 45%.
 Here are 4 examples from class:  
Isn’t it interesting how different learners will visualize the same concepts?  As their teacher, don’t I have new information about these learners?  I can now regroup learner who think differently than the rest of their group.  I can regroup them into groups that think alike and challenge them to represent what they know in at least 3 different ways.  
While the content may look sparse, the discussion was rich and filled with student inquiry from a learner point of view as well as a teacher point of view.  
Would I do it this way again? Turn the agenda upside down? Yep!  We learned lots of basics while investigating higher level topics.  It was an experiment worth repeating.  

Age Estimation – Day One Lesson & Community Building

We want to try something different this year for the first day of Algebra I.  (We are hoping that other’s will join us too!)  Our learners will arrive with their new MacBooks. We want to use them immediately.  We think we are going to try the age estimation activity

The email request is shown below:

     We need you in pictures!  (and we need your permission to divulge your age to our students, if you’re game!)
     We are planning a multi-disciplinary/multi-grade lesson on graphing and numeracy that would help our students to start the year off using their new MacBooks.  We need volunteers who would be willing to tell us your true ages (as of August 11, 2011), knowing the students will discover these ages during implementation of the project. We will also be showing your picture; if you have a picture of yourself that you would like us to use, please email it to us.  If not, we will just use a photo on file.  We appreciate so much your willingness to participate, and we also appreciate your right to “pass on this one”.
     We usually use celebrities but thought it would be good community building to use our faces.  Jill piloted this activity with her 8th graders in May, and it was a big hit!  The kids suggested that we use faculty faces in August and the celebrities in May.  Think how great it would be for the kids to guess who we are (and how old we are – if they are smart, they will underestimate! – if not, what a teaching opportunity.)
     So, if you are game, please send us a photo and your age/date of birth.  Please?

Here is the presentation that we usually use:

In about 24 hours, we received 12 responses!  Enough to build the first lesson.  At the end of the week, 40% of the faculty responded to participate. Enough to build three lessons – one for 6th grade, one for 7th grade, and one for 8th grade.

Some of the GREAT replies include:

  • “I love the people I get to work with.”
  • “I will be 55 just like the speed limit!  If some kids says, “is that all??!!” feel free to smack ’em.”
  • “Well…a lady never tells…but I liked Gloria Steinum’s comment when she turned 60, “This is what 60 looks like.”  So, you can tell the kiddies that I am (almost) XX,  if you don’t think you will scare them to death.  :-)”
  • “I guess we cannot use that picture of Darlene if it is for student use, huh?!?!  I will send a picture for sure!  How much time do I have to go to glamor shots????”

And the pictures are great.  Can you image the face of a JH student when they see their principal like this?  How fun!

So, what’s the activity?

We are going to show you a series of photos, and you are to estimate each person’s age.  We want to know “Who is the best estimator (and who is the worst)?”   All you have to do is estimate the age of each person and enter it in the spreadsheet.  The learners guess the age of each person in the slideshow.

We think that we will use our teachers instead of the celebrities.  My 8th graders reported that they did not always know all of their teachers on the first day of school.  We hope that this lesson will help our learners connect with their teachers and build our community.

What about the math?

How will we determine the best estimator? the worst?  We will decide as a class.  Let the learners collaboratively develop their criteria to determine the best and the worst.

Usually, the first comment is to find the difference in the estimate and the actual age and sum the differences us – a great first thought.  The sign of the difference has meaning.

Did you over estimate or under estimate?  How does the sign of the difference help you decide if you over or under estimated? If your sum is the closest to zero, are you the best estimator?

How can we find how far off the estimates are but eliminate the direction of “off-ness?”   If we find the absolute value of the difference in the estimate and the actual age, will we find the best and worst estimators?

What would a graph of this data look like?  Which variable would be acceptable for the independent variable? Does it matter?

Why is there a positive correlation in the plot of the data?  What would be the line of best fit?  How do you know?

Can you determine from the graph if you over or under estimated?

What else can be learned?

There are several spreadsheet skills to introduce with this lesson.  The learners will generate a scatter plot and graph a function.  Mental math will be used.

From experience, this lesson creates a loud conversational classroom.  Shock and awe at some of the ages and estimates!  Lots of laughter mixed with learning.  In May, the entire activity took approximately 30 minutes.  We hope that we can use the first 55 minute class period to learn and laugh together as we discuss our community while doing a little math.

CAS vs. Numeric: TI-Nspire Summer Learning

As many of you know, we are going 1:1 with MacBooks for our 6th-8th grade learners in the fall.  For the last seven years, we have required our 8th graders to purchase a handheld graphing device.  For the 2011-2012 school year, we have decided to use the TI-Nspire CAS software on our learners’ MacBooks.

This decision is slightly controversial in our department.  From the informal polling done by the PLC facilitators, the high school PLC members seems split down the middle about CAS (computer algebra system), while the junior high math/science PLC members seemed to be open to a CAS experiment.  We have decided to try CAS with our junior high learners – a little action research, if you will.

Since our junior high learners will have laptops, we thought we would try TI-Nspire CAS; they can always get to WolframAlpha, so why not try the CAS?  The TI-Nspire CAS will “do” algebra that the TI-Nspire will not.


TI-Nspire CAS


I much prefer the CAS for the results of solve.  The TI-Nspire must use nSolve (numeric solve) and simply returns a number.  Some of my learners do this too!  The TI-Nspire CAS uses solve and returns x=2.  This is what I want from my learners.

But, there is more to the story… We want learners to develop an understanding of variables and units.  Using interactive notes, our learners can explore computational thinking  with variables.  The TI-Nspire CAS returns a much different result than the TI-Nspire.


TI-Nspire CAS



TI-Nspire CAS

The above example may seem silly, but those variables are active.  Our learners can go back up in the notes and change the value of the variables and see the output change immediately.  And, isn’t it great that the variables can be included in the calculations?

One other interesting piece of data:  We have 180 teacher-learners coming on July 19 for 3 days of TI-Nspire learning and work.  These teacher-learners could choose between the TI-Nspire and TI-Nspire CAS.  Here is the breakdown per course offered:

It appears that CAS is of interest to many teacher-learners.  How will we teach, facilitate learning, and assess differently based on the new tools available to all learners?  It will be an experiment in learning by doing.

Handicap Ramps: Connecting Ideas and Experiences to PBL – apply what you learn

I don’t often have the question “When are we going to use this?” launched at me.  Sometimes I wonder why?  Why aren’t my learners asking this question?  I often ask myself “When are they ever going to use this really?” when teaching Algebra I.  How can I better show our learners that algebra is used for many real purposes, not just on a test?

On September 14, 2010, I had the privilege of attending TEDxAtl where I heard Logan Smalley talk about creating a movement with Movement Turned Movie.  Logan introduced us to Darius Weems and his story Darius Goes West.  In the spring, Darius joined our 8th graders for their retreat – an amazing experience for all.

On July 19, we will host approximately 170 teachers from nine different states for a summer learning experience.  We’ve done this summer camp for teachers for several years.  Each year there is a teacher or two who will struggle to navigate our campus.  There are stairs everywhere.  We do have elevators, but they are not always in the most convenient places.

In Synergy, we problem-find and attempt to problem-solve based on observations of our environment and community.  Logan’s advocacy for wheelchair accessible spaces combined with accommodating teacher-learners with mobility problems has caused me to want to learn more about our campus and the ease of access to our spaces.

Where are our ramps and elevators?  What are the requirements and specifications for these ramps?  Are the requirements based on the angle of elevation or the ratio of the length of the ramp to the height of the ramp?  Is the angle of elevation connected to the ratio of length to height?  Isn’t this rise over run?

What can be learned by investigating the ramps on our campus? Does our learning have to be restricted to our campus?

  • Algebra?  (I think there must be slope, geometry, and right triangle trig at a minimum.)
  • Science? (I think mechanical advantage might come in to play here.)
  • Writing workshop?  (Do we need more ramps? Are there areas where a ramp is needed? How can we advocate for others?)
  • History?  (When and why did the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) become law?)
Here is a photo we took today at the entrance to Pressley where most of us enter to go to the dining hall.  If you look closely, you will see a meter stick on the ground near AS’s feet.  
In the latest version of the TI-Nspire CX operating system you can analyze a digital photograph.  It is a great way to use ratios and proportions along with unit conversion.  Can you predict how tall AS is based on the measurements and the scale?  (I was less than an inch off.)  Does our ramp fall within the ADA’s specifications?  
Let’s make sure the variables and measurements are defined clearly.  m=3.83 cm is the measurement of the meter stick on the screen of the Nspire.  rl=23.3 cm and rh=1.91 cm are the screen measurements for the ramp length and the ramp height, respectively.  ah=4.64 cm corresponds to AS’s height on the screen. 
Can you think of ways to use your environment to teach?  We should not be restricting learning to the four walls of our classrooms.  Can we find ways to show our young learners how their learning connects to their community and beyond?

TI-Nspire Summer Learning Opportunities

This summer we are so excited to host approximately 170 math and science teachers from nine states for three days of TI-Nspire workshops.  We will use the TI-Nspire CX and/or TI-Nspire CAS CX as the learning tool to investigate topics in middle grades math, algebra, high school math, and topics for connecting math and science.  Each participant will leave with ideas to energize their classroom and their very own TI-Nspire CX or TI-Nspire CX CAS handheld and TI-Nspire Teacher Software.

We are offering five different courses and have filled eight sections with a waiting list that we hope to clear this week.  The courses offered and our all-star facilitators are:

Here’s the email sent to our participants:

We are looking forward to seeing you July 19th for the Nspire Training in Atlanta, GA held in the Junior High of The Westminster Schools.  The school address is 1424 West Paces Ferry Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30327.  Classes will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the classrooms.  Your classroom location will be posted in the hallway as you enter the building.

If possible, please bring your laptop.  If you have administrative rights to your computer, we want you to install the TI-Nspire software and use it.  We want to help you be ready to use both the handheld and the software when school starts. Please feel free to call if you need help or have any questions.

The course hours are 8:30 a.m. -3:30 p.m. Tuesday – Thursday.  There will be a morning snack and a light lunch served on campus each day.

When you arrive on campus, please park in the Love Hall parking lot.

If you come in the front gate off West Paces Ferry Road, take your first left, follow this road until it dead ends.  (You will see a sign directing you to the Junior High, please disregard.)  Take a right at the dead end.  Turn at the second right, across from the Chapel, into the Love Hall parking lot.  Take the stairs across from the handicapped parking down to the Junior High.  When you arrive at the top of the amphitheatre bear right and enter the building.

If you have any special needs and are unable to climb the stairs, please email C. Kirk and she will give you alternate directions.

For maps and directions to Westminster go to the following website:  http://www.westminster.net/about_us/our-campus/maps-directions/index.aspx

For an area guide, you will find the following website helpful: http://www.westminster.net/about_us/our-campus/area-guide/index.aspx

See you soon…Jill

Traditionally, we have our participants learn from one facilitator all three days.  With this all-star line-up of facilitators, we’ve decided to mix it up on Wednesday.  Our participants are going to change classes just like our students do during the school year.  Each participant will have the opportunity to learn from at least four different T3 instructors. The topics for the round robin experience range from formative assessment with the TI-Nspire Navigator system to data collection with the CBR and the EasyTemp temperature probe to using Publish View to enhance lessons with visuals and video and more.

Doesn’t this sound like fun?  Isn’t it great to know that our children’s teachers choose to be learners too?

#Learnopolis and INMAX

Today, Westminster is hosting INMAX – a Benchmark Research membership group of large, independent schools in the U.S. The topic of focus is leadership and innovation, and the agenda appears quite intriguing as a whole.

At 11:15 a.m., Bo Adams (@boadams1) and I (@jgough) will be sharing a story about tearing down walls and connecting dots. We will be sharing the story of our school’s multi-year journey to become a PLC – a professional learning community. The official title of our session is “Learnopolis: Tearing Down Walls with PLC.” We plan to use the Twitter hashtag #learnopolis for tweeters, and a PDF of our slide deck is embedded below (the iMovie in slide #9 is inserted below, too, as a YouTube video).

In short, we are trying to communicate the following:

  • “School” hasn’t changed very much in the last century – maybe longer. [We need to adapt and evolve!]
  • Schools exist in a bit of an “egg-crate culture” (Kathy Boles), as we have generally organized with individual teachers and rows and columns of students. For the most part, teachers are relatively isolated as professionals.
  • In the 21st c., we can capitalize on the notion of social networks by rethinking and rebuilding the critical infrastructure of schools – the human infrastructure. [New basic building block should be learning teams.]
  • While we cannot rebuild the physical plant, we can rebuild the way we work within the physical plant. We can build a learnopolis!
  • By shifting our central paradigm from “teaching” to “learning,” and by providing regular, job-embedded, structured time for teachers to collaborate, we can build the schools that 21st c. learners desire and deserve.

We are looking forward to learning together with our colleague schools at #INMAX today! And we are looking forward to building a learnopolis! After all…we should be learning by doing!

Seeking brightspots and dollups of feedback about learning and growth.

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