As of right now, I am scheduled to lead a session of staff development this summer on using a TI Navigator in the math classroom. This is an awesome piece of technology for math classes that connects the class through the students' calculators that are hooked up to wireless hubs that is ultimately linked to my computer. I really like using them in class and students for the most part love them. I can send quizzes to student on the calculator and then when I collect them on my computer, the program automatically grades it for me. This is quite handy for easy skills checks in class! We also have a feature called Quick Poll where I can send questions to the class and they answer on the calculators so that the class can see everyone's answers (kind of like the CPS systems). The best part is the Activity Center where the students have individual controls on their calculator- so they can control a point or a graph and manipulate it all while other students are doing the same thing and everything is projected onto the screen at once. Today we used this in class for the first time in a while since I have been gone for 3 months on maternity leave. One of my students actually said 'I have missed using these things!' I was so excited to hear that! I really think they enjoy doing something different and like using their calculators to keep them engaged in class.
So this brings me to my point of today's posting. The head of math who asked me to help in presenting this session told me she expected this to be a beginner session because there are Navigators unopened in boxes on all campuses. Now, I can't say I am surprised, but it is disappointing that we have such great teaching tools (and REALLY expensive teaching tools at that!) just sitting in boxes and not being used. I totally understand that it takes a while to learn the program and you can't just jump in and start using it. However, like with anything else, it takes a little bit of practice and then you can catch on pretty quickly. I am still learning the ins and outs, but this is my third year to have one in my classroom and I just try to add a little more each year. I wonder how many other departments have great resources available to teachers that aren't being used. Again, teachers need to work on branching out of their comfort zone to really reach students on a new level which include learning and using new technologies! This can only help keep students engaged in the lessons and help them reach success in class. Just think- even if a teacher used the Navigator once a 6 weeks (or any piece of technology), that is better than nothing! Then the next year they could try to use it once a month....even if a student gets that exposure to that technology 9 times that year, it could make a huge difference in that year for them!