ICTM Wrap-up Thoughts: CCSS/PARCC, Apple, and TI-Nspire

By Tech Powered Dad | October 22, 2013

Since I had responsibilities at the ICTM conference last week that I haven’t had at past conferences, I wasn’t able to cover it in the same level of depth that I have when I attend an NCTM or T3. That’s fine, because as a state level conference, there wasn’t as much too see as one of those national conferences anyway. However, I do have a few closing thoughts to share from ICTM.

Apple, Apple, Everywhere

I must say, I was a little surprised at the level of Apple saturation at the conference. Virtually everywhere I turned my head was an iPhone or an iPad (although, surprisingly, almost no Macbooks). I noticed a little more diversity among the leadership of the conference and the college students that attended–a few Android phones, a PC here, a Nexus 10 there–but among the rank and file teachers attending the conference, it was pretty much Apple all the way. The latest numbers I’ve seen have Apple’s iPhone and iPad market share down to 14% and 33% respectively, and I’m fairly diverse in my current technology makeup (Android phone, iPad, and PC). However, if what I saw at the conference was at all a reflection of the population of teachers around the country, the Apple market share among them is much, much higher than that.

TI-Nspire Continues Surge

This wasn’t a technology conference, but there were a handful of sessions about the technology in the classroom. Just about all of them involved the TI-Nspire. None of them involved an older TI model like the TI-84 Plus. At this point, you get the feeling you almost can’t go to a general interest math education conference like this and expect to get professional development on the TI-84 platform. Texas Instruments did a nice job providing sessions on the TI-84 Plus C at T3 earlier in 2013. I wonder if it will be worth their while to offer as many of those sessions at T3 in 2014.

In my experience, college math departments, not math education departments, are often among the last holdouts when it comes to embracing new technology in the classroom. Just a couple of weeks ago, a local college sought me out to ask if I would come speak to their math department to teach them how to use the TI-Nspire. They told me that their students are starting to show up for college with the TI-Nspire in significant numbers and they feel like they need to get up to speed on it. That could be a fluke, but it could also be a sign that what I see as the major holdout against the TI-Nspire platform, college math departments, are finally willing to give it a hard look.

CCSS and PARCC Skepticism

If you’ve read my previous two posts about ICTM, first about PARCC and calculators, and then about Dr. Usiskin’s call for change to the CCSS, you’ll notice a theme. I don’t want to overstate the case, but I felt like the winds might be shifting a bit with regards to the CCSS and PARCC. At my school, most of our department had enthusiasm for the CCSS early on and were eager to begin the implementation process. The further we’ve made it into that process, the more questions we’ve had about the suitability of the curriculum for all students but probably more so, about the suitability of the PARCC examinations to assess all students.

So it was interesting to arrive at ICTM and realize that there many be a growing number of professionals who are also experiencing nagging doubts about the CCSS as they are currently constituted and the PARCC assessment as it appears to be shaping up. Beyond Usiskin’s talk about the CCSS, I found myself really unnerved by the lack of certainty the PARCC assessment. We are only 10 months from the start of the 2013-14 school year, and basic questions like calculator rules are unresolved. Additionally, the difficulty of the sample questions I’ve seen is really high, many of which my state champion math team students would struggle with. Challenge is good, but there comes a point at which you set the bar so high that kids won’t bother to jump. If something doesn’t change, I wonder whether the PARCC assessment will survive beyond its initial set of contracts with the states.

STEM careers are the future. Will you be ready?

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