By Tech Powered Dad | March 9, 2013
Today was the first day of the annual T3 conference here in Philadelphia. Texas Instruments is really playing up the fact that this is the 25th year for the conference, from highlighting teachers who have been at T3 from the beginning to offering $25 off the new TI-Nspire app this weekend. It is pretty crazy to think they’ve been at this since the late 1980’s, especially considering where calculator technology was at that time.
The opening session this morning was headlined by NASA Associate Administrator for Education, Leland Melvin. Melvin has an amazing personal history. In college, he was as a student athlete that earned a chemistry degree from the University of Richmond and was also drafted into the NFL by the Detroit Lions. Injuries prevented him from catching on in professional football, but his “backup plan” eventually led to him becoming an astronaut. He shared stories with the crowd about his time at NASA, including the time when he was called to comfort the families of the crew of the Columbia after it was tragically lost in 2003, and, of course, his two trips into space.
I had a chance to interview former astronaut Leland Melvin.
When the opening session concluded, I had the opportunity to do a one on one interview with Melvin, and ask him about his recollections of space travel as well as why he has been such a passionate advocate of STEM education. I hope to be able to be able to share that video sometime next week.
After the opening session, I had a sit down meeting with Dale Philbrick of Texas Instruments. We talked a bit more about the two new showcase products of this conference: the TI-84+C color graphing calculator and TI-Nspire iPad App.
I got to see a pre-release version of the new TI-84+C Smartview emulator software for teachers. It’ll look very familiar to current TI-84 Smartview users, but it’ll bring the new color features of the TI-84+C to Smartview. Much like TI-Nspire Teacher Software allows users to switch between the Clickpad, Touchpad, and CX versions, the new version of Smartview will allow users to switch between the TI-84+ and TI-84+C versions. However, data isn’t shared between the two versions, meaning any graphs, equations, lists, etc. that you have open with in TI-84+C mode will not be there when you switch over into TI-84+ mode. The new version will be a free upgrade to anyone with a perpetual license for Smartview.
I also got to see the new TI-Connect in action. It’s a very familiar interface, but it has had its look freshened up a bit. In order to have a TI-84+C interface with your computer, you will need to update to this new version of TI-Connect. In addition to all of the typical TI-Connect features you’re used to like screen captures and program transfers, the new Connect allows users to load images onto the TI-84+C. The TI-84+C doesn’t understand image types like .jpg and .png, so users first will have to use TI-Connect to convert those images to a new file type that TI has named “.8ca”. It’s not quite as convenient as images are on the TI-Nspire, but Philbrick demonstrated it to me, and it did only add a couple of extra steps to the process.
I know many people are interested to hear about timelines on the 84+C product line. Philbrick didn’t have exact dates, but he confirmed that the product has started making its way to them from their suppliers. It sounds like the are expecting retailers to have it by late spring or early summer, still in plenty of time for back to school. As for the new TI-Smartview and TI-Connect, those should come out around the same time as the handheld TI-84+C, maybe a little earlier.
We also spoke more about the new TI-Nspire iPad App. Philbrick stressed that TI is closely monitoring the feedback they are getting from teachers about the app, and they are learning from it and will be responsive to it. One example is that they’ve heard from a number of teachers that they wish the new app had the ability to create split screen documents. Currently, it can open split screen documents but not create them. Prior to the release of the app, they had anticipated that it would primarily be used as a sort of “document player,” to view and interact with documents that had been created with the TI-Nspire Teacher Software. They’re now realizing that teachers want to be able to use the app to create documents from scratch, and they plan to react accordingly with future updates. Philbrick also communicated that TI is actively updating the free documents available on their website to make them more iPad friendly, and many of them are already available in the new iPad format.
After meeting with Philbrick, I got to go to two professional development sessions, both of which were terrific. The first was on using the new iPad app to do constructions of the conic sections. Arthur Mabbott walked us through the ins and outs of how the Nspire’s dynamic geometry software could be used as a modern reboot of traditional conic section paper folding activities. The second session was a statistics session from Steve Phelps. This one was of particular interest to me since we are launching a statistics course at my school next year, and I found out Thursday that I’ll be teaching a majority of the sections of that class. While I’ve done plenty of regressions and simple statistics with my Pre-Calculus students using the Nspire, Phelps took it up a notch (or two). I could see that the Nspire is going to be a really nice tool for my stats students.
So after taking in some sandwiches, cheesecake, and karaoke at the meet and greet session to wrap things up, I called it a day. Tomorrow, I am looking forward to taking in a session or two on the TI-84+C as well as the return of TI product ambassador and Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik. I plan to post a day two wrap tomorrow night as well. For more frequent updates, follow me on Twitter or Facebook.