By Tech Powered Dad | February 7, 2013
Update #1 (8:05 a.m.): This morning, I was informed by a representative of Texas Instruments that a security issue was discovered in the TI-Nspire iPad app overnight, and it has been pulled from the App Store. The TI development team is working to get the app back in the App Store as soon as possible.
Update #2 (11:38 a.m.) I’ve received an official statement from Texas Instruments regarding the TI-Nspire app being pulled from the App Store:
“Immediately after the TI-Nspire Apps for iPad were posted on the App Store, we discovered an issue with App Store settings and have temporarily removed these apps from the store. We are working to update these settings and will repost the apps as soon as possible.”
Original article follows:
Much of the focus on Texas Instruments calculators the last few months has been on the imminent release of the new TI-84+ C color graphing calculator. So when TI reached out to me a couple of days ago to schedule a behind the scenes briefing about “an exciting announcement” planned for Thursday, I was expecting I might hear more about their TI-84+ C strategy or perhaps an upgrade to one of their other popular models. Instead, they threw me a surprise that I was glad I was sitting down for. After years of requests, speculation, and anticipation, Texas Instruments is releasing their first graphing calculator app, the TI-Nspire for iPad. It’s an announcement that will likely change the way we think about how both graphing calculators and tablets are used in the classroom, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that will be caught off guard by it.
The big announcement was explained to me by TI’s Digital Content Manager Dale Philbrick and Youngstown State University math instructor Tom Reardon. They explained to me the highlights of the new app and why they’re excited about the potential it has for teachers and students.
The TI-Nspire for iPad was released on the App Store at midnight last night. There is both a CAS and non-CAS version. Either one will cost you $29.99 and includes a 1-year subscription to the TI-Nspire Teacher Software. I inquired about the price, whether Texas Instruments was confident that iPad users who are used to apps in the $.99-$4.99 range would be willing to pony up $29.99. Philbrick said that while that’s a fair question, he would point out that the app fully integrates with all the free TI-Nspire files, resources, and lessons made available through the Texas Instruments website, as well as a mountain of professional development resources. He said TI feels that this differentiates the TI-Nspire for iPad app from other math apps.
In terms of other logistics, keep in mind that the iPad is still banned from the ACT, SAT, and other standardized tests. Philbrick said that the development team went out of their way to design the app so that it would take advantage of the user friendly iOS environment, but still allow a student to easily switch back to a standalone TI-Nspire handheld environment for their standardized testing. The TI-Nspire for iPad app runs on the iPad 2, iPad Retina, and iPad Mini. That means no iPhone or iPod touch support for now. In fact, Philbrick said TI currently has no plans to release the app for those devices or Android, but that Texas Instruments is always listening to the feedback it receives from teachers and wouldn’t rule out a release such as Android if they receive feedback that indicates the demand is there.
As of writing this post, I hadn’t yet downloaded the app myself. However, the educator in the briefing who had already worked extensively with the app, Reardon, spoke in glowing terms of the integration of the iPad’s touch interface with the TI-Nspire platform, saying “Mathematics can now be felt.” He said the the power of visualization has a “tactile” feel on the TI-Nspire app, which he actually described as a “sixth sense” of mathematics. Reardon was also quick to point out that while there are many nice math apps on the iPad, none of them bring the total package of the TI-Nspire, a frustration that I have also experienced. Now, in one app, teachers and students will have more than a calculator. They’ll have access to a top-notch package of dynamic geometry software, spreadsheets, statistics software, and a touch interface graphing environment.
The actual use of the TI-Nspire of iPad app will be similar very similar to the currently available TI-Nspire computer software. Current TI-Nspire files will interface with the app, the menu system is almost identical, and there’s even Lua support. However, there will be a few minor differences. First, the Vernier DataQuest features are not included, a limitation of the iPad’s inability to interface with Vernier data collection devices. Second, the app has Dropbox integration, allowing teachers to share TI-Nspire files with students via a Dropbox folder that is integrated right into the folder system of the app. Other cloud storage systems such as Google Drive will also work with the app, but have to be accessed via an external app like Safari or the Google Drive app. Lastly, a very exciting ability of the new app is to use the iPad’s camera to take pictures that can be loaded right into the TI-Nspire app’s graphing windows.
Philbrick was quick to point out that there will be support in terms of professional development with the new app. At the annual T3 conference in Philadelphia next month, Texas Instruments will have a full plate of demos and activities on the new app, including presentations from experienced T3 instructors who have been working with the app.
Stay tuned to Tech Powered Math for my upcoming TI-Nspire iPad app review and more information on this announcement. A new era is upon us, and graphing calculators in the classroom will never be the same. For more information, check out the Texas Instruments iPad website.