I was SO ready not to "drink the kool-aid" of the fancy what-sa-ma-gadgets that were newer than the TI-84s. I was feverishly searching for talks at the T^3 conference that were not TI-nspire or "navigator" based. I was looking for good calculator activities that would supplement my teaching and help the kids absorb and understand more about the math they were learning. Well, you see where this is going, right? Sip, sip, gulp, wipe the red-dye #5 off my chin.
The first 2 talks I went to were baby/basic/"the on button is here" types of talks about the TI-nspire and the Navigator. Boom, that's all it took. I was hooked. For those of you like me (or maybe I'm the only one left that doesn't know much about these things), here are some basic functions and reasons I'm sold.
1. There are a ton of resources (example) for most (all?) math levels that include teacher notes, student worksheets, programs for your calculator, etc.
2. The students get to explore a topic by playing around with slopes or points or triangles or such.
3. If a student is taking the AP Calculus exam, they can "create new pages" for work for (say) each problem, and then save and refer back to the work as needed (it stays on the page).
4. One of the teacher presenters there mentioned that she has kids referring back to an exploration weeks after they had done it, and it still stuck in their head.
5. The key strokes and such are intuitive (I got the hang of it after 1-2 sessions).
6. Example lessons we worked with: someone had created a program that guided us/students through discovering how slope works. On the calculator was a line with 2 points highlighted and their coordinates showing. The "right triangle" rise over run dotted lines were showing. Above the graph the slope was showing. The kids could grab a point and move it and see what happened to the slope. ..... You know, stuff you probably do anyway, but with maybe a worksheet(s) with them walking through your problems. Now it can all be condensed on the screen and you can be green (ar ar ar). The kids are also asked various questions about the situation. I'm sure you can make up your own questions, but I like the fact that the program is readily available to download to all the kids' calculators. There was also a calculus example where the tangent to the slope was shown that you could move around and see what the instantaneous rate of change was.
7. There are options for calculator pages, graph pages (which talk in f(x) notation), spreadsheet capabilities, scatterplots, .....
8. There is math type availability .... I'm guessing somehow you could also do things on your calculator and then screen capture and cut/paste to tests (??)
9. Cabri is basically on the calculator and easier to play around with (bigger screen) AND the activities and programs prewritten make it more accessible and easier to use daily (rather than find a time when a computer lab is open to take your kids to use Geometer's Sketchpad .... which they've forgotten since it's been a month or 2 since they last saw it).
This is the presenter option where you can see what all is going on in your class. You can make a kid's calculator the "presenter", and they could be doing the key strokes while you're talking.
Anyway, glad I went. I actually bought a TI-nspire and have been playing around with it. I want to download some programs to see further just what's available .... and maybe write a grant to get some class sets for next year.