iPads

At the school where I am teaching this year, all of the students, K – 12, are issued iPads. Whether this is the coming thing in education or not, I cannot say. I like the idea, but then I like technology in teaching and learning. My school issued iPad is my fourth. I offer today a few observations, anecdotal to be sure, for those who are curious about this growing trend.

First, the school owns the iPads. Therefore, the school restricts what apps students can use on them. The school can see what is on each iPad. Students are able to download apps only from the school’s approved list. The school pays for some of the recommended apps. The iPads do not have Apps Store access. The school owns and uses software to make this possible. Students who manage to get around the system are called in and the problem is corrected.

Websites that are not approved are blocked on the school’s server. Students can still access the entire web away from the school.

Yes, the students have games on their iPads, and yes, they try to play them in class. There is also instant messaging and e-mail. The teachers have to keep an eye on what the kids are doing – nothing new about that.

Many of the teachers require students to do their reports and essays using one of the apps available. Students are getting very good at note talking on their machines. Notability (about $3) seems to be the most popular app for this. Even in math classes students can take their notes and do their homework without benefit of paper. Some students e-mail me their homework on days when I collect it.

There are a variety of graphing apps available all of which produce far better graphs than graphing calculators. Good Grapher Pro is my favorite and very easy to use for both 2D and 3D graphs.

Graphing by hand is a problem. Note-taking apps have grid backgrounds, but it is difficult to plot points, and draw lines or curves as neatly as you can on paper.

My calculus classes have access to an electronic copy of their textbook online. It is available anywhere there is internet access. They have a full copy of everything in the text and it looks just like the text. Most of the drawings are animated in the online version – this is a big plus. Also, it is easy to copy an individual problem, say a definite integral, and paste it into Notability or another app and work on it.

My Algebra 1 students do not have an online copy available. They do the next best thing. They photograph the homework page and do their problems from the picture.

It turns out that I am not 100% technology: I still give most of my notes and work the homework problems on a whiteboard. Some students photograph what I write. Then they take the picture home and use it to study from – at least that’s what they tell me. I hope this is a help. I can talk and write on the board much faster than students can write. It seems to me that sometimes note taking can be a distraction. That is, kids are so busy writing down everything that they are not following the flow of ideas.  So, if listening and then taking a picture helps them learn better, I’m all for it.

I also post assignments, worksheets, and so forth online. Students download them to their iPads and always have them handy.

In a previous post I discussed how I use an app called Socrative in my classes.

Please share your experiences with in-class iPad use. Use the “leave a comment” link below.

Apt Apps – 2

Today I’ll look at some non-graphing apps for the iPad; apps that may help teachers in other ways. As I mentioned before, I have not used or evaluated all of the many, many apps of each types discussed here. Nor am I familiar with apps for other tablets. These are just the ones I have and like.

iAnnotate PDF by Branchfire www.branchfire.com is a great app for storing and annotating documents. You can save any PDF file (downloaded by e-mail or from a browser) and it will convert other files to PDF for you. The documents may then be annotated by writing, typing, highlighting etc. I have almost all the AP calculus exams saved here so I can quickly look up questions and scoring standards. While working with 40-some schools recently I kept all the teacher’s schedules and addresses here. The filing system works well. It connects seamlessly with Dropbox and similar cloud systems. Files can be e-mailed and printed as well.

There are a variety of apps for note taking. My favorite is Notability www.gingerlabs.com. You can take notes by hand and include drawings and annotations. You may also type the notes using the iPad’s keyboard; some formatting is possible when typing. There are a variety of pen colors and background designs including graph paper. Sections may be cut out and easily moved within the document. Audio voice-over or recording of a speaker while taking notes is possible. Documents can be imported and exported to cloud services.

There are many other note taking programs such as Penultimate, Educreatons, Doceri, ShowMe, Whiteboard, and even iAnnotate PDF. They all have similar features. I prefer Notability for note taking because the screen scrolls vertically allowing you to do a long problem without starting new pages. The other programs are made for a single screen only or have pages that turn like a book; continuing a long computation this way is clumsy. Whiteboard allows collaboration with two or more iPads using the same screen.

Socrative www.socrative.com is a student response (clicker) system. The teacher has one app which allows him or her to set up a free account. Students use a different free app (on their smartphone, iPad or computer) to sign into the teacher’s “classroom” with a single number that remains the same for each teacher. The same student app can be used with a different “Room Number” for a different teacher’s class. The teacher pushes a previously made worksheet, test or quiz in various formats (multiple-choice, True-false, short answer, “Exit ticket”), or just a blank template for any of these. (With the blank template the teacher presents the questions orally in class.) The students enter their answers, the results go to the teacher immediately, and are returned as a graph. As with other clickers, the graph can be projected so students and teachers can see the result immediately: the ultimate in formative assessment. Grade reports can be sent to to the teacher by e-mail at the end of the activity.

Splashtop www.splashtop.com is not so much just for education. Installed on the iPad and any number of computers with both devices connected to the internet, Splashtop allows the user to run one computer from their iPad or a different computer. I have seen teachers use Splashtop on their iPad as a digitizing tablet (think: Bamboo, or Airliner). They write on the iPad or run programs that reside on the computer with their iPad. Since there are no wires on the iPad the teacher is free to move around the room as they talk.

Of course, there are many other apps, and more being produced every day. These are just a few that I am familiar with. Please comment or describe your favorites using the “Leave a Comment” link below.

Apt Apps – 1

I am a very big iPad user. I’m on my third iPad and use it all day. Some days I run the battery from 100% down to 10% without even watching movies or playing music. I have lots of apps, a few of which I have found to be very useful in doing and teaching mathematics. In this post and the next I will share some of my thoughts on those I find most useful. 

Disclaimer: I have not used or evaluated all the apps of any of the types discussed here. Nor am I familiar with apps for other tables. These are just the ones I have and like.

Graphing and Computing Apps

By far my favorite grapher is Good Grapher Pro www.graph-calc.com. The app includes a full scientific calculator, solver, 2D grapher (Cartesian, polar, parametric, and implicit) and 3D grapher (Cartesian, cylindrical and spherical). It will graph inequalities in both 2D and 3D. The screenshot below shows some of its versatility.

The graphs are of the functions \displaystyle y={{2}^{-x}}\sin \left( x \right),\ y={{2}^{-x}}\text{ and }y=-{{2}^{-x}}. Note the scales: A domain of about 6\pi and a range of only about \displaystyle 2\times {{10}^{-6}}. You can turn on any or all of the extreme values, intersections and intercepts and the points will be marked. Double tap on the screen and you go into trace mode. Tap the color coordinated equation at the top and run your finger along the screen to trace. The current point is shown with circle and the gray vertical line; the coordinates and the derivatives (plural) are in the upper left.

Apps pix 1

The 3D mode is also spectacular. The screen shot show a plane intersecting a cone.

Apps pix 2

The third screen shot shows the same graph from a different angle clearly showing the hyperbola.

Apps pix 3

Both the 2D and 3D graphs can have a black or white background. I prefer black, but white is easier to see here. Two improvements would be the ability to graph on a restricted domain and the addition of sliders. The not “pro” version is free but has less functionality.

The TI-Nspire CAS www.education.ti.com is the iPad version of the TI-Nspire CAS calculator. The functionality is the same as the handheld and computer versions. The screen is a huge improvement over the handheld whose screen I find too small and cramped. This has become my choice for CAS work and of course it also has all the calculator, graphing, geometry, spreadsheet, data, statistics and notes features of the handheld and computer versions. In the notes section it even writes properly formatted chemistry expressions.

MyScript Calculator www.VisionObjects.com/en/myscript/math-application/  is a handy app. With it you enter a computation by hand or stylus (i.e. not by typing) and it does the computation (including trig and logarithms, etc.). Very simple and easy. If you enter an equation with one or several question marks in place of the variable it will return the solution in place of the question mark(s).

My Script’s big brother is called Math-Ink. Enter any math object by hand or stylus (i.e. not by typing) and it is copied in symbols at the top of the screen so you can proofread it. Then click the button and it returns the full WolframAlpha results. There is a WolframAlpha app as well, but that requires one-line typed entry. With Math-Ink the results are the  same but the entry is much easier.

Of course there are many other apps and more being produced every day. These a re just a few that I am familiar with. Please comment or describe your favorites using the “Leave a Comment” link below.

My next post will show some non-calculator apps that you may find useful in teaching.