Education Technology

You Asked – TI Answered: Enabling Student Career Success Through Products Developed With and for Teachers

Posted 06/12/2017 by Anthony Berkemeyer, Product Management and Systems Engineering Director, Education Technology

 

The Education Technology industry has changed over the years. Despite the changes, TI calculators have become standard tools for teaching math and science – and with good reason. This also didn’t happen overnight. For the past 30 years, we have worked with teachers to ensure that every product we develop is built for the sole purpose of improving the ways in which students engage with math and science.

With this in mind, TI is focused on making improvements to classroom technology. In just the last six years, TI has introduced several new products to the market. And we continue to update our products to meet the needs of the classroom by adding features that support learning under new standards. Each new product or feature requires extensive research and feedback from teachers. We have to be certain that we think of everything when designing technology for the classroom.

And there’s a lot to think through: from finding ways to conduct real-time assessment by wirelessly sending quick polls to students' handhelds, to allowing students to create dynamic presentations using graphs, geometry and data with interactive software. When designing for a handheld graphing calculator, computer software or a tablet, we consider everything from start-up time to the location of icons on the screen. Our team spends countless hours learning how teachers will use our handheld graphing calculators in class, so that they can last all day on a single charge, and will not break if they fall from a desk.

And, we don’t make changes unless many teachers and students tell us that it would solve a problem for them. Our product development team has a list of hundreds of features that have been requested – from Wi-Fi access to mirrored slide case covers. Even if we get really excited about a cool feature request, we carefully investigate with teachers how that feature will impact learning in the classroom, as well as reliability and security for important exams. We don’t innovate just to claim that we do. Our product development team listens to educators to understand their key challenges and constraints. This allows us to develop the best products for teaching and learning math and science, so students become interested in STEM* subjects.

For example, TI took on the challenge of finding a more powerful way to engage students in STEM learning. We listened to the world’s leading educators and researchers who sought a way to promote learning through discovery – a way that offered more freedom to create custom lessons using a device that fits in a backpack. What emerged was TI-Nspire™ technology, which includes software that teachers can use to gauge their students’ understanding and make in-the-moment decisions about their teaching. This technology, the TI-Nspire™ CX Navigator™ System, opens teachers up to a whole new way of reaching every student in class. Students who ordinarily sit quietly in class can participate anonymously, sharing their work wirelessly to the teacher’s computer – right from their desks.

More recently, we introduced the TI-84 Plus CE graphing calculator. We heard from thousands of teachers who didn’t want us to change the TI-84 Plus. That is, until we told them we could make it slimmer and lighter, give it a rechargeable battery, and provide higher screen resolution with color. They love the TI-84 Plus CE because it’s their favorite calculator – which they already know how to use – only better. While it resembles its predecessors, the slimmer design and fun colors help get many students excited about math and science class.

Through the years, teachers have told us how learning to code on their TI graphing calculators inspired them to pursue STEM careers. Now, as more schools look for ways to engage all students in STEM, we have found ways to give more students opportunities to learn about coding and engineering design. Just last year, we launched the TI-Innovator™ Hub with TI LaunchPad™ Board that allows students to learn to code by using their TI-84 Plus CE or a TI-Nspire™ CX graphing calculator. At the heart of the TI-Innovator™ Hub is the TI MSP432™ LaunchPad™ Board ; the same technology being used by leading engineers around the world to develop everything from 3-D printers to smartwatches. The goal was to develop a programmable project system that students could use to get their hands-on engineering design experience, as early as middle school. A group of students in the Dallas area used it to design a smart water system that solved an irrigation problem for farmers in Africa. Our hope is that exposing students to coding and engineering early on will inspire them to pursue exciting STEM careers.

So, no matter what product we create, from the TI-Nspire™ CX handheld to the TI-Innovator™ Hub, each one has to be durable enough to withstand the true test of the classroom. Teachers, administrators and parents love that our products are built to last and can withstand just about everything students throw at them, literally. It is not unusual to walk into a classroom where a teacher is using a set of calculators that she has had for nearly a decade. Since we continue to make updates and add features to our existing products, teachers and students truly enjoy the longevity of their TI technology.

For 30 years, TI’s focus on providing the best tools for teaching and learning math and science has not changed. We continue to work with teachers to understand how we can help improve the ways they teach important concepts to their students. Our goal is to engage students in STEM – setting them up for success in the classroom today, in college tomorrow and in exciting future STEM careers.

*Science, technology, engineering and math

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