An Ohio high school has increased class participation and comprehension in its math classes by adding wireless technology to the graphing calculators already owned by many students.

Knowing that so many students already use Texas Instruments’ TI-83 Plus graphing calculator, the company developed a wireless system that allows teachers and students to beam questions and answers to each other.

The system, called the TI-Navigator, uses radio signals to send and receive information between a teacher terminal and individual calculators. During a lesson, a teacher can ask the students a question on their calculators and receive a response from each student, so every student participates equally.

Jim Kozman, chair of the math department at Franklin Heights High School in Columbus, Ohio, has been piloting the technology in his school.

“Over the two years we’ve been working with this, we were kind of surprised,” Kozman said. Since he started using TI-Navigator in his classes, students no longer copy from each other as much and they collaborate more, since they’re all required to respond to his questions. No one could get away with daydreaming, either, he added.

“We seemed to get more class participation because we could tell when someone wasn’t answering the question,” Kozman said.

In a class of 30 students, there is not always an opportunity for each student to answer a question, and some students are too shy to volunteer answers unless called upon.

“There’s always a number of students [who] don’t like to participate, because they don’t want to be embarrassed,” Kozman said. “This [technology] lets them participate without being put on the spot.”

For teachers, TI-Navigator helps them judge how many students actually understand the lesson.

“We found the immediate feedback feature [to be] very powerful,” Kozman said. “You would know rather quickly whether all the students, or the majority of students, understand what is going on.”

Texas Instruments provides a database of pre-created activities to use with the TI-Navigator, but teachers can also create their own. Kozman said teachers in his department created 99 percent of the activities they use themselves, simply by programming the graphing calculator. “It’s a little time-consuming, but the more you do, the easier it becomes,” he said.

TI-Navigator even lets teachers customize which problems will be sent to which students, or what order they will receive them.

“Even though every student is doing the same program, we’ve set it up to send every student a different problem,” Kozman said.

The TI-Navigator system, which costs $9,800, has three main components that build on a school’s existing technology and infrastructure for easy implementation.

First, it requires each student to have a TI-83 Plus graphing calculator—which many students already have—purchased by either the student or the school.

The second part of the system is a wireless network that consists of eight wireless hubs and a transmitter. Four students can plug their calculators into each wireless hub, and the teacher’s computer connects to the transmitter.

This price also includes a one-year subscription to TI-Navigator’s web site content. From the web site, teachers can access lesson plans and curricular materials, view what individual students are doing on their handheld technology, send out questions to students, and store data and exercises on TI’s server.

According to Tom Ferrio, vice president of Texas Instruments, TI-Navigator can be used beyond math and science classes as well.

FreeVocabulary.com, a web site that helps students learn SAT vocabulary words, is providing TI-Navigator users with more than 5,000 vocabulary words and definitions. USA Today Education Online is working with Texas Instruments to deliver its content using the TI-Navigator system. Quia.com, which provides more than 600,000 online activities categorized into 50 subject areas, also will develop quiz materials to deliver to classrooms via TI-Navigator.

Links:

Franklin Heights High School
http://www.swcs.k12.oh.us/fhhs.htm

Texas Instruments
http://www.ti.com

FreeVocabulary.com
http://www.freevocabulary.com

USA Today Education Online
http://www.usatoday.com/educate

Quia.com
http://www.quia.com