Thursday, September 27, 2012

Getting Started With Graphics Calculators

A teacher does not need to be an expert in using these calculator before he/she uses it as a teaching aid in a lesson.You need only the basic essentials to begin with for each procedure you need to use.

Using an OHP unit with your calculator is a great way to begin. Then you have total control plus a class full of students just 'dying to help you out' if you press the wrong button. These calculators are becoming more user friendly as time goes on. The reason is simple. The calculator manufacturers see educational institutions as a growing market. If teachers can't use them easily then they will not use them.

Graphics Calculators, like computer software, are a very powerful tool for teachers. The advantage of these calculator over the computer is threefold - cost, portability and availability. By availability, I mean that Mathematics teachers have to compete with every other subject department for computer resources whereas Graphics Calculators are mostly but not only a Maths teacher's domain.

One of the great advantages of using these calculators is that you can develop an understanding of a topic, e.g. Statistics, Graphing or Quadratics with little or none of the algebra and physical computations you need when using the chalk and talk/pen on paper approach. The teacher can develop the understanding first with the Graphics Calculator before the pen on paper process is started. This calculator enables you to do many examples quickly and visually thus using the visual and frequency needs of each learner. As well, it is a great checking tool following a pen on paper example, e.g. after a student has drawn a graph in Calculus using the 'old' pen on paper approach.

The Graphics Calculator makers provide excellent manuals and other publications that provide other teaching ideas which will expand your usage of these powerful machines. Each manufacturer has a website with further ideas.

Like all things newly learnt, start off with a small chunk and then use the well proven learning techniques of frequency and recency to enhance the retention of what you have learnt.

Each time you try a new procedure with a class, practice first. Plan carefully and evaluate immediately after the event, noting errors and problems. Then do it again SOON. Keep refining your techniques and adding new ones to your repertoire.

One last important point to note is that students, especially boys, take to technology 'like ducks to water'. Therefore use their interest to create mentors for other students and yourself. Even use these students to demonstrate any new application you need to introduce into your program.

Remember the KISS principle, "Keep It Simple, Stupid" initially. That way, you will gain confidence in using Graphics Calculators and they will become, for you, a valuable teaching aid and a great learning tool for your students.

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