TI & MAV Joint Regional Mini Conference: An afternoon of acTIve learning in Colac

T-Cubed Instructors, Peter Fox, Chris Ireson and Craig Browne had the pleasure of conducting a mini conference at Colac Secondary College on 5 September. About 30 maths teachers from Western District schools found time out of their busy schedules to attend the event. The first session was for teachers new to the TI-Nspire CAS platform. Participants were introduced to the basic mechanics of how the calculator worked with a focus on showing how to create documents that consisted of multiple problems that used a number of applications. When shown some of the cool features such as sliders, it was noted by several teachers present that a platform such as this really does change the way we can teach certain concepts. The idea that we are able to save work and not have to reinvent the wheel every time we press the on button on the calculator was also well appreciated.

Meanwhile Peter ran a session on Parabolas – Changing the Focus. This involved exploration of how simple geometric constructions and paper-folding can be used to factorise quadratics in a very visual way. Quadratic functions were then employed to model data that was collected live from a ball bounce activity. The bouncing ball activity can start as early as Year 9 or become a Problem Solving / Modelling Task for Year 12 students.

Peter commented: “The workshops went well. There are some very enthusiastic and masterful teachers in our country region that are very proficient in the use of TI-Nspire. It was also great to see lots of relatively new teachers in attendance. Great food, warm and welcoming hospitality and a wonderful venue in the beautiful and bustling region of Colac.”

Can I add here an editorial comment from Brian in Yackandandah: It’s often difficult for us country-based teachers to get to PD events due to travel time & expenses as well as finding class cover. However, both the MAV and TI are proactive in helping us bridge this opportunity gap. The MAV in particular has run many regional conferences over the years and both organisations also offer various sponsorship opportunities for regional teachers. Click here

Teachers in regional areas may often teach several VCE subjects at once. I know when the last lot of VCE curriculum changes came through (2015), many of us were teaching at least two, sometimes three VCE mathematics subjects across one or two levels. Yes, we may often have smaller class sizes, but preparation, resource access and collaboration opportunity can present challenges.

Back to Colac: The afternoon session focused on how the calculator applications can be used to create widgets for helping students in their mathematics exams at the end of the year. Peter started the session by looking at some past exam questions, showing how simple it is to create a PowerPoint document with multiple-choice questions displayed, demonstrating how the navigator software can be used in the classroom to answer the test and analyse the results. When looking at the analysis of how students answered these questions, it was posed to the group “Could we create exam resources that would allow our students to have a better chance of answering these “difficult” problems successfully? Chris and Craig then went on to show how the clever design of widgets can be used in the Further Maths, Mathematical Methods and Specialist Maths courses.

Chris has subsequently made a short video to demonstrate How to make a Widget. He has uploaded this and other resources to a Google Drive for sharing.

Chris also noted comments from teachers:

Quotes went something like:

“I didn’t know that!”

“CAS can do that?”

“Never seen that before!”

“Wow!”

“I’m impressed”

Craig at Beginners “But there’s more!”

“Thanks for coming.”

And from Chris himself:

“For Widgets after they are imported, remember Crtl A, Menu 1,1” and

“I felt that many of the beginners (and others) felt left out as opposed to city teachers with regards to PD. They were very appreciative to have us come to Colac. I am happy if another country PD is organised in a different region to try to help out.”

Back to Craig for closing comments:

All in all, everybody enjoyed this mini conference with all attendees saying that they learnt so much over the 4 hours that we were together. One of the teachers commented to me that he appreciated that as presenters we focused on the mathematics and teaching ideas and did not necessarily spruik how good the technology was. Instead we presented the content in such a way that the technology spoke for itself.

Thank you to Colac Secondary College for your hospitality and allowing us to come and share our ideas and our knowledge for the day. It also allowed a number of teachers to create a network among themselves.

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