Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lessons From CeCe Bloom aka Mayim Bialik and Texas Instruments

      The week prior to ISTE, I was searching for tweets about #iste12.  I came across a tweet that said if I had a question for Mayim Bialik, I could have the opportunity for it to be answered during her presentation.  I went ahead and emailed my question to a representative from Texas Instruments.

          First of all, I need to give a bit of background.  My ALL TIME favorite movie is Beaches.  I am a huge fan of Bette Midler, as I love the fact that she multi-talented with singing, comedy, drama, and dance.  I have watched Beaches more than any other movie, and have spent hours upon hours singing along with the soundtrack.  I also was a fan of Blossom, as I was a teen in the 80’s/90’s.  Needless to say, I was pumped for the opportunity.  (I am not a viewer of The Big Bang Theory, so I was not aware that she is now known as Amy Farah Fowler…to me she is Blossom!)
          I received am email just prior to leaving for San Diego saying that my question was chosen!  Not only that, but I was also going to be able to sit front row at her session, and I was going to be able to attend a special VIP reception.  I was over the moon with excitement.  I looked at what she was presenting and realized that it was geared towards 6-12 graders.  I am a third grade teacher, so I expected to appreciate the opportunity to meet Mayim, yet not get a lot of application out of her session. 
          Luckily I was wrong.  Graphing calculators have come such a long way!  Mayim presented alongside 2 very talented teachers and demonstrated the awesome capabilities of the TI-Nspire.  I was so impressed with how well Texas Instruments worked in collaboration with these devices.  Perhaps they have been doing this for awhile, but like I said, I am a third grade teacher, so I have not kept up to date with the latest in graphing calculators.  They passed several of the calculators out with temperature probes attached to each one to showcase data collection.
Photo from http://www.education.ti.com/
      Each TI-Nspire recorded the room temperature, and then the participants were asked to make the temperature increase for 30 seconds.  We all watched as temperatures were raised and then we viewed the graphs.  It led into interesting conversations, as each person had a different way to heat the probe up…including Mayim who did it the traditional way of putting it under her armpit.  I was captivated, as I could completely see my students doing this in the classroom.  Maybe I was going to be able to get something out of the session! 
Although the TI-Nspire would not be used in the fullest in a third grade classroom, I do think it could have a place.  Texas Instruments gave me a TI-Nspire signed by Mayim and at first I thought to give this to my 19 year-old sister who is studying to be a math teacher.  Then I thought maybe I should hang on to it and use it in my classroom.  Mayim spoke several times about never seeing herself, in her youth, as a mathematician or a scientist.  Perhaps if I expose my students to what math will look like down the road, they may be excited for it!  Perhaps even if I allow the kids to use it for grade level math, they may just have that extra novelty motivation to find more success in math.  Attitude is everything, isn’t it? 
The morning that I arrived back in Michigan from San Diego, I went to Panera.  I met a 76 year-old man that was working on a fiction novel.  We talked about many things, but one story stood out…and even made me tear up a bit.  You see, he grew up in Pennsylvania on a subsidized farm.  His family was very poor.  He was drafted into the army, and his outlook on life was dramatically changed based on his bunkmates.  He was in the middle of 2 PhD’s.  Their conversations night after night allowed him to recognize that he was smarter than he thought.  They encouraged him to go to college, something he never thought was possible.  He never saw himself as a college type person…until then.  He went on be successful in Ford and even as a consultant.  In speaking with him, I could tell he was a very cultured man and very intelligent. 
Again…sometimes it just takes a moment to plant a seed that will grow in time and flourish.  Perhaps if I can expose my third graders to the TI-Nspire, they may see themselves as fancy mathematicians and work harder in hopes to one day be able to understand what all those buttons mean! 

Cheers to Planting Seeds of Belief in Others!
         

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