Timothy Collier has been teaching high school mathematics for more than 30 years, most of them at McAlester High School in southeast Oklahoma, where he is the department chair. State budget cuts have affected McAlester High School and the district’s eight other schools, especially in the area of professional development for teachers, who were facing shifting state standards in math and science.
In 2011, McAlester became one of the school districts involved with the federal grant program GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) at Eastern Oklahoma State University, which focuses on increasing the number of low-income students who enter postsecondary education.
Through GEAR UP, the district purchased TI-Nspire handhelds, which connect wirelessly to a teacher’s computer using the TI-Nspire Navigator system.
“This technology, and the teaching methods that surround it, have changed my career” Collier says. “There is no teaching methodology that compares to this system, which allows students to investigate mathematics for themselves and interact with complex ideas in a very accessible format. I get excited each time I learn a new creative application of this technology.”
Connecting the dots
Students use TI-Nspire handhelds in math and science classes. Teachers can do on-the-spot assessments by sending quick polls or questions directly to the students’ handhelds. To learn to use the tools effectively, teachers attended workshops, and instructional coaches from Texas Instruments came to their classrooms for PD on using the tools for formative assessment and deeper student engagement.
“I can’t overstate the value of that coaching piece” Collier says. “It has changed the way my department communicates about pedagogy and handles formative assessment.”
Select teachers also participated in a Teacher Leader Cadre, in collaboration with other teachers across Oklahoma, to get further trained on the technology and pedagogy. The result of that program is that participating teachers became experts in their schools and can share best practices with other teachers.
“This is the most impactful professional development I have been in” Collier says. “Nothing has made a greater impact on day-to-day math instruction in the classroom with students.”
Collier says math pedagogy better aligns to McAlester’s curriculum thanks to the TI-Nspire handhelds and TI-Nspire Navigator system, along with ongoing support from Texas Instruments coaches.
“Thanks to the software, equipment and coaching, this has changed the way we communicate with each other, and the way teachers deliver instruction to students” Collier says.
For more information, visit education.ti.com/pd
To download DA’s Professional Development Special Report visit districtadministration.com/pd