New graphing calculator lets students plot on top of real-world images


Texas Instruments (TI) graphing calculators are king in the math classroom. I have no statistics – no hard evidence to prove that beyond experience and anecdotal evidence. Indeed I cannot think of any math teacher or math classroom I’ve ever known to promote the use of anything but TI.

However, Casio has taken a huge jump in the real-world connection between math instruction and the world we live in with their PRIZM graphing calculators and their Picture Plot technology. The expectation is that students using this device under proper guidance and facilitation by an instructor would gain a greater appreciation for the engineering behind structures, both natural and man-made. This product seems as though it would be a real benefit to good math students on the fence regarding their possible futures in mathematics-related fields.

A side note here is the proper education of the principles of photographic arts – framing, squaring, lighting, etc. A bad picture that is poorly aligned is not going to provide the results desired. For instance, the graphic included in this post, taken from the source article ( shows a steel trestle (bridge) spanning a gorge. The photo shows the plots of the parabolic structure, but the photo used was not squared up, therefore skewing the perceived intention of the technology as it relates to math. There are lessons there, but I wonder about the impact of sloppy photography on good math.

I wonder how the math tech giant TI will respond to this device. I would hope to see an iPad TI graphing calculator app with these capabilities…

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Our Digital Kids

Below is an excerpt from a book written in 2010 by Jason Ohler ( titled Digital Community, Digital Citizen. It is a still-timely reflection on the disparity between the generation in power and the generation in our schools. It’s a tragedy that the questions he phrases below even have to be considered, really. Read on and consider how things could be different if those that participated in creating this tech-infused world cared less of themselves and more of posterity.


Our Choice for Our Children – Two Lives or One

We have a fundamental question to address with regards to educating our Digital Age children. How we answer this question will determine how we plan for and implement education in the broadest sense for many years to come. In its simplest form, the question is, Should we consider students to have two lives or one?

Allow me to restate this question with a bit more detail: Should we consider students to have two separate lives—a relatively digital free life at school and a digitally saturated life away from school—or should we consider them to have one life that integrates their lives as students and digital citizens?

The “two lives” perspective contends that our students should live a traditional educational life at school, much like their parents did, and a second, digital life outside school. It says that the technology that kids use is too expensive, problematic, or distracting to integrate into teaching and learning. It says that issues concerning the personal, social, and environmental impacts of living a digital, technological lifestyle are tangential to a school curriculum. Above all, it says that kids will have to figure out how to navigate the digital world beyond school on their own and puzzle through issues of cyber safety, technological responsibility, and digital citizenship without the help of the educational system.

On the other hand, the one life perspective says it is time to help students blend their two lives into an integrated, meaningful approach to living in the digital age. It says that if schools don’t make it their primary mission to help students understand not only how to use technology but also when and why, then we have no right to expect our children to grow up to be the citizens we want them to be and that the world needs them to be. It says that if we don’t help our digital kids balance personal empowerment with a sense of community responsibility, then future generations will inherit a world that does not represent anyone’s dream of what is best for humanity. It says that if we don’t understand that schools are exactly the place for kids to learn how to use technology not only effectively and creatively but also responsibly and wisely, then heaven help us all.

Dr. Jason Ohler is a professor emeritus, speaker, writer, teacher, researcher and lifelong digital humanist. Read more at

Jason provides a relevant decision-making reflection based on where we’ve come regarding the gap between two worlds – one world run by an older generation who have learned to live with increasing digital demands as adults, and another world whose entire lifetime exists within the parameters of a digital society, knowing only mobile devices, mp3s, Facebook, and YouTube. Where do the two worlds come to terms? Why does one world have to submit and conform to the other? What if the balance of power were different?


How does this shape your perspective as you enter the 2012-2013 school year?

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Flipping Progress

I thought I’d take a few minutes and reflect a little on the progress made in “flipping” my classroom. I began by following the advice of a fellow Michigan educator, John Sowash. In a presentation he created he suggested by starting with something simple and small — a lesson you already have materials for. I thought this was good advice and I started organizing my lesson on “Consequences of Industrialization”.

My first step past this was to create an introductory video that explained the process, purpose, and expectations. I thought it would be enough to post these videos to my class website, Mr. Bruce’s History. However, it became obvious to me that the easiest way to manage these videos would be to upload them and manage them through a blog. So, knowing how functional, simple, and manageable Posterous is, I created a space and called it (what else!?). 

Today I assigned the first true Vodcast, “Consequences of Industrialization” and I believe I got all my talking out in it. Students saw the blog for the first time today and found downloading the videos to be crazy easy, and students helped each other out, showing each other how to save them to iTunes and put them on iPods. They seem to to be generally welcoming to the idea of me not talking in class. 

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I’m Gonna Do It. I’m Flipping My Classroom

After three months of painstakingly pushing students to complete assigned readings and other homework assignments prior to coming to class on a given date, I’ve decided that it is not worth my time to begin an in-class activity to a mixed bag of students. After writing that sentence, I realize that the frustration of getting that out has two effects: 1) I feel better after sharing it and 2) it probably makes little sense to my reader. Let me back up…

For those of you who don’t know, I teach 2nd survey (1877-present) U.S. History to 9th grade students in a rural public school in southwest Michigan. It is my passion to provide history instruction that follows the “Thinking Like a Historian” model of historical inquiry to break the traditional view of what history education looks like in the classroom (see my Syllabus for more).

Our district is in its 4th year fully 1:1 with our students running around with MacBooks. Despite our growth, we still have great strides to make. As a district we have yet to make the paradigm shift that should be expected of a laptop program in its 4th year, and many of our teachers maintain old habits and expectations. Why does this matter in this post? Mostly because the issues I and other teachers try to deal with regarding the level of student-centered technology integration come very slowly to students who have not been taught to consider for themselves what the purpose of the tool is in their possession. Rather, they are told what to do, what not to do, and run from class to class learning the nuances of each teachers’ system…

Back to U.S. History… I strongly desire to maximize the class time available for “history labs” where students take the content from their reading and apply it to primary and secondary document sets selected around an essential question or dispute. It is their task as an individual (or pair or small group) to analyze the documents following a texting protocol (“Text, Subtext, Context” — from Bruce Lesh), and develop a conclusion based on what the evidence says to them. This is “doing” history.

However, if a majority (or at best a significant minority) of my class has failed to complete the assigned reading/homework, then my in-class activity — however cool and authentic it may have been — is an exercise in futility. It will never produce the intended results, and I’ll be bashing my head against the wall shortly following 1st hour bellwork…

Some of you may be thinking that it may work to read in class and take notes as a group so that all students have the same base-line. This way they can complete some primary source analysis at home. Seems good, but any teacher knows that there are some assignments that you want to be present for. Math and science teachers know students who need support, encouragement, prompts, etc… History is no different when facilitated this way. I want to be there with my kids as they struggle to understand a letter, memo, picture, article, cartoon, etc., from an event so that I can put out fires, clear misconceptions, and challenge where necessary. I can’t do that if they are at home.

But what if they weren’t expected to read? What if it wasn’t a worksheet? What if they just had to watch/listen to what they would normally have gotten the day before in class. What if they could watch/listen to me and pause to write notes down? What if I could have all of my class time devoted to the sourcing/texting analysis of my 15 year old historians are expected to do? Flip the classroom… School work at home, homework at school. 

So long story short, reverse instruction, or “flipping” my classroom may serve as a catalyst for the change I expect to see in my students’ outcomes. I look forward to sharing how it goes as I will attempt it next week. Wish me luck!



For more on the Flipped Model, see Vodcasting and the Flipped Classroom. For more about historical inquiry and “Thinking Like A Historian” see the Wisconsin Historical Society partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater website at Also, see Why Won’t You Just Tell Us The Answer? by Bruce Lesh at Amazon.

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Some Changes Around Here

So…I created this site and purchased the domain for the purposes of using this as my website and portfolio while I made my way through a PhD program in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology through Michigan State University. I’ve since made the decision to discontinue my pursuit of the degree program and focus on priorities that I believe fall inherently above that. See the letter I composed explaining withdrawal below. 

Since then — May 2011 — I’ve not done much here. I like the site. I want to blog. I understand the benefits to me personally and professionally. But, the site needs to be retrofitted to accommodate the current me. All my previous posts will be maintained here and archived, but I’m looking for a change. I’m open to suggestions for a site name and for visual remodeling — comment below. So pardon my dust while I fix it up real good.

Thanks again for visiting. I look forward to getting back into the swing of things. 

Withdrawal.doc Download this file

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Evolution and Technology

Evolution and Technology.doc Download this file

Testing to see what it looks like when I mail a document from the Pages app in my iPhone or iPad to Posterous.

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Welcome to Open Library (Open Library)


Just used and browsed the “Open Library”, a project of the Internet Archive ( This has been, and will continue to be, an invaluable resource for me as a U.S. History teacher seeking to provide relevant and meaningful primary and secondary sources to encourage and promote historical thinking in my classroom.

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Daddy’s So Proud…

Carmen and mommy are playing catch in our family room. I’m not sure what I’m more proud of: catching the ball in her hands or the picture perfect chest pass.

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My favorite part of Epcot:

Carmen’s Gymnastics Class Comes To A Close

Posting this entirely from my iPhone, I wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to see Carmen’s gymnastics recital and “Olympics”. It was a great year.

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