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Education Handhelds IOS Programming Hardware

For Education, Why TI-83 > iPad 340

theodp writes "Writing in The Atlantic, Phil Nichols makes a convincing case for why educational technologies should be more like graphing calculators and less like iPads. Just messing around with TI-BASIC on a TI-83 Plus, Nichols recalls, 'helped me cultivate many of the overt and discrete habits of mind necessary for autonomous, self-directed learning.' So, with all those fancy iPads at their schools, today's kids must really be programming up a storm, right? Wrong. Nichols, who's currently pursuing a PhD in education, laments, 'The iPad is among the recent panaceas being peddled to schools, but like those that came before, its ostensibly subversive shell houses a fairly conventional approach to learning. Where Texas Instruments graphing calculators include a programming framework accessible even to amateurs, writing code for an iPad is restricted to those who purchase an Apple developer account, create programs that align with Apple standards, and submit their finished products for Apple's approval prior to distribution.'"
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For Education, Why TI-83 > iPad

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  • Well, there is Codea (Score:4, Informative)

    by Maavin ( 598439 ) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @08:29AM (#44723319)
    Quite interesting
    • by BrokenHalo ( 565198 ) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @09:50AM (#44723699)
      ...The best calculator for education (IMO) is none at all. I'm not writing this as a luddite (or not entirely): I own an HP48G+ and a TI-89, and I'll admit that they are a useful means to take the gruntwork out of a lot of calculations (especially the TI-89 with its capacity for symbolic differentiation and integration).

      My contention is that any calculator often tends to become a crutch that actually gets in the way of learning, in the sense that it effectively encourages the student to spit out the "answer", when the point is to understand how it is obtained.

      When I studied first-year maths at Uni, most of my fellow-students never even got to grips with the fundamental theorem of calculus, which of course means that for the entirety of the course, they were parroting little mini-formulae without really understanding how it fitted together. And using any calculator to find points of inflexion on a curve is just a big time-waster when you can scribble them with a pencil much faster than you can punch the keys.

      Getting back to my earlier remarks about gruntwork, though, my best choice for this - if only it existed- would be a TI-89 that does RPN (with the nice clicky keys and the big "Enter" button exactly under the index finger). Fat chance...
      • by KGIII ( 973947 ) <uninvolved@outlook.com> on Saturday August 31, 2013 @01:25PM (#44725061) Journal

        What I take from all of this?

        Everyone learns differently. You recommend one thing, the author another, and I learned another. I'm not sure that the iPad is the right choice but I would agree that a tablet, seeing as it has greater potential, is probably a better choice of aids for the students than any of the methods we've become attached to. Why? The tablet can emulate all of those things in one form or another and if they can't then they can have custom software that does if it is needed.

        I guess, really, that what I'm saying is that the tablet offers all those choices (even an abacus I suppose) but doesn't lock anyone into a specific method, device, or thought process by default. It will, ideally, allow students to learn how they're best suited to learn.

  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @08:30AM (#44723331) Homepage

    If TI-83's were made by Apple, you could calculate any number except 5318008.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 31, 2013 @08:33AM (#44723343)

    Give them something that will actually be useful in the real world--a netbook with octave. It's certainly a heck of alot easier to learn then TI Basic for doing anything useful.

    Also you could give the python with numpy if they need a programming language that extends beyond math.

    Hell, even give them mathematica (Although it wouldn't be free like octave or python..)

    • You can code in octave on an iPad (although no one should). Also python, and a bunch of other languages. Plus it has a bigger screen that's much more suitable for textbooks.

    • Making it easy to learn is the complete opposite of the point here. We WANT it to be a challenge to learn, and to have good documentation for them to look things up in. That makes them learn HOW to program, as well as HOW to look up things they may not know yet. If it's just "Oh, click this blue button, then this red button, and suddenly I have a 'class' object I can drag around..." then you're not really teaching them anything useful.

      I vividly remember how much fun it was to write chat or game programs for

    • by gander666 ( 723553 ) * on Saturday August 31, 2013 @12:21PM (#44724615) Homepage
      For high school? I am sorry, but that is a huge fail. Graphing calculators are a fail. Part of learning mathematics is actually doing the math. The answer isn't the important part, it is the process that you are learning to get there. For that Octave/Matlab/Mathematica/Maple are terrible. I didn't use a calculator in high school, and in college only for classes that required you to do true calculations (mostly chemistry). Otherwise it was pencil and paper (or for my programming classes the timeshare system du jour).

      I know you will trot out tired arguments that learning the tools they will use in the future is important, blah blah, but I have taught a lot of whiz bang programmers who got through high school and college without learning geometry, trigonometry, or anything beyond simple algebra. They all used CAS and math systems in their studies, and never learned the underlying principles.

      The fact that you pretty much must have one of the approved TI calculators, and the texts all have button by button recipes for solving problems is just insanity.
  • Nope (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The average student would never program their calculator.

    • When the average student owns several computers, maybe programming the calculator should be encouraged.
    • First program I ever wrote was on the used Casio Graph 25 I got, and that one wasn't even a powerful or well done language.
      By the end of high school I had a used Graph 65 where I wrote minesweeper, chess clock, mandelbrot set plot, and one of those bomber games which sucked since the display was too slow for it (It had a colour one) and a good couple of calculation programs - and it brought me to trying to program on a computer (C and Fortran 77). For kids who have some interest in messing with this sort
    • The Other problem is that Ti is even getting away from on calc programming. The Ti-nspire has very basic function programming, and to do higher level LUA scripts you need a computer.

      They also need to quit focusing on the 83 for a bit and start focusing on the Ti-89. It has a powerful language out of the box and can do so much more than the 83's.
      At least make a Color 89 with a higher resolution screen.

      • I bought a TI-84+ for a sibling last month, and it still has TI-Basic and ASM(via computer) just like my 5-year-old one. $105 or so at Target.

        I think for reasons of standardized tests and testing acceptance they don't change their flagship lines very much, if at all.

    • The TI instruction set is minimal, but includes basic IF and GOTO statements and assigning variables. Folks wrote somes pretty sophisticated game with it, including a text based RPG called "Drug War" that was banned at most schools.
    • Re:Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mashdar ( 876825 ) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:19AM (#44724223)

      The average student would never program their calculator.

      That's some very good "No Child Left Behind" logic you've got there. Next up: the average student does not play football.

    • Only recently, but that's the problem. Today's average student has become dumb and lazy. When I was in school, EVERYONE programmed their calculator, to the point that some teachers would take them away during class because we'd all be playing games on them instead of paying attention.

  • ...and why bother? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @08:38AM (#44723359)

    Why bother trying to type up some hodgepodge calculator games when you can download Angry Birds for 99 cents?

    • Because under the policy of at least one school, any handheld device running iOS or Android would need to be placed in the student's locker no later than the first bell and removed from the locker no earlier than the final bell. Exceptions can be made for students using special education services on the student's Individualized Education Program.
  • I understand this works on iPads:

    Apple ][ emulator [scullinsteel.com]
    • by mvdwege ( 243851 ) <mvdwege@mail.com> on Saturday August 31, 2013 @08:46AM (#44723395) Homepage Journal

      So, when pointed out that a cheap calculator is a much better educational deal than an expensive tablet, your answer is 'install an emulator on the expensive tablet'?

      Just when I thought Apple fans couldn't sink any lower...

      • When the choice is between buying another gadget or install a free or cheap program on a gadget you already own, then yes, that's the rational answer.
        • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
          Except this is all about school-provided hardware, where iPads are being purchased en masse by schools to give to students during their scholar year. If you aren't in a school with that sort of program, then bringing an iPad in class is very likely disallowed anyway.
          • What I don't understand is why, when schools are facing record-low budgets(thanks, war-profiteering asshole politicians), are they buying the most expensive option for tablets?

            Why do they not have a pile of the HP TouchPads (super cheap, around $200US) and just run Android on them? They are large, the screen looks fantastic, it's cheap as dirt, and it runs the most popular mobile OS.

            • Because Apple has great marketing and has continuously been marketing to naive school boards since the 1970s. Also the mass media is getting into the picture, they either use "iPad" as a synonym for all tablets or mistakenly report on it as if it's the most advanced and capable.

      • by Goody ( 23843 )

        A cheap calculator is a better educational deal if all you're concerned with is programming and performing functions in a relatively primitive or basic environment. A tablet (any tablet, not just Apple) is so much more universally usefully than a cheap calculator. Try to read a PDF on a cheap calculator, for example. If an emulator on a tablet can accomplish the same thing as a cheap calculator and do a million other much more complex tasks, the tablet has a better value. The fact that most don't use a

        • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

          The usefulness of a tablet is limited by the corporate IT policies that surround it. There have already been educational software suppressed on both major platforms for various reasons.

          In order for an educational tool to be really useful, it needs to be in control of the educator.

          In any ecosystem there are flagship species that will thrive if that ecosystem is healthy. Their success is has much broader implications than one might fathom from fixating on the most superficial view of the situation.

      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        Whoosh. Schools aren't buying tablets to replace calculators, they're buying them for things like textbook replacement, note taking, research via the web, etc. Also using them in place of programmable calculators can be done with low, or zero, incremental cost.

        I mentioned iPads only because that's what the summary was about. And pointing to an Apple ][ emulator just seemed to fit with that. The point, which you missed entirely on your way to making a political criticism, is that one can do programming on a
  • by countach ( 534280 ) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @08:50AM (#44723405)

    The ipad is not meant to be that kind of device. It replaces lugging around heavy text books. It mostly replaces lugging around a laptop. It's a conduit for researching on the web. But it's not a device particularly for hacking, computer programming and so forth. Would it be nice to have a device good at both? Sure, but it doesn't mean the ipad isn't great at what it is. Not everyone wants to be a programmer.

  • Framing (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @08:51AM (#44723419)

    "The iPad is among the recent panaceas being peddled to schools..."

    Now get the new and improved panacea that I personally endorse. That other panacea is crap.

    • "The iPad is among the recent panaceas being peddled to schools..."

      Now get the new and improved panacea that I personally endorse. That other panacea is crap.

      I think that's more than a bit unfair as a characterization of the argument here.

      iPads have been getting a lot of hype from the media, from school districts, etc. for years as something that will "revolutionize" education or something, i.e., a panacea that will make it easier for student to learn, will solve numerous problems with education, will make classrooms full of happy unicorns and rainbows, etc.

      The present article is NOT claiming that the TI-83 has anywhere near that (supposed) revolutionary edu

  • Some people can't seem to understand that. There are lots of possible career fields outside of computers and since the iPad is more than a calculator it's awesome for people to discover how things work and what else is out there in the world

    • Did you read the fine article? No you didn't. This guy is not a programmer, he's not been programming since that calculator. He's an English teacher.

      For those like me who did not become programmers, whose notebooks of code and illustrations sat untouched in a musty basement for the last decade, learning to program taught habits of mind that persist to this day in small yet vital ways.

      His point is that iPad is a dumb device meant for passive intake of information, but many still assumes it's more advanced than the old calculators, thus a better tool for students.

    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
      So what? Why wouldn't we come to a point where people would have to understand extremely basic programming as part of the main curriculum? We already ask them to do so for their native language, usually a second one, plus subjects like math. Programming is becoming fundamental to the society we live in, and the fact most people don't even know what programming is (well, apart from seeing it as some form of arcane art) could easily become problematic in the future.

      Plus, the point is that if you want to try
  • by nashv ( 1479253 ) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @08:57AM (#44723435) Homepage

    If only there was an open source system, with freely downloadable resources, and could run a standard simple programming language like Python.

    Oh wait, there's this Android thing...

  • writing code for an iPad is restricted to those who purchase an Apple developer account, create programs that align with Apple standards, and submit their finished products for Apple's approval prior to distribution.

    This is highly misleading, bordering on bullshit. Too many ANDs in that statement, and the second two clauses are really two aspects of one clause that the author is breaking out to rhetorically exaggerate the difficulty. You can develop for iOS without getting your stuff featured on the App Sto

  • Pythonista (Score:5, Informative)

    by rhedin ( 91503 ) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @09:05AM (#44723473)

    Sounds like someone needs to take a look at Pythonista [omz-software.com] - a full featured development environment, including code editor with syntax highlighting and code completion, interactive prompt, support for graphics and a touch interface, with full featured libraries including math and text processing; runs on iOS (iPhone and iPad) you can even export the app you've developed and have running on your iPad to Xcode so that you can build it for submission to Apple's App Store.

    It's a staple on my iPad and has been for a year or so.

    Sounds like a bit more useful than a graphing calculator.


  • First, I don't believe the iPad is a panacea of education. I see it as another tool, not one to replace them all. Second, the only part of the summary with regard to programming for the iPad (or any iOS device) that's valid is the "prior to distribution" part. You can develop and deploy apps locally without being a registered developer and without Apple oversight. The only time you hit that obstacle is when you go to distribute the app, and guess what? Apple has a program for universities at least so studen
  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @09:47AM (#44723683)

    Another "journalist" who can't be arsed to do a trivial google search to check the facts behind the thesis of his article. You can program in python, ruby, octave, or several other languages on an iPad. Even one of several variants of basic, if you want. If you really love the TI-83 you can even emulate that.

    Plus read textbooks, scientific papers, manuals, etc.

    Kudos to the slashdot editors and the submitter for their incredulity as well.

  • I completed engineering school with a slide rule before they invented calculators.
    this is actually faster than a calculator and you tend to focus on the method rather than the math.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      True. But when you went out into the real world and had to solve engineering problems, did you grind out repetitive problems on a slide rule? I doubt it. You probably key punched a Fortran program to be run on a mainframe. And that is something you probably learned in school (OTJ training aside).

      The calculator vs slide rule comparison as a numerical calculating device isn't the issue. Its the availability of a tool that can assist in learning coding practices. Its just more convenient to roll the two funct

      • by mspohr ( 589790 )

        I think the article author is talking about be best learning tool, not the best tool to grind out work at your job.
        For that purpose, I nominate the slide rule which is pretty "transparent" in that you tend to spend more time focused on the method of solving the problem rather than the mechanics.

  • Quite like game-consoles, in fact. Programming, customization, alternate OSes, all not encouraged. Basically a shiny, expensive tool, that cannot do a lot. A Barbie-doll comes to mind as a comparison. (My kid sister threw hers into the trash after a few days because "you cannot do anything with them"...) It regards its users as infantile, incompetent, and only capable of selecting from a simple list of choices prepared for them.

    A programmable calculator, on the other hand, is a professional tool and program

  • There are multiple ways of learning.

    One way is through receiving information being presented by somebody else. Books, teachers, and possibly IPads, are good for this.

    Another way is by trying things yourself. Legos. A chemistry set. An electronics kit. A computer with an easily accessible programming interface. An iPad is not good at this. It doesn't need anything fancy, IMO - just support an iterative language, procs and funcs, math and strings and arrays and pointers and stuff, basic input from keyb
  • Everything Nichols says is true, but you don't have to use the Apple sanctioned development tools nor put your app in the app store if you just want to learn how to program.
  • by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:01AM (#44724095)

    I teach college physics: my students use both iPads and TI calculators. But almost none of them use the programming features on either the calculator or the iPad. It's a rare student who has a creative spirit that's strong enough to bother learning to program on any device, and those that have that drive to make things will find a way to do it on any device they can get their hands on.

    And while *you* might have learned to program on a TI, you're a Slashdot reader, you were that rare student. And let's be honest: as a programming interface, the TI is hideously awful.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Programming is a tool. Sure, Slashdot is host to a preponderance of people who consider it a profession unto itself. But in physics, engineering, economics, even math, basic skills in programming are going to be a part of your job. And even if the task at hand demands a specialist, you will be expected to understand the terminology and concepts used in order to communicate your requirements to the experts.

  • Can the TI be a good educational tool to help teach programming concepts? Yep, it sure can be. Better tool than the iPad? Probably, yes.

    But that's not really the educational niche for which Apple is pushing the iPad in the classroom. It's basically being sold as an electronic textbook, which isn't necessarily a bad concept. Having one very portable device to haul around instead of four to six heavy books is great. Not having to print a massive number of new textbooks every year? Also nice. Videos and audio

The best book on programming for the layman is "Alice in Wonderland"; but that's because it's the best book on anything for the layman.