Thursday, June 9, 2011

Virtual Calculators and programs to go with it...

When working with calculators, it's very difficult to show students exact steps unless they can see your screen.  I used to bring in a document camera and use that to project my calculator on the screen.  The only problem with this is the fact that I don't have the document camera stored in my room.  If I just need it for a minute, is it really worth all the effort to go get it?

So, what to do?  I explored the internet looking for a free downloadable virtual calculator.  It took some time but I finally found the Ti-83 Flash Debugger SDK program.  Once you download and install it, just follow these easy steps.
  1. Open program.
  2. File==>New
  3. Select either of the first two choices.
  4. Press F5 OR Debug==>Go.
  5. Don't close this screen.  Just minimize it.
  6. When done, just close the entire program.  Don't save.

Pros:
This calculator works just like a real Ti-83.  Keep in mind that every time you start the program, it reverts to the original mode which means you have to change from Radians to Degrees if needed.

Cons:
If it sits unused on the screen too long, it turns off.
Requires a couple steps to open every time.

Too Small
Now, some people have commented that it is quite hard to see the buttons.  However, if you have Smart Notebook installed, you can use the magnifier found listed under "other SMART tools".  Selecting the red box/grey box button (second from the right) seems to work the best.

Disappears When You Click On Something Else
I use this program in conjunction with Smart Notebook.  Of course, when you click back on the notebook, the calculator disappears in behind.  Sometimes this can be a real pain.  I know that I could resize the screen so both would show at the same time but sometimes I want the notebook large as well.  Again, I spent some time and looked for a program that would keep both on the screen at the same time.  This time, I found a program called DeskPins, a free download.  When you run the program, you can pin the calculator to the screen so that it always stays on top.  Perfect!

Now, I am completely happy with the way this program runs.

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