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iPads in Science

by Alfonso Gonzalez on June 30th, 2010

[See iPads in Science 2 to see what I learned a year later.]

I am very fortunate. Of the 19 years I’ve been teaching I’ve gotten at least one grant for 12 of those years; 10 of them have been the last 10 consecutive years. Four years ago I received a couple of Best Buy grants which allowed me to replace the ten iMacs in my classroom for ten newer iMacs. Seven years of Learn & Serve America grants have provided my students with a lot of equipment including two Macbook pros and a Dell Desktop. An HP Technology for Teaching grant got us an HP Tablet Laptop. With classes of 24 to 32 students over the years I’ve mainly had a ratio of 2:1 and 3:1 students to computer. Next year I’ll have a pretty cool opportunity.

I’ve just reapplied for my eighth year of Learn & Serve America grants for the 2010-11 school year and I put in my budget a request for 12 iPads. Hearing of my plans my district’s Special Ed and LAP/Title director approached me about using Solo 6 with all the 6th graders, since I teach Science to all of them, and I agreed. I was shocked and elated to find that she offered me money to purchase a few more computers so that more of the 6th graders would have access to the software. So I ordered five Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbooks!

So if my class sizes for next year stay 30 or fewer, which they look to be right now, I will have a ragtag 1:1 student to computer, netbook, desktop, laptop, tablet, or iPad ratio! I’m excited because I think my students can do great things in their small groups of two or three when each member of the team has access to a type of computer! I’ll get to order the iPads in September. Well I was panicking thinking of how students will want to get their hands on them when they arrive around October yet I’ll want to take some time to prep them for my students. I know, the control freak in me. So I visited our district’s business manager and asked if I could somehow either order one iPad now with my grant funds or buy one myself and be reimbursed with grant funds so I can practice over the summer and get it all prepped. I should have known, we can’t order something now with next school year’s budget. Ugh. So I called Apple to see if we could write a purchase order for September and get the iPad now. Their customer service said, “no, we need to receive payment 30 days from the placing of the order.” Rats!

Our business manager told me to ask my principal to see if she’d order one for me. So I did. She first wanted to see if we had any money left over in this year’s budget. No such luck, of course! So she looked into next year’s tech budget and gave me the okay! Thank you, Whitney!! So I ordered it and put in for a reimbursement in September!! For the last few days I’ve been playing, I mean prepping, the iPad to use with my students in the Fall. My room will look something like this (click here).


iPad home screen.

iPad home screen. (Click on picture to see full size.)

Here’s my plan so far for my ragtag 1:1 Science classes. On the bottom dock of the main screen, next to the Safari, Mail and iPod links, I’ve placed a link to my 6th grade Moodle page, a link to my 8th grade Moodle page and a link to our classblogmeister blogs. Students can access my Moodle documents and links and resources as well as their blog accounts. With Cinch students can even create podcasts to load onto their blogs. Along with Cinch I also had to get Blue FiRe cause it’s great for recording. Sadly, they can’t create glogs or prezis on the iPads but that’s why I’m glad I have iMacs and PC’s for students to be able to do those as well. At least that’s what I thought until @NMHS_Principal reminded us that CloudBrowse allows you to view flash content on the iPhone and iPad. We’ll see if prezi and glogster will work. I’m planning to use twitter in class so I got Twitbird Pro. I love having class discussions where more than one student can “talk” at a time, especially the quiet, shy ones. Go backchanneling! I tried using Moodle chat this past year with students in their small teams and after a slight hiccup it became a huge success! For an RSS agregator I find Reeder to be fantastic. The Weather Channel Max (TWC Max+) for the iPad is awesome and kicks butt of the iPhone version. It’s going to be great.

I got my school a Google Apps account and with the Documents2 app students can access their Google Docs or share their work from Documents2 via FTP or via a web address. It’s a pretty nifty app. Photo Pad allows us to share pictures using Flickr so I’m excited about using that app too. I’m sure students will find Dragon Dictation useful, my 7 year old daughter loves it but she enjoys all the errors it makes :). I also have a Science glossary, ScienceVL, and a regular Dictionary with Thesaurus (dictionary.com). Google Earth for the iPad, a calculator app, PCalc Lite, a timer app, iLab: Timer HD, and a unit Converter app, round out the main screen.

[Addendum: After trying out Tweetdeck for the iPad I'm not happy with it. It crashes constantly and I can't add a Facebook column and I couldn't even figure out how to delete a column. Maybe I'm missing something. So I've deleted Tweetdeck. I've also decided against Read It Later, it's great for me but I'm not sure students will need it. Same thing with the Delicious Bookmark app. So those three are gone. Add to the list Dropbox. I would need to buy another app because I can't use Documents2 with Dropbox so I've decided to keep Documents2 and delete Dropbox.]

iPad second screen.

iPad second screen. (Click on image to view full size.)

On the second screen I have some Science apps. One of my absolute favorites is The Elements app, which is the most incredible way I have seen to learn about elements in the periodic table. There are some fantastic periodic table websites out there but this app blows them away! The Star Walk and Solar Walk are also very cool and along with the moon phase app will be very enjoyable and helpful for students. The BrainPop app is pretty cool and I’m curious about the Bug Sim app (pictured below). I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s a simulation game (the only game I have on the iPad cause the learning apps I have are fun enough, right?) “for Darwinian Evolution, specifically through survival of the fittest.” [Okay, so I tried Bug Sim. Not visually stunning, the bugs are multicolored one or two pixel square boxes. Fainter, smaller circles represent food. You choose how many bugs to start with, how much food, and how food regenerates. You can even add up to two gardens of Eden with quickly regenerating food supply. Then you let it run and see what happens with a graph showing population growth and decline. It also shows births, deaths, and mutations. I think i will try it with my 8th grade Life Science classes.]

With Animation HD students can create animations to use on their blogs or wikis. Ezimba is a cool app for students to add effects to photographs. Another creative app. VideoScience has some great videos of science experiments and labs. So along with DNA Lite, Molecules, Insects HD, Animals HD, and HD Marine Life 2 I think students can do some fun learning (had to find stuff for my 8th grade Life Science students). MeAnderthal is just fun (too bad you can’t take pictures with the iPad, we really need that feature added). GoDocs is good for viewing Google Docs (viewing only as I discovered after buying it). Then iBooks, Kindle and Stanza round out this second screen. After reading iPad in Education I added the Photopad app to this screen for photo editing to go along with Ezimba.

iPad third screen.

iPad third screen. (Click on image to view full size.)

The third screen is as yet undeveloped. I have some apps here that I am using this summer but don’t plan to use with students. HistoryMaps is cool so I’ll keep it for my students who appreciate history like I do :) I added some more apps to fill up this screen after reading iPad in Education. I added Comic Touch Lite (the free version), Draw Free and Doodle Buddy to help students create what they need for their blogs or wikis. I also added 3D Brain, Brain Tutor and 3D Sun for some fun Science. And I gave in and added a game. The free version of Rush Hour.

Here’s a new resource I got as of July 2011 40 Most Awesome Apps for Science Students.

So I can’t wait until October! :o Please let know if I’m missing anything or if there’s a cool iPad app I should try.

Bug simulation game.

BugSim game app. (Click on image to see full size.)

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  • Joan Gelfond

    Do you ever sleep? Great blog…thank you for publishing.
    Tech Director from The Shlenker School – Houston, TX.

  • http://www.mrmacnevin.com Brian Mac

    I don’t know about what’s out there. But Vernier and Pasco should be madly… even feverishly… releasing software to suport their probes on the iPad!

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  • http://www.iear.org Scott Meech

    I am the founder of an education community that is devoted to mobile learning devices in education called I Education Apps Review and I would like to invite you to cross-post your information within that community.

    http://www.iear.org
    http://ieducationappsreview.ning.com

    The IEAR community is dedicated to using these devices more effectively in the learning process. Within that community, IEAR.org has 30 educators coming online to do app reviews. Our app reviewers promise to review the application fairly and responsibly. Each review is assigned a grade level of appropriateness and a grade for Program Functionality, Purpose, and Overall Educational Value.

    The community is a grassroots effort that is not connected with any company and it has no advertising. Let me know if you have any questions, etc.


    Scott Meech
    Scott@IEAR.org
    Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/iear

    … The IPhone / ITouch / IPad / IPod and IOther have a place in education…

  • http://leadingfromtheheart.org Tracy Rosen

    iDraft – love it. It’s a hands on note taker. All notes are taken with your finger, you can change colour and line thickness. Great for kinesthetic and visual learners like me!
    http://www.wondershare.com/mobile/iphone-apps/idraft.html

    Idea Sketch – mind mapping tool. Simple, clean, easy to use.
    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/idea-sketch/id367246522?mt=8

    There is one thing that would make me wary of investing in a number of iPads for use in my classroom. Since I’ve had my iPad I have had very inconsistent network connections. The other morning I was working on some writing for a course I am taking and, mid-work, the connection dropped and would not re-connect. The work was being done online. In order to troubleshoot the network connection Safari has to close and when it reopens it refreshes, so I lost my work.

    Worst cast scenario is losing work, other than that it can be a frustrating experience to suddenly be popped off of a network – we all know how much fun that can be in the classroom, when all of a sudden 30 kids start saying, the Internet’s not working…

    Apparently there are some possible fixes,
    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2362319,00.asp
    that article is from April, I haven’t found anything more recent but hopefully Apple is working on fixing the issue.

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  • http://educatoral.com/ al_gonzalez

    Tracy,

    Thanks for the recommendations. I downloaded the apps and they are cool. I’ll play with them and make them available to students. I’ll work with my tech guy to see if we can’t avoid dropped wifi.

    Thanks a lot!

    Al

  • Stephanie Harman

    Hi Mr. Gonzalez!

    I am interested in how you are using your iPads in your science classroom. My school just bought a set of 20 and I will be getting one this week to try out for the fall. Any MUST HAVE apps that you have come across other than the ones listed in your blog. Any advice on how to use these in my classroom would be great. I teach 7-8th grade science, but the iPads will be used across curriculums. You can email me at sharman@mvcds.net

    Thanks!
    Stephanie Harman
    7 & 8 Science
    Maumee Valley Country Day School
    Toledo, OH

  • http://educatoral.com/ Mr. G

    Hey Stephanie,

    Since writing this post I’ve added a few more apps that I’m looking forward to testing on my kids to see how they work. I’ve added 3D Cell Stain (http://ax.itunes.apple.com/us/app/3d-cell-simulation-stain-tool/id381129413?mt=8) for my 8th grade Life Science classes. I’ve also added the following:
    GoodReader (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/goodreader-for-ipad/id363448914?mt=8),
    Qikcrossword (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/quick-crossword/id354031239?mt=8),
    GroupBoard (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/groupboard/id364049817?mt=8),
    iDraft (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wondershare-idraft/id379174209?mt=8),
    Sundry Notes (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sundry-notes/id353007318?mt=8),
    Idea Sketch (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/idea-sketch/id367246522?mt=8),
    Free Emoji (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/emoji-free/id332509635?mt=8),
    Adobe Ideas (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/adobe-ideas-1-0-for-ipad/id364617858?mt=8),
    Caster Free (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/caster-free/id354892441?mt=8),
    SparkVue (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sparkvue/id361907181?mt=8),
    Firefox Home (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/firefox-home/id380366933?mt=8),
    GPS Tracker (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gps-tracker/id286658744?mt=8), and
    GoToMeeting (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gotomeeting/id363452804?mt=8).

    Those are the latest I want to try out. Don’t know if they’re must have or not. I’ll see which ones work or are even needed when I start using them with students.

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  • http://medrano.pbworks.com Andrea

    Mr. G.
    Very cool! I am looking for information and ways to use ipad in my 8th grade science class. My school has 5, (I could get one) but I have to explain how I will use it in my class.

    As you are the advance guy here, can I use one in a class of 30?
    Do you think it will be effective?

    I have a Smart Board and use that daily, but may sites are blocked by my district. Do the ipad app’s work if they are loaded from home?

    Thanks for any input, if I can make it a tool for the students, then I will ask for one, if it will only make me want 12 like you, then maybe its not a good time to try them yet.

    Andrea Medrano

  • http://educatoral.com/ Mr. G

    Hi Andrea,

    I will have only one iPad for my class from September until the other ones arrive in October. Sometime in October. I’m sure we’ll all be waiting on pins and needles. I’m going to have students use it but you have to realize that I already have 11 desktop computers and six or seven netbooks and laptops. I have students grouped into ten teams with 2 to 3 kids in each team so until the iPads get here each team should have two machines to use until the arrival. So for me using one iPad is somewhat doable. When I started teaching I did make use of one machine in my classroom and had kids rotate through it as a center. Having one computer or similar device in your class, with the use of a computer lab, can work. Would I want to ever go back to that? No way!

    So to answer your question as to whether it will be effective or not, well, that depends on what you will have kids doing on the iPad. Will they be reading pdf’s that you preloaded onto them? Websites for research? Will they be writing documents? Blogs? Do you have any other machines in your room? The iPad is fun but limited compared to a Netbook and even more compared to a full on laptop or desktop for creating content and using Web 2.0 sites.

    As for iPads apps working with no Wifi, or limited/blocked wifi, if it’s an app that requires wifi you will need wifi or the app won’t work. There are apps that do not require wifi but they aren’t as fun for the most part. Star Walk totally works without being connected but it’s no use in the daytime or indoors even. I personally think that if you get one you will want more but if you do get one, you will find things for your students to do that will help them learn.

    Bottom line. Go for it! You’ll learn lots and be ready if you do get more :o)

    Good luck!

  • Cglass

    Do you have any suggestions for an app that shows how to use lab equipment, set up labs or demonstrates labs. I viewed one in which a gentleman demonstrated the equipment, vocabulary and procedures for a titration. I can’t find it now!!!

  • Allisonkovac

    I am so inspiried by your teaching! I was just given the charge of putting toether a presentation on Tueday, 1/10 to convince the “powers that be” that IPads would be a good investment for my 6th grade science class. Any suggestions for how to WOW them?
    Allison Kovac
    allisonkovac@westonk12-ct.org

  • http://educatoral.com/ Alfonso (Al) Gonzalez

    Hi Allison,

    Thank you! So glad my website has been helpful.

    Glogs are great. Have you made a glog before? Two things that come to mind about glogs, 1. they are best experienced by visiting them yourself like going straight to one (http://educatoral93.edu.glogster.com/mrgsglog/) or interacting with one on someone’s blog (http://classblogmeister.com/blog.php?blog_id=1406259&mode=comment&user_id=&blogger_id=). 2. One thing to watch out for is that you can’t view them on iPads so if you’re using glogs to make a case for getting iPads they aren’t something kids can really do there.

    For a wow presentation and something that can be enjoyed/viewed (not created yet, I don’t think) on an iPad are prezi’s. Here’s one I made last year to launch a project with my 8th graders:
    http://prezi.com/ers-xjfqea4y/mini-science-fair-plants/

    Prezis are replacing PowerPoints. Play with it over the weekend because there is a slightly steep learning curve with those.

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  • John

    boring

  • Jonh

    pictuers but alot of good details good job

  • http://www.facebook.com/leslie.mcgahie Leslie Rowan McGahie

    I am working on a grant for a smart board in my classroom and thought of adding an ipad-I’m not sure how I’ll use it- any suggestions?

  • Alfonso Gonzalez

    Sorry I took so long to respond, Leslie! I have a smart board in my room and frankly, never use it. I don’t use it because I have enough devices that each student can be engaged as opposed to me having all the fun on the smart board. If I could use the smart board as a learning center and rotate kids through it, I would. As for adding one iPad to the mix you can do anything with it as long as it’s one kids or a small group of kids at a time. Again, I would use it like a center and have kids rotate through it. Either that or have them use it as needs arise. iPads can be used to conduct research, blog, make movies, draw pictures, make collages, make comic books, graph data, watch Youtube videos, etc. Pretty much anything as long as you have the right app for it.

    Hope that helps albeit way too late.