I teach Middle School Science, mainly physical, environmental, and life to 6th and 8th graders. Through grants I have acquired 14 iPads for my students to use everyday. Students are also welcome to use their own handheld devices or smartphones. For those who have no devices or technology of their own I also have enough iMacs and Netbooks to create a 1:1 environment of student to technology. Science is a subject where I can easily integrate technology to help my students learn and demonstrate learning of all the topics that we study.
A handy biology app
A nice paid app for Biology is the Cell and Cell Structure app, which I was able to try out for free – my students did use it and like it.
If your students do any animal dissection you can offer kids an alternate way to dissect virtually with Frog Dissection and Rat Dissection, both excellent apps that my students, even 6th graders who don’t do any dissecting, love to use. Both of those are also paid apps. I was allowed to try out the Frog Dissection app for free and when I saw how much students took to it I bought the app for them.
Office app for iPad
One iPad app that we get a lot of use from is Office2 HD. It’s a paid app but has been well worth the price for us. Students use it for Word Processing and note taking and students save their documents as Word documents. Students can also make spreadsheets that are compatible with Excel, presentations that are compatible with PowerPoint, or they can create text files. A really cool feature of Office2 HD is that I have it setup with all our class Google accounts so students can upload their documents to those Google Docs accounts. Once the documents are uploaded to their Google Doc accounts, they do have to share it with me from Google Docs using Safari because you can’t share it from Office2 HD, but it’s still a great way to get their documents uploaded. Once they share their documents with me, I can keep track of everything from my computer. Paper free and notebook free, which means I can read and comment on their work anywhere, anytime.
All my students have a blog that I moderate through ClassBlogmeister at http://mrgonzalez.org/. I like using ClassBlogmeister because I moderate and approve all posts and comments before they go live. I post assignments and ask reflection questions after each unit of study so students use their blogs as electronic portfolios of their learning in Science. If I get my 6th graders again in my 8th grade classes (I have all the 6th graders and two-thirds of the 8th graders) they get their same blog so it shows all their Science learning from 6th and 8th grade. Because of this, we don’t need to use much paper even at the student-led conferences.
Creating original artwork
In order to have original artwork on their blogs, students love using Doodle Buddy, a free app, for all their drawing needs. With Doodle Buddy students can add text to drawings so they can also copy a picture they find on the Internet and add text to it, which is important for us because we have first gen iPads with no cameras. For photo editing PS Express is an awesome app and it’s free! It does everything we need from cropping to rotating images. We have two ways to get photos and drawings uploaded for use on blogs. One way is with the Photobucket app, also free and very easy. I have a class FTP account through my personal server account and FTPView is amazing for uploading photos from the iPad. It costs money so Photobucket is great and preferable for those without their own FTP accounts.
Some students really enjoy creating their own animations and Doink is a great app for that. It does cost money but kids really like it, it’s easy to use and kids can create really nice animated images with it. I was also allowed to use Doink with kids for free and kids really liked it and made good use of it so I can recommend it. A free app that some students made use of is Blue Fire, which students use to record podcasts to upload and use on their blogs. It’s easy to use and is very effective.
For social networking to increase participation in class discussions I’ve tried using Collaborize Classroom. I have never used Edmodo but I think Collaborize Classroom gives Edmodo a run for its money and can be used to do many of the same things teachers are doing with Edmodo. I’m not sure which is the better platform to use, especially since I’ve only used Collaborize Classroom but both seem to have great potential. Collaborize Classroom has also introduced a free iPad app making it a more workable option for my students. Blogging and social networking allow all my students to connect with each other, even out of the classroom anytime, anywhere, as well as with students all over the world. My classes have blogged and commented with kids from New York, New Jersey, Colorado, Australia, and New Zealand.
Other tech we use
We do use the iPads, personal handheld devices, iMacs, and Netbooks for consuming information when we do research. Students use the class tech as consumers to learn. We don’t use textbooks much if at all because we can usually find great websites that cover any topic we are studying. But what I see with blogging, writing, drawing, making animations, movies, and podcasts is that students can use our iPads to create as well. What makes the iPad a useful tool for my Science students is its mobility and ease of use to share what you are doing. That being said, iMacs and Netbooks are actually preferable for doing things such as making movies (both have webcams) and for using Web2.0 sites such as Glogster and Prezi, which we also use and cannot create or work with on the iPad. There are workarounds and apps for viewing Prezis and Glogs but not for creating them. I actually feel very fortunate to have multiple resources available for my students to offer them choices for showing and/or demonstrating what they are learning whether they use a mobile device or a desktop.