PhET Interactive Simulations

This week, we are covering types of reactions and balancing equation in Chemistry. The PhET (Physics Education Technology) Interactive Simulations really help my students understand the basis of why equations must be balanced, helping them relate back to the idea of Conservation of Matter.

There are over 100 simulations on their website, all are FREE! Many of the older ones, such as Gas Properties, require Java and can only run on a computer. The newer ones, such as Balancing Chemical Equations, have been converted to HTML5.

The simulations are not limited to Chemistry topics. There are also simulations for Biology, Physics, Earth Science, and Math.

Mobile app versions are available for iOS and Android devices for a nominal fee.

PhET iPad.png

Gene Expression


iPadogogy @ Punahou Lab School

I have been fortunate to be a part of the Punahou Lab School this week for the iPads and Personalized Learning workshop. Wow, what a week it’s been!

My cohort group was composed of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) teachers in middle school and high school lead by awesome facilitators – Kimble (KSBE) and Josh (St. Andrews). My role as the CRT (Curriculum Resource Teacher) is to help the facilitators and the participants with their tech needs as well as scheduling tours in summer school classrooms currently using iPads.

Many of the teachers teach at various schools in Hawai‘i. We also in our cohort group, 3 math and science teachers from RDFZ in Xishan, China – an Apple Distinguished School. These Chinese teachers have already been using iPads and MacBooks in their classes. It was a great experience to work with all of these teacher this past week.

Our teachers coming from different settings -some have classroom set of iPads, some have 1:1 iPad programs, some have a few iPads checked out once/twice a week. With that in mind, Kimble and Josh proposed this challenge for the cohort: “What is your iPad identity? How will you use the iPads in the classroom?” In order to address the different needs, the facilitators opted to present a mix of demonstrations on various apps as well as touching on current educational technology theories: SAMR, TPACK, Game-based Learning, and Jane McGonigal. We also spent time visiting many classrooms at Punahou: middle school Animation Sensation (making stop action movies), several middle school math classrooms, a high school math classroom, a high school Biology classroom using 1:1:1 (MacBook and iPad),  and a high school Asian History classroom using 1:1:1 (MacBook and iPad). Each day, Kimble took a group of teachers to Kamehameha School  and Josh took a group to St. Andrew’s Priory to visit additional classrooms.

I was inspired by the energy, passion, and motivation of all these teachers in our cohort and those we visited. Reflecting on the Biology curriculum that I have taught, students have always struggled with the photosynthesis and cellular respiration. I found a couple of ready made photosynthesis NearPod presentations that I can use. I decided to make a NearPod presentation to explain cellular respiration with embedded videos and interactive polls. These NearPod presentations will be used in conjunction with the Elodea Lab for photosynthesis and cellular respiration.

I’m also toying with the idea of having students do vlog (video blog) as a way for them reflect on their journey through Biology. I find that I get to know how my students learn better through their reflection. I’m hoping that these ideas will help to engage and motivate my students in Biology.

Tablets for Learning

In your opinion, what are the three most significant ways in which a tablet device may be useful for learning? Support your answers.

Tablets, specifically, iPads have transformed the learning in my classroom. As I have mentioned in an earlier blog post, the Anatomy apps we use allow for a richness of images never before achieved in the class. The iPads and apps allow students to work on their own pace to discover the anatomical structures we’re focusing on for the day. Students can manipulate the images as they need. This ability allows for individualized learning that enables students to learn on their own at their own pace. Additionally, students are more engaged and motivated to learn with their shiny new devices. The iPads have been working out well in my class from my experience. However, I foresee that students can be more productive if we were on a 1:1 iPad program.

This summer, I’m going to be part of a team of teachers to help pilot an iPad classroom in the summer school Biology program at my school. Although I have taught summer biology for the past three summers, I’m choosing to take a step back from being the classroom teacher this year to help support the integration of iPads into the curriculum. The students will be assigned an iPad for the duration of the course. Additionally, we plan to have a laptop cart along with several desktops in the classroom.

We are just beginning to discuss the potential of individualized learning and other benefits of having an iPad classroom. In a nutshell, we already know that iPads can be used for content consumption. There are some amazing apps for Evolution and Cells that we will have students use. The next steps are ways to have students curate and create their own content using the iPads. Maybe they can create their own iMovie presenting as aspect of the Hawaiian ecosystem. Or they can create an iBook chronicling their 6-week journey through the summer biology course. We’re hoping that from our experience this summer, we will have additional ideas around the successes and challenges of the iPad classroom.


The Promise of Mobile Learning

According to TechCrunch article on Thurs, Feb 28, 2013, Apple has sold more than 8 million iPads to educational institutions. That’s a startling number. I know that many schools on Oahu either already have a 1:1 iPad program or are on the verge of implementing the program. Those not on a 1:1 iPad program, such as the school I teach at, have access to iPad carts.

In my own classroom, we use iPads about 25% of the time. There are great Anatomy apps that allow my students to visualize the body system we are covering. Just today, for introduction to the nervous system, I am having my students put together a Brain Cap, then using the 3D Brain App (free), students identify location and function of key structures in the brain such as the 4 lobes of the brain. I find that my students are more engaged and motivated with the content through using iPads than using the textbook and course management system alone.

Students working on Brain Caps and 3D Brain app Finished Brain Cap

Although we are using iPads in the classroom, we are not truly maximizing the capacity of mobile learning. In true mobile learning, content and learning should be accessible from any where at anytime. At this point, my students can’t check out the iPads to take home. If they need the iPads beyond our class meeting time, they have to make an appointment to meet with me. Some students with iPhone or iTouch end up downloading the apps we use if they are free or relatively inexpensive. In order for my classroom to realize mobile learning, we would have to move to a 1:1 iPad classroom.

Among the promise of mobile learning are more productivity and more engaged students. However, I find that there are still limits to iPads – especially when it comes to collaboration. I love the ease of collaborating in real-time on Google Docs. There isn’t an easy way to replicate this process on the iPads (yet). Thus, the best case scenario would be to have a 1:1 iPad program with access to a class set of laptops. However, in a year’s time, who knows where the technology will be and what new promises it will bring.