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EdPuzzle: Great Subplans….

19 Nov

I was recently out of class presenting at a conference and looking for a way to keep my students moving forward in my curriculum.  Usually when I miss class for a conference I try and time it around a project, group work or a hands-on activity that a substitute teacher could easily oversee, however that just wasn’t possible this time.  My class was heading into a very challenging section of the curriculum where they were learning about the steps of muscle contraction.  This is a very complicated process where I usually walk them through it using an App Called Animation Creator HD.

(see post here: )

(see my Book on the iTunes Bookstore about teaching this concept:

One Best Thing

What made this different then both of those situations?  I was not in the room!  I decided to use a combination of and  Animation Creator to help my students learn about muscle contraction.  I used three Kahn Academy videos on muscle contraction (Myosin and Actin, Tropmyosin and Troponin, and The Role of the Sarcoplasmic Reticulum) but loaded them into EdPuzzle so I could add my own audio and short quiz questions to help further my students’ understanding.  If you are not familiar with EdPuzzle, the website allows teachers to take videos they have created or found on the web and add interactive content.  Teachers can add their own audio over the entire video or just pause the video at a specific point and explain a topic further that perhaps their students were not as familiar with.  I did this a number of times which helped scaffold my students up to the higher level content found in these videos.  The interactive piece comes from the discussion questions and multiple choice questions that you can add to any video.  This forces students to pause, reflect and answer a question before they are allowed to move on in the video.  I found this particularly helpful because I was out of the building.  However, because I still had access to the internet, I could sit and watch my students progress through the videos and watch which answers they were getting right and which ones they were getting wrong.

Lastly, I create a short video using a program called Reflector on my Mac to record a movie on how to create a muscle contraction animation on iPad.  Students worked in pairs because one students showed the video on their iPad while they worked together on the other iPad to create the animation.  For homework both students were required to add their own audio to the animation using iMovie.

I have to admit that I was worried that my students would struggle with all of the new technology and the new content but they didn’t!  My students had NEVER used Edpuzzle or Animation Creator but they were able to figure it out!  I just sent them the links and a few instructions and they were off and learning.  I was amazed with what they created the last two days in class and pretty happy with how much they had learned.

Inquiry to teach bone anatomy and design

31 Oct

Goal: In my anatomy and physiology class students need to learn about bone anatomy and have them understand the following:

  • Shape of a long bone
    • Hollow middle
    • Ends of long bones are wider
  • Discover that there are actually two types of bone *spongy bone and compact bone)
  • Location of spongy bone vs compact bone
  • How does the design of a bone accomplish the structural/support needs of humans

Previously this would have all been taught via a lecture and discussion where I would tell the students all of the information.  This year I decided to have the students discover how and why bones are designed the way they are.

Students move through a series of six stations that have 1-3 real bones. (human, deer, cow, and mastodon) While at these stations, students record observations on their iPads about each type of bone, including the shape, and the structural design. In addition students take pictures of the bone and in some cases place magnifying glasses in front of the camera to take pictures of the bones. Through these observations and just a little bit of research students discovered and learned for themselves all of the learning outcomes I had previously given them.  Take a look at some of my students work!  Pretty amazing!Intro to Bones

What was used to complete lab:

PDF Expert used as lab

Camera of iPad

Simple Magnifying glass


Examples of students work


Intro to Bones

Using Student Created Animation to Increase Understanding

8 Oct

Animations can be used as both a learning tool and as a way for students to demonstrate mastery of content.  In my anatomy and physiology classroom students are faced with learning a number of challenging physiology processes that involve multiple moving parts, steps, molecules, ions, and cells.  With a traditional lecture style approach, these processes can be difficult for students to fully understand. Teacher whiteboards and student note sheets become a jumble of cell parts, proteins, ions, and other molecules with no discernible beginning or end making it difficult for students to learn.  When students get home and begin reviewing their notes, they are often confused by what they wrote down in class.  As a result, they simply put their notes away and wait for class the next day.

The teaching method I describe in this post provides an opportunity for students to engage and re-engage with material in ways never possible before the introduction of the iPad and Animation Creator HD.  Take a moment to explore the  image below.  This is a picture of the whiteboard after a typical muscle contraction lecture.  As you can see the board is a mess with ions, proteins, a number of arrows, plus signs, minus signs and a number of different labels.  Even with color coding, it can be difficult to decipher the image.  Imagine a student hearing this concept for the first time and then trying to make sense of their notes once they arrive home!

Muscle Lecture

When students create their own animations using the App Animation Creator HD, they understand the material more quickly  and at a much higher level.  How do I know this?  Before I began using animation, students record their notes in a traditional paper and pencil manner based on my drawings from the whiteboard at the front of the room.  Students struggle because these processes involve dozens of moving molecules, numerous cells, and many cyclical processes that have to reset themselves before occurring again and again.  The introduction of animation changes the way students learn processes such as neuron action potential, muscle contraction, the immune response and the generation of ATP.  By allowing students to create animated notes, they can see biological processes occur as a series of events.  They are creating notes that allow science to unfold before their eyes on their iPad.

These animated notes are much more powerful than any they can watch on YouTube for several reasons.  First, the act of creating the animations jump starts the process of understanding because students get introduced to pertinent vocabulary as well as the structures and sequence of events.  This familiarity with vocabulary is based on my requirement that my students overlay an audio explanation to their animations for homework.  This final step might be one of the most powerful parts of this project.  Requiring my students to add audio to their project forces them to re-engage with the material at home.  During the process of recording audio, many students will spend a great amount of time rerecording sections in attempt to get it “perfect.” This added auditory practice, combined with the repeated viewing of their animations has led to a much quicker and deeper understanding of the material.

The final part of this project involves viewing the animations the next day as a whole class.  I have noticed that students that are typically reluctant to share in class find this project a comfortable medium to highlight their understanding of the content.  Students, in general, were eager to share their animations with me and the class.  Reviewing the animations together as a class provided a collaborative and safe forum for peer editing.  Students helped each other by pointing out inaccuracies that were sometimes being made in their animations.  For example, during our study of the biochemistry behind muscle contraction, students were able to point out places in their peer’s animations where they had switched ions, used the wrong neurotransmitters, or incorrectly named the protein channels. Before using this learning process, I would expect this level of understanding at the end of the unit, not on the second day.

Student Examples:

Tutorial Videos

These are also available on YouTube and are a great resource for students to watch before they come to class.


Digital Microscopy with an iPhone: Magnifi by Arcturus Labs

11 Jan

I am really excited about a new product just launched a few months ago.  In some of my early posts I have talked about how to turn a regular light microscope into a digital microscope using the camera on an iPad.  This works great, however it can be really frustrating trying to align the camera with the eye piece, getting it in focus and then having a free hand to hit the picture button.  It can be done but takes some practice and usually two people.

A new product by has made this process a lot easier, at least for iPhone uses.  They have created an adapter that allows you to hook your iPhone up to most microscopes allowing you to take pictures, record video and then share them anyway you want.

I am excited to use this in my classes and even more hopeful that they might create one for the iPad.

See their video here:   Magnifi

Using an iPad as a Digital Microscope

5 Nov

We have a set of microscopes from the 1970s that are still in great shape but certainly don’t have the ability to capture images.  Digital microscopy is an excellent teaching tool for many reasons.

1.  The large screen allows for the student and the teacher to view the same image at the same time.  It is a lot easier to teach students about what they are looking at if you both can see the screen at the same time.

2.  Even with digital microscopy I still believe the task of drawing to be very important in the development of my students.  The digital images of the slides provides a great way for the teacher and student to compare their drawings directly to what they see under the microscope.  The iPad allows students to capture the small viewing area of a regular compound microscope and transfer it to the larger screen of the iPad.  Once the image has been captured to the iPad the student and the teacher can look at the image and at their drawing.  A really good conversation about what the student is actually seeing can then take place much easier now that we can point to specific items from the slide and their drawings.

While the images are far from perfect they are much better then most teacher expect.  There are better digital microscope options out there but if you already have an iPad or an iPhone why not incorporate this into your microscopy lessons.

See the examples of the lab below.

Students use iWork apps to produce more comprehensive lab reports

4 May

Creating More Comprehensive Student Lab Reports:

As we began looking at ways to incorporate the iPad into our science class we were not always looking to completely flip our already successful curriculum on its head, but rather ways we could enhance particular areas.  One way we did this was to have our students use the iWork apps to create media rich laboratory reports.  Having students create their lab repots within the Pages application allows them to incorporate both still images and videos directly into their reports allowing them to capture a greater picture of their learning then a typical printed version.

What we did:

  1. Created and distributed via Dropbox or WebDave a template lab created in Pages.  This template has a number of useful information.
    1. Directions for the lab are at the student finger tips
    2. We recorded video directions for some of our labs where students needed to see how to do something.
    3. Students could read the directions, answer pre-lab questions and watch the instructional videos before coming to class.  This saved precious class time needed to complete the lab and insured students had the necessary information before starting the lab.
    4. By creating a template for students to download and use we provided the overall layout of the lab including  prelab questions,  step by step instructions to complete the lab, analysis questions and predesignated areas for them to import images, videos, tables and graphs.
  2. Used the Numbers app to create a drop down menu template for students to use in our digestion and cardiovascular labs.  By creating a table with columns that have set choices in a drop down menu our students had to create a comprehensive table of biomolecules digested, the location of digestion, enzyme responsible for digestion and the products of that digestion.   (See images below)

What the Students Did:

  1. Students captured images and imported them into the free app called Skitch that allows them to label and annotate  their images before importing them into their lab report in Pages.
  2. Students used the Numbers template to fill in information about the enzymes involved in digestion
  3. Students captured video to record certain stations in the lab.
  4. Answered pre and post lab analysis questions
  5. Submitted their lab via WebDAV to our local network folder.  (If you don’t have WebDAV and you are using Dropbox you can use the website to link the iWork apps to dropbox.

Student Example of Submitted Work