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Timeline Creation App for iPad

28 Mar

Last week I was walking down the hall and saw a group of students working on a timeline for their Biology class.  They had a large white sheet of paper (about 6 feet long) and they were measuring out a distance of time on it and adding significant events.  As I got back to my desk I thought to myself “there has to be a great iPad app out there that can do this in a more meaningful way.”  After searching for just a short time I discovered a great App: 3DTimeline.  Although this App is $9.99 it is well worth it for the ease of use and the professional looking product that gets created when you are finished.  Because students can add images and video to their timelines it can be used as a standalone project or as part of a larger presentation.  (In the end it almost has a Prezi feel to it)

Major Features:

Easy to edit:  As you can see in the image below, the ability to add new events and information about that event is very intuitive.

3D timeline


Timeline creates a beautiful finished product that can be viewed in either 3D within the app or sent our of the App as a PDF.

See result of a timeline below at the end of this overview video.




The little and unexpected positive uses of an iPad

27 Mar

I was having a conversation with a physics teacher at my school last week and he pointed out a few interesting and unexpected advantages he has found about using iPads in his class that I thought I would share.


Size of a piece of paper doesn’t matter anymore:

In the past I have always used the default paper size of 81/2 x 11 piece of paper because that is what we can print at school.  With the introduction of the iPad and PDF annotating apps like UPAD, Notability and my favorite PDF Expert 5, the size of the paper no longer matters.  This allows teachers to actually put more information on one page limiting the number of times kids have to flip from one page to the next.  By setting the default page size to something bigger like 11×17 teachers can place notes, text and graphs all on a single page.


Color Matters

In any class the use of different colored text, color images and color graphs can make classroom discussions a lot easier.  When discussing a particular line on a graph or diagraming sentence structure it is really nice to be able to reference different items by color.  A simple yet very effective way to enhance discussions.



Stop Motion Animation

28 Feb

Stop motion animation can be a great way to get students to create short videos around different topics.  Students can use stop motion to create short animated films or to demonstrate knowledge of a particular process.  In my class we have used it to help student learn processes like Glycolysis and Mitosis/Meiosis, but I have seen it used in English and Social Studies to tell stories as well.

See the student examples below that were made with iMotion HD

This is an easy app that is FREE and allows students to create wonderful stop motion videos.

Meiosis Student Examples 

Glycolysis Student Examples 

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.


Workflow Presentation

6 Feb

Here are my slides from my presentation on student/teacher workflow with an iPad.  I have given the presentation a few different times and thought I would share the slides.  If you are interested in more information please contact me.

Collecting and Distributing Student Work copy

Critical Reading with an iPad: Good, Not so Good or just Different

13 Nov

This was an interesting email sent to me by one of our AP English teachers.  The email describes his class’s experience using the iPad to read critically.  

About a week and a half ago the students finished reading their first full-length novel in iBooks, The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I asked the class for their feedback on the process of reading a full-length novel on the iPad, since this was the first time we had done it. Up to this point all of our readings had been shorter works such as essays and poems – things I would’ve handed out as Xerox copies in previous years.


There were several interesting comments they made about the experience of reading on the iPad, several of which I thought I would share with you and you are welcome to share them for the larger record in the iPad pilot. I had 20 students in class on the day I did this in informal survey. All of the comments below were agreed to by at least two or three students.


Students said that the iPad fundamentally improved their notetaking process, but in an unexpected way. They said at the beginning they found it very frustrating that they couldn’t simply take out a pen and write quick handwritten notes in the margin or underline quickly. Then as they continued reading, they realized that the extra effort of highlighting and opening up a note was actually beneficial to them. They said that it made them very conscientious of when they wanted to take a note. The girl who spoke in the most detail said that she normally would highlight huge sections of the book and never be sure why. She just had a gut instinct that they were important paragraphs or something like that. But with the iPad and the extra effort it took to actually get a note in the margin, she found herself being much more thoughtful about the way she annotated a text. She felt like she needed to know what important ideas she had to add in order to go to the extra trouble of making that note. To me as an English teacher, this is an immensely important change for students like this girl. Annotating become something that they are much more thoughtful about then simply making a star or a highlight. I did not anticipate the specific reaction, but I’m thrilled to see it happening.


Several students expressed some frustration with the inability to quickly see the notes in the margin while they were reading, since in iBooks all you see is a small colored square indicating that a note is embedded at that location. But as soon as that comment came out a large number of students suggested that they were really pleased to be able to see the larger pattern of notetaking and highlighting in a text by looking at the screen that shows all of their notes together on one page. They liked the idea of being able to review and even email their collective notes on a text. This was an improvement I anticipated, and I was pleased to see it raised by the students without my input.


Some students found the variety of colors irritating or overwhelming, but other students found the variety of highlighting colors helpful. A couple of the mentioned that they would never have that many highlighting tools on their person with a paper text, but they like the idea of being able to develop their own color-coded system in a digital text.


Several students said that they liked reading on an illuminated screen for a number of reasons. The funniest reason that two students mentioned was that the bright light shining in their eyes helps to keep them awake if they were doing homework at a late hour. Not sure if we want to enter that into the record, but I was amused that several students agreed with this.


Finally, I surveyed the 20 students in the room after we had gone over assorted likes and dislikes of reading a novel in iBooks. I asked them to choose one of three options: (1) reading a novel in iBooks was a net minus with more irritations that benefits compared to a paper text; (2) reading a novel in iBooks was a net plus with more benefits than irritations compared to a paper text; or (3) reading a novel in iBooks was equivalent to reading a paper text, with different sets of positive and negative qualities that balanced out about the same as reading a book on paper. The results were: net minus = 0 students; net plus = 10 students; about the same = 10 students.

This was a very surprising result for me, as I anticipated that there would be at least a handful of students who found the reading less appealing on the iPad. Now granted I have five students absent that day (there were several field trips) but on the whole this was a very positive development.


I wanted to make sure I put it down for the record, so that you could share it in whatever way makes sense. Feel free to get back to me with any other questions you might have about this, and I’ll keep you in the loop on things. I’m having a very hard time getting to Technology Planning Committee meetings this year, because they fall I have day where I have some family obligations in the afternoon. I will not be able to attend this week’s meeting either.



Remarks: Failing Us

11 Nov

In my classroom we have moved away from using Remarks as our note taking app because of two reasons. First the app corrupts PDF files at an unacceptable rate. Out of our 600 + students using Remarks we found that most of them have had more then two corrupt files in the first two months of school. The response from the App developers about this has been rather slow.

The second reason we have moved away from it is because students saw their annotations disappear from PDF documents. This also was a fairly regular occurrence. When trying to motivate students to learn, annotate, and answer questions on their iPads having their hard work just vanish was not helpful!

We are now testing many new note taking and PDF annotating apps including UPad, Notability and iAnnotate. If you have any ideas please let us know!