Student Authoring of Content using iBook Author

9 Oct

Even though iBook Author is not available on the iPad and my class is 1:1 with iPad I still think it is very relevant to a 1:1 iPad class.  (All you need is a Mac computer lab or access to a few Macs for students to share)   First, the content the students make using iBook author, is an iBook, meaning the finished product is designed to be viewed on an iPad and secondly the multitouch digital textbooks that students are able to create are awesome!

Click here to see the assignment:  Histology Project Overview

In my anatomy and physiology class I had each student create a single chapter within iBook Author on a specific type of tissue found in the body.  To take advantage of their iPads I had them complete all of their research ahead of time using internet and book research in class.  (I had the library deliver a cart of books on tissues)  In addition to the research they had to take several pictures of their assigned tissue using their iPad cameras and our normal compound microscopes in the class.

After they finished their research and picture taking the student spent two days in the computer lab working on their actual chapter.  I had the student use the same template so when I compiled all the chapters together it would flow into one book.  It only took me about 15 minutes to compile all 20+ chapters.

Once I compiled the book I published it to our Learning Management Systen Canvas so they could download it and use it during out lab portion of the unit.  (Student have to ID unknown tissue samples)

Click here to download the iBook my class made:  New Trier Histology

Here are a few images from the book:

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.


ASCD Presentation: iPads in Education

18 Mar

Here is our Keynote presentation that we given at the ASCD conference in Chicago on March 16th.  The presentation examined the ways in which a teacher lead, ground up, proposal based approach to a 1:1 iPad initiative has changed teaching and learning at New Trier High School.

Session Description”New Trier High School is in the second year of an iPad pilot program. More than 600 students in 15 different courses received iPads this year. In this session, the presenters will share examples of how teaching and learning were transformed, explain their process of developing this pilot program and creating buy-in with the school community, detail evaluation plans, and describe plans for the future.”

Here is a link to our slides:

New Trier Mobile Learning Initiative ASCD Final Slides

There were a number of videos embedded in the slides.  The links are below:

Introduction Video:  The student perspective

Video #1:  Students Demonstrating Knowledge

Video #2:  Student Collaboration

Video #3:  eBooks

Video #4: iPads in Science, ESL and American Studies

My Maps Editor_ A geolocation activity

6 Feb

This is a email from one of the Geoscience teachers at my school that is also apart of our iPad pilot.  She used My Maps Editor to have students place volcanoes on a Google Earth map.  When the add these locations they can also add additional information including text and pictures.  See the information below and feel free to download her example and directions.  I could see the being usefull in other classes including Geography and any language class.

I use My Maps Editor ( to create a Google Map in geoscience.  I also attached the data for part of the assignment that I quickly created so you can see what the final product may look like (when it opens in Google Earth you likely have to zoom in to see the volcano icons).

Volcano mapping MY MAPS instructions iPad

Basically, My Maps Editor allows you create a map and add data points, lines, etc to that map.  The data can then be exported to Google Earth or uploaded & submitted to Canvas for me to view.   For each of the data points you can type in detailed information and add a photo easily from your camera roll (assuming you are signed in to your Google account through the app).  Map locations can be search by point of interest, city, or coordinates (latitude, longitude) as long as Google Maps is enabled through the app.  I also like the option to have the Google Maps integration and satellite view as well (especially for geoscience).  Data point icons can also be changed so that you may have a variety of colors, shapes, images, etc (they have a little volcano icon!).

For this geoscience assignment, students had to map volcanoes we have been discussing in class, as well as other active/infamous volcanoes, include information/images for each, then eventually draw in the major tectonic plate boundaries so that we can see the relationship between the different plate boundaries, type of volcano and activity status of the volcanoes.

This is a pretty cool app that I will definitely be using for multiple geoscience activities and hopefully other teachers can use it as well.

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

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

Another new note taking App

19 Dec

As students perform more and more of their class work on the iPad we are really putting note taking apps through it. We have tried Goodreader, iAnnotate, NoteShelf, Remarks, Notability and now UPAD. So far none of them are perfect but we are now leaning towards UPAD. Remarks was our standard at the beginning of the year but we saw consistent problems with data corruption and deleted annotations. While we really like the typing features and the interface of Remarks we can’t stand by and watch our students keep losing work. We have moved to UPAD. It has a great handwriting engine, pretty good folder structure, decent typing tools and the ability to read PDFs and take free hand notes. Students have not lost data and are therefore trust UPAD with their work.

We are always looking for a new note taking app. If you have suggestions send them our way.
Requirements for a good note taking app…
1. Handwritten notes
2. Typing took
3. PDF reader
4. Free hand note taking section
5. Connect to either WebDAV and/or Dropbox
6. Folder structure that allows students to organize their notes
7. A way to open the notes in other PDF apps
8. Ability to change tools, colors and options quickly and easily.

I know there are more but at some point you have to stop!