Tag Archives: edtech

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 www.arcturuslabs.com 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

Does Size Matter: iPad Storage and the Impact of eBooks

7 Jun

This is an update to a post I made last week about how storage on the iPad 2 and the New iPad compare to each other.  This post aims at looking more in depth at the storage issues of the New iPad as students begin to use it in more and more classes particularly with the added space requirements of digital texts.

As schools nationwide look to adopt the iPad as their 1:1 computing device we need to look at how the iPad will support the needs and growth of the student from year to year.  Last week I showed how the iPad 2 and the New iPad compare in a head to head storage match up.  The results from these tests can be seen in that post, however the main point I want to make in this post is about how the new screen resolution, camera and interactive textbooks make the 16 GB iPad significantly too small.  When you take the New iPad and load it up with educational apps, textbooks, and video projects the 16GB version of the New iPad fills up extraordinarily quickly.  After downloading all of the apps, taking some pictures and producing a short video (description and details below)  the New iPad had just 6.8 GB of storage left.

While applications, photos and videos certainly take up a lot of space, one of my biggest concerns is textbook size on top of all of this.  I have included a list of the textbooks available in the iBooks store in the table below.  You can see that the range of textbook sizes vary greatly from 2.79 GB down to 929 MB; but the bottom line is they are all rather large files.

Textbooks Size
Pearson Biology 2.79 GB
Pearson Algebra 1 2.35 GB
McGraw Hill Biology 1.50 GB
McGraw Hill Geometry 1.26 GB
McGraw Hill Physics 1.22 GB
Pearson Environmental Science 934 MB
McGraw Hill Chemistry 929 MB

As students start to use the iPad in more of their classes, a 16GB iPad simply is not going to be big enough.  This test showed that after installing a handful of apps, shooting 6 minutes of video, taking 60 images and intalling one textbook there were only 6.8 GB of space remaining.  Imagine if I had installed two or three books from either the iBook store or the Inkling app (interactive textbook publisher).  My 6.8 GB of available storage for the entire year could be decreased by half or more depending on the textbooks assigned to my class.

Apps Included in the Test

App VPP Size (iTunes)
Remarks $2.49 37MB
Pages $4.99 269MB
Keynote $4.99 327MB
Numbers $4.99 283MB
iMovie $2.49 409MB
WebDAV $1.99 7MB
QRafter $0.00 5.1MB
Voice recorder for iPad $0.49 4.8MB
iBooks $0.00 58MB
Quick Graph $0.00 4.5MB
pCalc Lite Calculator $0.00 9.5MB
Response Ware $0.00 0.6MB
My School:  Gale Reference App $0.00 2.1MB
Video Downloader Pro $1.99 11.8MB
DocScan HD $0.00 3.7MB
Skitch $0.00 10.9MB
GoDocs $2.49 4.9MB
Animation Creator HD $0.99 24.3MB
Explain Everything $1.49 8.6MB
Dropbox $0.00 9.8MB
Inkling $0.00 24.3 MB
SketchBook Express $0.00 32MB

In addition to downloading the above apps I did the following

  1. Downloaded the Pearson Biology Textbook 2.79 GB
  2. Took 60 photos
  3. Took a 1 minute video with the New iPad
  4. Took a 5 minute video  with the New iPad
  5. Created a 5 slide Keynote with pictures taken with the iPad’s camera
  6. Created a pages document with one picture taken with the iPad’s camera
  7. Created a two minute movie in iMovie using the pictures and image from the iPad’s camera.
Below you can see the results on the storage space taken up by just a few small projects.  Imagine what the impact might look like if students had multiple video projects, paper assignments and keynote presentations.
The new iPad:   6.8 GB of storage left after the above tasks.
(Click the pictures for larger images)

Additional information about file size to consider as your school decides on the correct iPad.

iPad 2 The New iPad
Screen Shot File Size 179 KB 510KB
Photo File Size 228 KB 2MB

My point is this:  

Apple continues to suggest at public events that the iPad, their new interactive textbooks and the iBook Author tool are changing the face of education.  They even talk about how they have kept the 16GB iPad 2 available specifically as a low cost option for school districts, but here is the problem; 16GB on either the iPad 2 or the new iPad is not enough storage to allow students to effectively use the iPad across the curriculum.  So here is my proposal,  keep older models of iPads available for school districts but don’t limit them to the 16GB model.  If Apple had the 32 GB iPad 2 for sale to school districts for the same price, $499.00, as the 16GB iPad 3 I bet a lot of school districts might have given that a strong consideration.  Apple needs to work hand in hand with teachers who are using iPads in their classrooms to insure that this significant investment can actually be used as its being advertised to educators, as a cross-curricular tool.

My closing appeal:

Students, teachers, technology specialist, and administrators do not just stand by on the sidelines and say “iPads are great; lets get them in the classroom and buy the cheapest they have.”  Instead, let us engage in research and conversation with other educators and Apple executives to provide a tool for our students that is both awesome and useful long term. Explore the technology options for your district and make sure that what you buy for your school will work, not just in the sort term, but provide a lasting educational tool that actually will change the way students learn.

Let me know what you think:

Written by Wes Molyneaux, a science teacher and technology staff developer at New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL.

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 http://otixo.com/ to link the iWork apps to dropbox.

Student Example of Submitted Work

Using iPads: Students teaching students

3 May

iMovie / Explain Everything / Animation Creator HD / Keynote

In my anatomy and physiology class we are rounding out the year with the last few units, but instead of continuing down the traditional path of a teacher centered lecture followed by a discussion and a lab that usually includes students watching animations or video clips we are switching it up a bit. As I finished up my last unit and looked out at the tired and drained faces of the juniors and seniors in my class I knew I had to figure out a way to motivate and reenergize my class. Some may call it “senioritis” (for some of my students it probably is) but for a lot of my students I think it is more about burn out. Most of them have already been excepted into college and have AP tests coming up next week so here is the question…How do we motivate these students?

My answer while certainly not ground breaking has worked really well and I thought I would share it: Have the students become the experts and teach the class using their iPads as their tool to create multimedia presentations.

I planned this unit on the immune system for my advanced honors human anatomy and physiology class. While this project is designed for this class this model can certainly be used in almost any disciplin.

The Assignment

Students were assigned a particular topic of the immune system and asked to research and create a movie to teach the class about their topic. (see below) Once the research was completed I felt the content each group had gathered was sufficient I gave students choice in how they created their videos. Students were given the option to use applications including iMovie, Keynote, Explain Everything, Animation HD to create their movie. Each movie will end up being between 5-8 minutes long but the expectation is that their presentation that goes along with the movie will be between 15 and 20 minutes. The additional time will be used for student and teacher generated follow up questions, clarification and additional help for students that may not have picked up the information by just watching the movie. I set expectations that the students will be responsible for teaching the material and answering follow up questions. I think this is the key because it is too easy for students to do research, create a script and make a movie without actually learning the material. (Past experience!) This time the students know that they must be the experts and so far they seem to be not only motivated and engaged but learning the material!

iMovie was used as the final product editor. Student brought in slides they created in Keynote, movies they made in Explain Everything and animations they created in Animation Creator HD and put them all together. In iMovie they added music, transitions, voiceovers, titles and credits. Some students used all of the tools and other only used a few.

Explain Everything was used when students wanted to be able to talk and draw on slides or images at the same time. While iMovie allows you to add voiceover audio to any movie or still image you cannot use a pointer or a pen to annotate slides as you talk. We chose Explain Everything as the tool for this because it allows you to export to your camera roll. This was important because students wanted the ability to add these clips into their larger movie located in iMovie.

Animation Creator HD is a great app to use to make simple to complex animations. Some students drew and created full animations of cells and pathogens that were quite impressive not only from a scientific standpoint but also an artistic one. Other students used it in a more simpler fashion by drawing simple objects that were able to appear in sequence while they recored over them. (See examples of student work below to be posted 5/9/2012)

Keynote although not normally associated with making movies is a great way to make images to insert into iMovie. Students simply create a slide that is visually interesting using photos, diagrams, and bullet points and then enter into presentation mode and take a screenshot. This places the slide into their camera roll allowing the students to easily insert it into their iMovie project.

Student Immune System Topics

Complement System

  1. Understand and diagram complement cascades
  2. Role in cell hydrolysis
  3. Role in inflammatory response
  4. Role in promoting phagocytosis

The inflammatory response and the role of Histamines in immune defense

  1. Acute vs Chronic Inflammatory Response / Neutrophils / Macrophages / Mast Cells
  2. Allergies / Anti-Histamines
  3. Stopping inflammation…

Interferon and the usage of Peginterferon

  1. Interferon role and Production
  2. Interferon effect / mechanism
  3. Interferon role in Hepatitis treatment

Physical / Chemical barriers / Fever

  1. Types of barriers
  2. Role of Mucus
  3. Lysozymes
  4. Role of non-pathogenic bacteria
  5. HCL
  6. Pyrogens & Fever

Extracellular specific immunity (Antibody/Humoral mediated)

  1. Role of Macrophage / APC
  2. Helper T, Cytokines, B-Cell vs Plasma Cell vs Memory B-Cell
  3. Role of the Antibody
  4. Types of Antibodies
  5. Clonal Selection

Intracellular specific immunity (cell mediated )

  1. Role of Macrophage / APC
  2. Helper T, Cytokines, Cytotoxic T-Cell vs. Memory Cell
  3. How Cytotoxic T-Cells work
  4. Clonal Selection

Macrophage / Neutrophil /Natural Killer Cells / Antigen presenting cells

  1. MHC I and MHC II
  2. CD4 vs. CD8
  3. Antigen presenting and Intercellular Communication
  4. Clonal Selection


  1. Vaccination & Prevention Strategies
  2. Antibiotics & Mechanisms of Action
  3. Anti-Virals, Cytotoxic (Antineoplastic) Agents
  4. Auto-Immune Disease & Treatment, Anti-Inflammatory, etc…