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Using apps to illustrate plant changes

Pothos Change CompositesFour days of last week were comprised of the state mandated Assessment of Skills and Knowledge. What did I do on day five, a full “normal” day? I engaged my students’ creativity but had them apply it to a semester long project we have been documenting. Since February 5 they have been observing and recording data about the root growth of a Pothos stem cutting.  On April 15, if they desired, they had the option to remove the Pothos from the same setting everyone in class had, a bottle of water, and alter their lab.

Friday, they had to use their iPads to create an image that included:

  • a picture of their Pothos pre-April 15 and the date
  • a picture of the plant on Friday
  • a brief description of the changes they had noted
  • any other information they thought would enhance their visual

Students were given the option to use Tiled, PicCollage or FrameLens (Note: These apps were all free at the time I downloaded them to the class iPads, but Tiled ($0.99) and FrameLens ($1.99) now cost) Essentially students were told to play until they found something that worked for them and the data they wanted to convey. The challenge was that I gave them only 21 minutes to come up with their creation before emailing it to me so we could close class with a Pothos Progress Share. I was quite happy with some of the results.

Pothos changes

Others left out a key element of the requirements, including one I share here, however I admire their creativity.

Some creativity


My First #TabCamp

Today I went to my first ever unconference.  Organized by NJAET, TabCamp was held in Allentown, NJ which made it convenient for me considering I am not a morning person, especially on a Saturday.  The focus of course was tablets (pretty much iPads) in education. So what’s a TabCamp like? In addition to this blog, I created an Animoto of My 1st TabCamp to share the event.

TabCampWhen I arrived, I was relieved to see a colleague from the high school there and went to sit at her table. It begins with people volunteering to teach topics they are familiar with.  There were times and rooms posted on a wall and people put paper with their topic title up in the grid there. Then, it was transferred to a GoogleDoc so people could have the schedule with them easily.  While the sessions were getting established, the group of us at my table were talking about apps we had tried out and ones we enjoyed.

After an introduction to the event, I was off to my first session. We had been told we could “vote with our feet” and leave a session if it wasn’t for us. I couldn’t picture myself leaving mid-presentation, but I did. Why? I was torn between two sessions for the first time slot and I started at “Apps for Science.” However, the presenter said he was not really a biology person that most of what he shared would be physics or chemistry. As a middle school agricultural science teacher, I knew it was time to try the other session.  Off to “What happens when Hollywood meets Education” with Jeff Bradbury of TeacherCast Here there was a brief share by participants of how they were using iPads and then time to “play” with iMovie. I wish we had had more time in that one.

On to the next workshop. For this one, I chose “QR Codes in the Classroom.” Lauriene Tschang was the presenter and had a SlideRocket presentation ready to be shared with us as we participated in this journey.  I learned a very easy way to generate QR codes and made one for the app list that was developing from TabCamp.

With the nice day, the schedule was rearranged so we had just a half day of sessions. So lunch was next.  I joined the table with my high school colleague again to see what she was up to. She was getting some Nearpod training from Dan Gallagher. Before door prizes were awarded (I wasn’t a winner) there was a Smackdown. Here’s what happens – you have 2 minutes to share an overview of an app you like. I was hesitant at first, but decided to get up and share Timer+ and NatureTap.  It was my geeky Otter Strap that stirred some interest. After a few more shares, it got quiet again so I shared Haiku Deck as well.

What else did I do while there?

  • Network with some of my Tweeps
  • Take notes on Evernote so I could remember ideas
  • Tweet about the #TabCamp experience
  • Add pictures to the TabCamp Group on Flikr

What might I do if I were to go to a TabCamp (or an EdCamp) again?

  • Sign up to present
  • Bring my dongle (In the first session I was in, the presenter did not have one but someone else there did. If I end up presenting, I want a way to connect to the projector)
  • Generate a QR code sticker to my website for my name badge (Yup, I’m that nerdy)
  • Have a little bit of a presentation together and ready to go in case I decide to present

What do I need to figure out how to do?

  • Convince my district that we should have an EdCamp style PD event at one of our mandatory PD days!

How much time do you have?

Timer+ is a free app I use at least once a day.  (I was using it Thursday at a Spring FFA Contest and amusing colleagues in Ag Education who know I have a reputation for being a bit of a nerd. That’s what inspired me to share how awesome it is.)

What makes it awesome?

  • Tap the lightening bolt and quickly set a timer.
  • Add timers you frequently use and create names for them. (I have 17 preset times and don’t know what the max is for the free version.)
  • Have the option of reorganizing your timers
  • Allows for multiple timers running at once. With this feature, you can even pause timers that are running.
  • Seven different free sounds to use as tones for when time is up. I don’t like the Wood Block or Meditation for use in class because they are too subtle.  My students really enjoy the elephant, but find the beeps to be annoying. An upgrade gets you more sounds.

What’s not so great?

  • Remembering to make sure your iPad is not set to mute.  If it is, you don’t get a sound when timers are done. It’s just a pop up alert on your screen.


You laugh at my OtterBox Utility Series, but it works!

People have laughed at my OtterBox Utility Series Latch, (I admit it, I did too when I saw all the “stuff” in its little pouch), but the past two days I have been truly appreciative of this iPad accessory.  One of my colleagues loaned me her OtterBox Utility Series Latch to try out one weekend. I used it and thought it was cool enough (is the translation “nerdy enough”?) to purchase one for myself.  I had been using it mainly for the fact I could strap it on my hand and not be too concerned about dropping it.  I had taken the Latch off one weekend and forgot to put it back on before work. As I wandered my classroom working with students, I noticed its absence mainly because I would put the iPad down on one student’s desk, meander to help another and wonder where it had gone.

What’s in the pouch?  It holds the neck strap (OtterBox calls it a lanyard, but I think beck strap sounds more durable), S-hook (still not really sure what to use that for), rain cover and adjustable elastic strap (haven’t used that yet either).  The pouch can be attached to the cover so you have a stand to angle your iPad with when you do set it down.

This week was where I truly gained an appreciation for a feature I thought I would never use.  I had laughed at the neck strap when I first saw it thinking “What NERD would wear that in public?!”  However, we were in the school ecology center for two days this week and WOW! did it ever come in handy.  I was able to throw the iPad around my neck, grab it to take photos as I needed, but also easily have my hands free to point items out to my students or pick things up and show them.  Sure, I looked a little nerdy, but I’ve been that way all my life. 😉

Otter Box Case

Getting Organized (and back on the blogging track) with Wunderlist

I’ve had a ton of ideas I could/ should be blogging about related to the iPad classroom experience.  Of course, thanks to the gentle reminder of a friend about blogging consistently, I realize that I haven’t posted an I’m a Mc: IBlog post in nearly two months. Not exactly consistent!  So, it seems like the best place to restart blogging would be with an app that has helped me keep on track for other “To Do” items and can maybe keep me on track with blogging consistently – Wunderlist.

So what does Wunderlist do?

First, it synchronizes across devices. That is a great feature as I can enter, edit, and view items from apps on my iPhone and iPad or the website on my desktop/ laptop computer.


The synchronization is critical to me, but it has several other helpful features. They include:

  • Repeat – If you have a task you are regularly doing (preparing lesson plans, participating in a Twitter chat, writing a blog), you have the option of having daily, weekly, monthly or even annual reminders.
  • Reminders – You can set reminders to get sent to you email, appear on your notices or just be present within the app
  • Subtasks – This is a relatively new feature to Wunderlist which I have discovered works well for my blog ideas. You can list smaller components within a major task and check them off as you go.
  • Categories – You can add, edit and share task categories
  • And a ton of features I haven’t full explored including notes within a task, inviting others to join a task, and adding tasks via email

And did I mention it’s FREE!

Exploring What Interests Them

Choose Your Own Post Quiz ActivityThe day before we take a quiz in class, I remind students that they can bring in their earphones if they want so they can use apps on the iPad that have sound. If they don’t have earphones to bring in, they can explore other apps.  This allows students who have finished a quiz to engage in independent learning or creative time without distracting those who are still taking the quiz.

The image above illustrates some of the apps they explored:

  • Hansel and Gretel 3D Pop up Book – ($4.99) It was free when I got it and planned to use it with one of my courses for a communication activity that involved voice inflection. I think the post quiz users just wanted the little games with the pages of the story.
  • iCell – Students were exploring cells in 7th grade science and this helped them support their learning there
  • PicCollage – Creative time! Add images and words
  • Google Earth – As a school district that serves a military base, I frequently have students looking for where they used to live then calling me over to see it

I feel fortunate that I have the tools to let students explore their interests following taxing some of their brains with a quiz.

Using iCell by HudsonAlpha

This week, my CASE AFNR students used the iCell app by HudsonAlpha. The task was to sketch a plant and animal cell, label the cell organelles, and describe what the function of the organelles were. Additionally, students had to identify differences between plant and animal cells. In addition to the plant and animal cells, bacteria is also illustrated on the app.


iCell is a great interactive way for students to engage in exploring the cell. It helps them to visualize the relationship between organelles. Tapping on an organelle reveals a description. There are three levels of description which allows students to explore the organelle function. I had my students use the intermediate level.

Although my students liked the app, enjoyed the 3D imagery (They thought the animal cell was a lot “cooler” than the plant cell as far as “popping” out at you.) and were able to explore what the cell organelles did, they had a few suggestions.

1.  Have a search option so if there is an organelle that they can’t find by navigating around the cell the app zooms in on it.

2. Create a way to have both the plant cell and animal cell image to be open in windows next to each other for easier comparison. They said this would really be helpful if you could search for an organelle and if it was in both the cells would spin to get to it and if it wasn’t in one of the cells an X would come up on it so you knew.