September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Students Speak Out About Using iPads in the Classroom

Posted: Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

by Prof. Jeff Bradbury, Cristina Flores, and Lily Shen

My original intent was to write an article about how useful iPads are in the chemistry classroom.  Last year my school (Cerritos College) purchased several classroom sets of the devices.  I thought the tools would be useful in helping my students create “digital lab reports” using apps like Explain Everything™ or Educreations™.  There are also some good apps specifically tailored to chemistry content, such as Mols Editor©.  I was going to write this article from my teacher perspective until my good friend Laura said, “Have the students write the article.”  So, I invited students Cristina Flores and Lily Shen to write about their experiences with iPads in their education. I am sure you will agree that students often have a very powerful voice.  (You might even finish reading the article!)

First we will hear from Cristina Flores:

Acquisition of knowledge or a skill may be done through study, practice, or experience. Others will gain comprehension of a trade via creation. Tools such as iPads or tablets will allow the users imagination and creativity to flourish. In my personal experience, my iPad along with the app Explain Everything™ permitted me to create video presentations of the concepts being taught in class. Such tools and opportunities have opened my eyes and completely changed how I study.

I come from a family of workers, a group of people who did not have the opportunity to go to school and choose the career they desired. Once I got to college I had no idea where to begin, so I took as many classes as I could while working 35 hours a week. My grades were not that great and my classes only got harder, so I left my job and focused on school. Yet while I felt I made the correct decision, I still had a lot to learn. My grades were still not what I wished them to be but I felt shy and embarrassed to talk to my teachers and peers about what to do because my grades were low and I felt that I was not as smart as everyone else. Until one day, my organic chemistry professor assigned a project that would change how I worked forever. The class was to create a video presentation explaining what was going on in the experiment we worked on that day. I went home and designed a creative and entertaining presentation (if I do say so myself) yet the information that I presented was incorrect. That was the most embarrassed I have ever felt in my life. I put so much effort into creating this video and making it entertaining and fun to watch, yet some of the information was wrong! Watching that video again completely changed my standpoint on my studies. That presentation embarrassed me so much I went to talk to my professors, and I talked to my peers, and I began to ask questions in class. I guess in a way, I figured I couldn’t have embarrassed myself any more so why not admit when I do not know something and ask someone for help. Luckily, my professor liked my video so he asked me to help others with theirs! Never did I think I would be so excited to go to school. Creating that one 5-minute video inspired me to not give up when I do not understand something and taught me that there will always be more to learn if you keep studying. All of this was done using Explain Everything™ and my iPad. I am now going to share with you some of the things I have learned about the app.  

Explain Everything™ is a very simple and easy to use app in which the user may create videos using slides, similar to a PowerPoint™ presentation, yet one may record themselves speaking while discussing the slides and using a an arrow or a laser to guide the audience in the production. There are so many possibilities with these apps: drawing, uploading and taking pictures or video, as well as typing. One of the downsides of the app is that the editing permitted is not as advanced as other apps. For example, if a mistake is made while recording, the app requires one to erase from the point where the error occurred and any speaking that had been recorded after the error is deleted.

Another issue I have encountered is importing a video into the presentation. This luckily had an easy fix, which is to post the video up on YouTube™. Since I could not directly post the video up from Explain Everything™ to YouTube™, I saved the video to my camera roll and from there posting was simple. Although this does take some time, it is the easiest and surest way.  I have created a video for my organic chemistry lab and it shows a few techniques or ideas that one may use. The app also includes clip art, which can make a presentation very fun to watch. Remember, apps such as these require patience and practice, after that the possibilities are endless.

The next student you will read from is Lily Shen:

“I was a senior in high school when I got my iPad. Before that, I had taken all my notes by hand. Don’t get me wrong, taking notes by hand isn’t bad, it’s just I had to carry so many notebooks – one for each class. Plus, I had to carry all my books too, so my backpack got pretty heavy (maybe this is why I’m so short). The iPad allowed me to cut back on the notebooks needed for taking notes, and sometimes even allowed me to leave some textbooks at school so I didn’t have to carry so much stuff home. Then college came along and that’s when I really saw how much the iPad could do for me. I started downloading the professors’ lectures onto my iPad and opening them using the Adobe Reader© app. This app has a lot of features that aid in note taking, either by writing with a stylus or typing texts onto the actual slides. With the iPad, I’m saving paper and carrying a lot less things on my back. Another awesome thing is picture taking. I take pictures of labs I do in biology so that I can review when I get home. Sometimes taking videos of the professor going over structures for dissections or details for exams also helps remind me what and how I should be studying.  

In chemistry class, my classmates and I have been using iPads to make videos on topics chosen by our professor. We make these videos as quizzes or just to practice the material we were learning in class. By speaking about the material and needing to explain the concepts learned in class, I learned more and was able to solidify key concepts. Although sometimes the information I gave in the videos wasn’t correct, after turning them in and getting feedback, I was able to learn even more and understand why I was wrong. Also, being able to create a whiteboard video on the Educreations™ app and explain why and how some chemistry concepts works in an easy way is very rewarding.

Using iPads for educational purposes isn’t a bad idea. I’ve been using mine for almost two years now and it’s treated me pretty well, so I would actually encourage their use in class. We are in the age of technology now, so why not use the available resources to our advantage?

Cristina and Lily said it better than I ever could have. iPads have begun to transform the learning experience and they’ve significantly changed my chemistry classroom.  It is a lot of work.  Things do go wrong at times.  But I must say that this journey has been very fulfilling to me as a teacher.  Lily and Cristina are so good working with their iPads that recently they were asked to teach the teachers here at Cerritos College about using iPads in the classroom.  As you can guess from their writing they exceeded our wildest expectations in teaching us how to use the new technology. Their love for learning is infectious!  If you would like to see how other students like Lily and Cristina are using iPads in the classroom you can visit my blog.

Jeff Bradbury is a Professor of Chemistry at Cerritos College and a CSTA member.
Christina Flores and Lily Shen are his students.

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.