May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. 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.