Shrewsbury EdTech

Tech resources for Shrewsbury Public School educators

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Using iPads in the 1-to-1 Middle or High School Science Classroom

I taught a course this week at the Shrewsbury Summer Institute on how to utilize iPads in our middle and high school science classrooms. This “Tech Tip” is a summary of what was covered over the last few days. Regardless of what subject/age you teach, I’m hopeful you will still find most of this information useful.


General iPad tips/tricks

Schoology Overview

Since Shrewsbury has committed to using Schoology as our Learning Management System (LMS) platform moving forward, Schoology was a big focus for the week. All participants had a sandbox course to explore. They added content, assessments, and spent time exploring the features using a laptop and iPad in both teacher and student views.

If you are unfamiliar with Schoology, visit their Help Guides website. They offer a lot of valuable information for teachers, students, and parents.

Notability, Pages, and Google Docs…the “Big 3”

In a science classroom, much of what we do revolves writing notes, annotating worksheets, and writing labs. While these three apps all have a slightly different focus, they are the apps I use most in my classroom for day-to-day work. We also spent some time creating data tables in these three apps, which is an important element in the science classroom.

1. Notability – I use Notability when I have a PDF worksheet and want students to annotate that worksheet. Data tables cannot be easily made within the app, so the worksheet must already have a table for them to fill in.

5 Notability features you may or may not know about

2. Google Docs – I use Google Docs when I want students to collaborate on research or a lab and I plan to give them frequent feedback (best example is my science fair project). It wasn’t long ago when students couldn’t even view a table within the app. They can now make data tables that are pretty functional. The only missing ingredient is the ability to merge cells. However, a workaround to this is opening the document in Safari in desktop mode. This allows them to merge cells!

3. Pages – I use Pages when I want students to write up their own lab report, complete with data table, photos, and graphs. It has the best formatting options and creates a “prettier” product.

I have found that many times, it does not matter to me what app students use. They all have their own preference. For this reason, I usually share resources as Microsoft Word files. Students are able to “open in” using any of these three apps. Once finished, they can submit their final work back into Schoology.


Creating Tests and Quizzes in Schoology

Participants spent most of the afternoon creating quizzes and tests in Schoology using point scales and rubrics. There are a lot of wonderful grading features in Schoology, and most of the questions can be automatically graded for you!

Creating Graphs on the iPad

I rarely have my students hand-draw graphs on graph paper. If you prefer that option, they can easily take a photo when they finish and insert the photo directly into Notability, Pages, or Google Docs.

Create a Graph (Safari)

Download the graph when you are finished as a .jpg file. On an iPad, the graph image will pop up. Press down with your finger and choose “Save image” to save it to your camera roll.

Pages app (or Numbers)

Creating a graph in both of these apps is very similar. You can create graphs that look more professional compared to the previous option. Graphs cannot be saved to the camera roll. However, you can “copy” the image and paste it later wherever you want to put the graph.

Data Analysis app

TuvaLabs doesn’t actually let you create a graph, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s so cool. They have a huge collection of data sets that you can manipulate and visualize in a variety of ways.

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Using Photos in the Classroom

I think the camera is one of the greatest features on the iPad. Being able to take/share photos and videos allows for a lot of creative ideas that were not previously possible.

A few photo ideas…

Annotating Photos3975108995_a7c5e48ae7_b

When students are able to annotate photos with text and shapes, they are able to demonstrate their understanding. Instead of using that old diagram of a microscope, students could be asked to take a photo of an actual microscope in order to label different parts. It makes learning more authentic.

Here are three apps that my students have used  to annotate and label photos.

  • Skitch
  • Explain Everything (This app costs $2.99 but should be free for all teachers and students at the middle and high school.)
  • Notability (This app costs $3.99 but should be free for all teachers and students at the middle and high school.)

Student and Teacher Created Videos

Like with photos, the ability to create and share videos on an iPad opens up some pretty awesome ideas. As teachers, we can now begin to “flip” parts of our curriculum by creating videos and sharing them with our students. These videos can be lectures, instructions for a lab/project, demonstrations that may not be safe for the classroom, etc. Most students are comfortable using iMovie. That is their app of choice, but there are some other useful apps I recommend as well for different purposes.

Here are a list of apps for you to consider… 

iMovie – the gold standard

Explain Everything – lets you or students make a “screen cast”. You can embed practically anything (images, documents, presentations, other videos…)

“Green Screen” app by DoInk ($2.99) – This apps lets students create engaging “green screen” videos. You will need a solid color backdrop (does NOT need to be green). You can also utilize a green screen within Explain Everything if you do not have an actual screen to use.

Time lapse videos are useful for long exposures. The iPad takes repeated photos at a set interval (every 2 seconds, 20 seconds, 1 minute, etc.) then combines those photos into a video. The camera in newer iPads already have a “time-lapse” function. Otherwise, you can use a specific app such as Lapse It or Hyperlapse.

Stop motion apps allow you to make an animation video using a series of photos. Here is a great stop motion video a teacher created to model chemical reactions. There are many stop motion apps out there, but my students have used the free Stop Motion Studio app.

While time lapse videos produce a video that is sped up, “slow motion” apps can be used to slow videos down. Newer iPhones have a “Slo-Mo” function in the camera roll. For iPads, you can use the SloPro app.



This wasn’t initially going to be part of this course, but Doug Kiang’s morning keynote was all about gaming. I created a badge system this year and hope to include more gaming elements moving forward.

General iPad/iPhone Recommended Apps for Teachers and Students

Here is a list of general apps that I feel everyone should have to stay organized.

  • Some type of task manager or “to do” app (2.Do, Any.Do, Google Keep, or Reminders)
  • Calendar: Google Calendar or Sunrise
  • Password app: 1Password
  • (apps gone free, apps discounted, and new apps)

General apps for Science class:

Science Probeware

The high school teachers practiced syncing their Vernier probes and LabQuest 2 interfaces. Students can connect their iPads to the LabQuest 2 interface over a WiFi connection. The middle school teachers spent time learning how to connect iPads with our Pasco probes using the AirLink 2 bluetooth interface.

Presentation apps

Students are very comfortable using Keynote on their iPads. While this is a great app, there are many other wonderful options for both students and teachers.

Google Slides and Keynotes can be opened in Notability and/or E.E. This allows students to annotate and take notes while you present.

Curating and Sharing Resources

Where will you keep all of your “stuff”? You must consider whether you want it to be private, public, or shared only with your students. Personally, I use Google Drive and Dropbox to save all of my documents, photos, and videos on my computer. I then upload handouts from those folders into Schoology for students to access.

I bookmark all of my online resources using Diigo. It’s fantastic. For you Twitter users out there, you can even have all of your favorite tweets automatically saved to Diigo! I will put some online resources into Schoology for my students, but I’ve found that if there are too many links, it’s easier to provide them with a single link that sends them to my Learnist site. Learnist is like Pinterest, and it’s where I bookmark academic web resources for my students.


Infographics are graphical representations of data. They are especially useful for sharing out a lot of information. and both have plenty of examples you can search through. also lets you customize templates to make your own infographics. STEM Literacty Through Infographics is a great website that includes a lot of published student-created infographics. Compound Interest also has a great collection of chemistry-related infographics.

My favorite tool for creating infographics is Canva. Both the website and iPad app are easy to create visually awesome infographics.

Project-Based Learning (PBL)

One of Shrewsbury’s district initiatives moving forward focuses on project based learning.

Here is the updated Professional Practice Goal:

By the end of the 2016-17 school year, all grade level and department teams will have re-designed and implemented an existing learning experience for students that includes:

  • An open-ended question that requires students to think critically about an engaging topic
  • A special introductory event to the learning experience that generates curiosity and motivates students to learn more about the topic
  • Multiple pathways to demonstrate learning
  • Opportunities for students to share their thinking and collaborate with others
  • Work shared with an audience beyond teacher and classroom
  • Technology integration that enhances learning at the Modification and/or Redefinition level (SAMR Model)
  • The resources for this learning experience will be organized digitally to support team and department collaboration and innovation.

General PBL Resources

Buck Institute Website

Buck Institute – Gold Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements

Buck Institute – Essential Project Design Checklist

Project-based learning ideas

(These are resources that participants in the course found and shared.)

List of physics PBL from

Blocking Sound PBL

Eggstreme Sports

Go, Score, Win with Physics

CASES Online

Free Project Based Learning Resources That Will Place Students At The Center Of Learning

Effective teaching methods —Project-based learning in physics 

IOP Institute of Physics – Problem based learning modules

Chemistry PBL Ideas:

  • Water quality – ions (nitrates, phosphates, chloride), dissolved oxygen, turbidity, pH, etc of different bodies of water and well water sources
  • Nutritional analysis of various drinks of choice
  • Combustions reactions – production of CO2 with various forms of travel

Biology PBL Ideas:


If you’ve never heard of Kahoot yet, you’re missing out. It’s a very fun (and very competitive) online quiz game that lets students compete against each other. You can create your own quiz games or you can use public quizzes. The quicker you answer a question correctly, the more points you earn! – Use this link to set up an account and run a quiz

Kahoot – Use this link to take a quiz


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Coding and Gaming in School

As many of you know, it was Computer Science Education Week a few weeks ago. helped to organize the 2nd annual Hour of Code, which introduced over 83 million students around the world to one hour of computer programming (aka “coding”). There is a huge global push to get students to experience coding because 1) it’s a high demand career and 2) there is a stigma it’s only meant for “computer nerds”. Students who partake in the Hour of Code hopefully learn not only that anyone can code, but that it can be fun!

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 12.59.03 PMI chose not to have students all do the same activity. I searched for a wide variety of activities that could be done on either a computer or iPad. I also decided to wait until the two days before Christmas Vacation. We were fashionably late to the coding party but made up for it by doing two days, You can see the list of resources I provided my students here. Unfortunately, none of the students that I saw tried coding on their iPad. (I was absent all of Monday and half of Tuesday with a bad cold, so I have a limited sample to go on.) Based on my observations and a Google feedback form, there were three activities that were by far the most popular:

  1. Ice skating with Elsa from Frozen
  2. Flappy Bird
  3. Code Combat

Ice skating with Elsa

Students use visual programming blocks to help Elsa create various designs in the ice. It helps them use the blocks as the commands get more advanced with each lesson. The only real fun part though comes at the very end, when students can program Elsa to do whatever they want. Some tried making really cool designs in the ice, while most others enjoyed watching her skate at insanely fast fast speeds while zooming off and on the screen.

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Flappy Bird has a really fun Flappy Bird simulator. Students once again use visual blocks to see how they can program different actions of the game. They decide what happens when you press the screen, when the bird hits an obstacle, and more. There are a lot of variables they learn to change, ranging from the bird itself (they can have other characters, including Santa’s sleigh), the speed of game play, and even the amount of gravity! The best part, again, comes at the end when students can create their own game by manipulating all of the variables to create their own version of the game. Boys especially could have easily spent both hours just playing each other’s versions of Flappy Bird. The coolest part of it all though was that students could send a text to themselves, which included a link that let them play their own game on their phone!! Even I was impressed.

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Code Combat

Code Combat is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Basically, kids learn to code by playing a video game. The unique thing about it is that, unlike the other activities described above, students learn to write the actual code (instead of using visual blocks). In the game, you learn to move your character, collect coins, and attack enemies. I had some students spend the entire hour playing this game, and they were hooked to the point where I’m pretty sure at least a few of them continued to play at home.

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 1.19.43 PMThe best part for me, other than exposing my students to the world of coding, was watching them interact. Even though students were working individually, they often showed each other what they did. I also saw students ask each other for help when they got stuck with a certain task. It was definitely the most engaged I’ve ever seen students on the two days before Christmas Vacation!

Some other options

As I explored options for my students, I came across some pretty interesting options for both coding and gaming in the classroom. I didn’t realize there were companies out there focusing on developing academic games. Here are a few of the things I discovered.

CS in Science

“ has partnered with the award-winning Project GUTS (Growing Up Thinking Scientifically) to deliver a middle school science program consisting of four instructional modules and professional development for the introduction of computer science concepts into science classrooms within the context of modeling and simulation. The goal of the program is to situate computer science practices and concepts within the context of life, physical, and earth sciences, and to prepare students to pursue formal, year-long courses in computer science during high school. CS in Science is based on a crosswalk identifying areas of overlap between the NGSS and Computer Science Teachers Association K-12 Computer Science Standards. Download a brief or full description.”

CS in Math: Bootstraps

“ has partnered with Bootstrap to offer their introductory curriculum which teaches algebraic and geometric concepts through computer programming. The nine units focus on concepts like order of operations, the Cartesian plane, function composition and definition, and solving word problems – all within the context of video game design. By shifting classwork from abstract pencil-and-paper problems to a series of relevant programming problems, Bootstrap demonstrates how algebra applies in the real world, using an exciting, hands-on approach to create something cool.

At the end of the nine units, students will have a completed workbook filled with word problems, notes, and math challenges, as well as a video game of their own design to share with friends and family.

Bootstrap is aligned to Common Core Standards for Mathematics. This alignment makes it possible to integrate Bootstrap into the classroom smoothly. Bootstrap is also a model implementation of Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice, offering explicit pedagogical recommendation across all eight practice standards. Bootstrap also satisfies several of the CSTA (Computer Science Teacher’s Association) standards across levels 1 (grades K-6) and 2 (grades 6-9). Download a full description.

Glass Studios

A wide variety of educational games but not all are playable on iPads. Some of the cooler options include games about zombies, human anatomy, viruses, and citizen science.

Gamestar Mechanic

Students learn to design their own video game through coding. They can do this for free. There are more advanced options as well, which cost money.

Institute of Play

This site has so many resources that it’s a bit overwhelming. Their main goal is to include more games in schools (and not just the “plugged in” variety). They developed the game below and are connected to Gamestar Mechanic and Glass Studios.

SimCity EDU: Pollution Challenge

“SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge! is made of four different missions all centered on the theme of environmental impact. In each mission, students are tasked with solving increasingly complex problems. The game aligns to Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core Standards, 21st Century Skills, and Economics Standards.” The game, unfortunately, cannot be played on iPads, but it might be worthwhile enough to sign out the computer lab.

SimCity BuildIt iPad app

EA Sports also recently released a FREE SimCity game on the iPad. This is a different game than the one listed above and is more of your typical SimCity game. I have not had the chance to play around with it much myself. I have read that, while it’s an entertaining game, it often takes a lot of time to “build” various aspects of the city.

Solve the Outbreak

You get to play the role of disease detective in this fun game from the CDC.

This is just a small sampling of what is out there. I’m hoping you find at least one of these things useful for your classroom!

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Tech Showcase Summary

Here is a sampling of resources from the recent Tech Showcase at Sherwood…

Creating Websites to Improve Student Engagement – Kate Lewis

This Google folder has all of the resources you help your students start designing websites.

Book Creator tips – Jessi Walsh

Using Explain Everything in Academic Support – Meghan De Leon

Instagram in the Classroom – Allen Beer

The link above is Allen’s Oak Middle School Engineering Instagram feed. This is how he shares Tech Ed experiences with students and parents. His account is private, so you will need to send him a “follow request” in order to see the photos. If you’re looking for other ideas for using Instagram in class, here is a copy of my science scavenger hunt. Students will be using Instagram tomorrow to document various chemistry examples (mixtures, physical changes, etc.)

Google Classroom and Goobrics/Doctopus – Derek PIzzuto and Kelly Lawlor

This is the link to the earlier blog post that Derek and Kelly wrote on this topic.

Using Class Badges to Gamify School

This is the link to my prior blog post. (I also talked about different ways to introduce gaming in class. I plan on writing a separate blog post in a few days that includes this information in addition to my experiences doing the Hour of Code with my students.) Two tidbits I will add now though…

1. Matt Amdur informed me that Schoology has its own badge allocation system. I am not a Schoology user (though I really want to learn), but it sounds like a pretty cool feature to me.

2. ClassCraft is a website that uses a video game in lieu of badges to reward student achievement. I’ve never used it myself. One user says, “Classcraft is like ClassDojo meets World of Warcraft.”


Using Class Badges to “Gamify” School

For the last two years or so, I kept hearing about “gamification” in the classroom. Rather than simply giving a student an overall grade, I read about teachers who created badges that students could earn by mastering different skills or learning goals. This is very similar to the badges you may have earned as a kid in the boy scouts or girl scouts. Many video games today are also like this. I was in an online fantasy football league last year that awarded badges for various achievements throughout the season, such as “Best Waiver Wire Pickup” or “Highest Weekly Point Total”. Even as a grown man, I loved the idea and was motivated to earn as many badges as possible!

Our school established the first annual Color Cup this year, which awards points to teams for different events throughout the year. The color team with the most points at the end of the year will be declared the winner! This is similar to what I’ve wanted to do, only it uses points instead of badges. I figured if there was ever a time to try this, it’s now.

Setting Up a  Badge System

Since I planned to award badges for all four subjects, I did not create badges for specific learning goals/skills, because it would be too hard to monitor. While it would be cool to have something like a “Microscope Master” badge, I focused mainly on report card standards. Also, I didn’t only want academic badges because some students, despite their best efforts, struggle academically. I wanted students to be recognized for their many different school-related accomplishments. I finally settled on five badge categories:

  • Academic
  • School
  • Team
  • BCO
  • Enrichment

Academic: These are the badges students earn for their grades. They need a “3” or higher to earn the badge for different standards, but there is also an “expert” or “master” badge for students who earn a “4”. There are also badges for Habits of Mind.

School: These are the badges students earn for school-wide activities. It includes sports, clubs, volunteering, etc.

Team: These are the badges students earn for various team events, activities, and field trips.

BCO: These are the badges students earn for accomplishments in band, chorus, or orchestra.

Enrichment: These are the badges students can earn for accomplishments in Enrichment classes (such as winning the Scrabble tournament or achieving the highest voltage with their wind turbine design).

There were two very important resources in the beginning. I used the Class Badges website to award badges to students. For the actual badges, I used some of the pre-made designs from Class Badges, but I made most of them using this online badge generator. It’s pretty awesome. As time went on though, I realized that the Class Badges website was not a good fit. It’s a good idea, but I found it difficult to use, and their customer service was nonexistent. I sent them questions through both email and Twitter but never received a response.

Badge System 2.0

badgeOnce I abandoned Class Badges, I knew I had to find a new way of keeping track of badges, plus award the badges to students. I set up this Google Spreadsheet (only visible to people in the Shrewsbury Public Schools domain) that acts as the official record for all badges earned. I also included a Leaderboard for students so they can see who is currently in the lead. They can also look to see which badges they have been awarded. Everything is visible to them except for the academic badges because I don’t feel they need to know who did well (or poorly) on various standards.

I created a new blog at This is now the official repository for all badges that can be earned. Students can go there to view the badges and learn how to earn each badge. The best thing about this blog is that I can use it again next year! Since each badge is basically nothing more than an image, I have put them all into a Google folder for students to access. Whey they have earned a specific badge, they can go into this folder to “claim” their badge. Our students have already created a Google Drive portfolio. They will create a new folder in their portfolio called “My Badges”. This is where they will store all of their earned badges. I want them to be proud of their work, so I also encourage them to share these badge photos on social media accounts, such as Twitter or Instagram.

Homeroom Cup

I stole the Color Cup idea, and used it to create some friendly homeroom competition. As students earn badges, they also earn points for their homeroom. The Class Badges Google Spreadsheet also keeps track of homeroom points. The homeroom with the most points at the end of the year will be declared the winner. I found the video below that explains how to make a cheap replica of the Stanley Cup. There are students who have already volunteered to stay after school one day and help me put it together. It will stay in the homeroom that is currently leading in points. At the end of the year, we will write the homeroom teacher’s name on it, just like the real Stanley Cup!

Final Thoughts

I realize that this system is far from perfect and many of you might not find any merit to the whole gamification idea. My main goals are to increase motivation for some students and make school more fun for all students. I plan to write another blog post at the end of the year to share how things went. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!