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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 11.11.28 AM

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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iPads in Science – Measurement Revisions

I always begin the year by having students learn how to use science tools (balances, graduated cylinders, meter sticks, etc.). They must make accurate and precise measurements, plus understand how to do simple metric conversions, like how many centimeters are found in one meter. They had a measurement quiz last week where they had demonstrate these skills. As in past years, students received a grade (1-4) for each specific skill. As in past years, students who earned below a “3” on a certain skill as responsible for practicing this skill and showing me they could do it correctly.

What changed this year was HOW students did their measurement revisions. I used to run around the classroom like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to observe and record 20+ students make measurements. This year, I had students record evidence of their measurements using their iPads. The one rule was that for every skill they needed to revisit, students had to measure two different objects, so I was sure they could do it correctly. However, they were allowed to choose any app on their iPad, as long as they were able to add photos and text. Here are a few apps that I recommended:

  • Explain Everything
  • Educreations
  • Keynote
  • Skitch (now has a rating of 17+ so if students don’t already have it, they won’t be able to install it from the App Store.)
  • Pic Collage (similar to Skitch)
  • Notability (though I encouraged them to branch out and try something new)

Length (not pictured)

Students must be able to measure the length of an object using a ruler and record this measurement in three different units : mm, cm, and m. Their revisions had to include a photo of an object with the ruler (or meter stick) positioned on top or on the side so I could clearly measure the length myself.


Students must be able to record the mass of an object using the correct precision of the balance. Their revisions had to include a photo of the same object on three different balances (each with a different precision) and record the mass as seen on each balance.


Regular Volume

Students have to measure volume of small and large objects using the formula: volume = length x width x height. Their revisions had to include a photo of the rectangular prism, and each side had to be labeled with the length in centimeters. They also had to show their calculations for calculating volume and include the correct metric unit.


Irregular Volume

Students have to measure volume of small solids using the water displacement method. Their revisions had to include a photo of the graduated cylinder and solid object. They could either have two photos (one before and one after the object was added), or they could have one photo where they clearly labeled the initial and final volume. They also had to show their “work” for determining the volume of the solid object and include the correct metric unit. (There were specific metal cylinders I had students measure for their revision work. I already had these volumes recorded so I could quickly tell if their measurements were correct.)

photo (4)

The Results?

The end result was much better than years past! I sat at my desk and students lined up to show me evidence of their learning. I was able to check in with a lot more students in a shorter amount of time. Another benefit to this approach is students will be able to use these as artifacts for the student-led conferences in November. Last year, they would not have this evidence to prove they improved their measurement skills, but now they do.

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Science Review Games

I know this is not a “Tech Tip” exactly, but we have been playing some fun review games in class to prepare for the energy test. It’s been a fun two days so I wanted to share!

Vocabulary Games

Science has a lot of vocabulary for students to learn. One strategy I have long used to help them review these words is to print out vocabulary cards on card stock. Each card has one vocabulary word. I print out one set of cards for the eight groups in my class. My homeroom students help by cutting the cards out and placing them into a Ziploc bag. 
The main idea is for a student to give clues to the others at their table so they can guess the word. There are many different ways for them to set this up. Usually, one student gives clues while the other three try to guess. Sometimes, they will form two teams that compete against each other. 
I let students decide how to give clues. The three main options have always been Pictionary, Taboo, and charades. 
Pictionary – Student draws clues on a large whiteboard. They cannot write down any words, and they are not allowed to talk or use gestures. 
Taboo – Student gives verbal clues. They are not allowed to mention any word or part of a word written on the card. They are also not allowed to use gestures. 
Charades – Student can only use gestures as clues. I also let them use props. However, no speaking and no drawing. 
As students played these games in class yesterday, one group suggested another variation called “Catch Phrase”. It’s similar to Taboo, but there are two teams. As soon as one team correctly identifies one term, they quickly hand the cards off to the other team. It goes back and forth, and the goal is to get through as many of the vocabulary cards as they can in one minute. I thought this was a great idea and decided to take it one step further in my last class of the day. The last 10 minutes of class was a class Catch Phrase competition. The goal of the competition was to be the table that correctly identified all vocabulary cards in the shortest amount of time.  

Sports Challenge

Each year, as the NHL and NBA playoffs are kicking off, I have a sports challenge review game for the test on energy transformations. In a traditional review game (such as Jeopardy), students earn points for their team by answering questions correctly. That is not the case here!
There are eight teams with each team having four students. Each team was assigned an NHL hockey team currently in the playoffs. Students had to rotate at each table and take turns answering questions. I made a Google Presentation with many energy-related questions and asked students to stand up as soon as they knew the answer. If they got it wrong, I moved on to the next student. If they answered correctly, they could then try to earn points by doing a sports challenge! If they were successful in the challenge, points were awarded to their team. If they were not successful, they received no points. It’s also worth noting that if no students could answer the questions, I gave the teams a clean slate and allowed them to collaborate at their tables.

Here are the challenges: 

Hockey challenge: My desk makes a perfect hockey goal. Students had the option shoot against me as goalie, or they could play goalie and try to stop my shot. If they were successful, they earned 3 points. For the ball, I used a ball of paper wrapped in masking tape. 
Soccer challenge (new this year): This is exactly like the hockey challenge except they used their feet with the tape ball instead of hockey sticks. 
Basketball challenge: The goal is to throw the tape ball into a trash bin. There were a few different lines to shoot from. As the line distance increased from the basket, the points increased from 1-3 points. There was also a 5 point opportunity if they made a shot from behind my desk in the back of the room. The one rule here is their foot could not be past the tape. If so, I threw the flag (my yellow Terrible Towel) and the basket did not count. 
Juggling challenge: Students tried to juggle three balls as long as possible. If they juggled for 5 seconds, they earned 3 points. If they juggled for 10 seconds, it was worth 6 points. 
Here are some of today’s highlights: 
  • Until this year, I have only ever had two students make the 5 point basketball shot from behind my desk. Today, three students made it, and they were all in the same class!
  • One student made the most amazing 3 point basketball shot of all time. The ball bounced off the ceiling, bounced off the floor, and then landed right in the basket. I wish someone videotaped it. 
  • When I had two students stand up at the same time (and they both knew the correct answer), we had a “head to head” challenge in hockey, soccer, or juggling. 
  • The greatest moment came when two teams were tied for second place at the end of the game. I had each group choose one student to represent their team in a final timed challenge. They had to first score a hockey goal on me as goalie. They were allowed to shoot again and again until they scored. Once they did this, they had to quickly grab the ball and make a “2 point” basketball shot. If they missed, they had to retrieve the ball and keep shooting until they made it in. The first student completed it in 57 seconds. The second student took just over a minute. It was intense! 
Needless to say, this was a very fun and engaging review session. Students were motivated, competitive, and very spirited. Feel free to use any of these review ideas in your classroom. For what it’s worth, the four winning teams today: Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and LA Kings. Could these be the final four teams in the NHL semi-finals? We’ll see!

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The #Instagram Photo Scavenger Hunt

Over the last few years, the 8 Gold teachers have had new students take a Google “student survey” so we could learn more about them, their interests, and their learning styles. We ask them everything from “Where do you want to go on vacation?” to “which learning style suits you best?” You can read more about this survey in this earlier blog post. There are always a few technology-related questions. The most interesting of which asks students which social networking sites they currently use. When teachers later looked at the results, we were surprised by the results. 

Facebook has been the #1 social networking site for a while now. In past student surveys, more students used Facebook over any other site. Twitter and Instagram have become more popular the last few years while Facebook has seen a decline. Based on student feedback and information online, more and more teenagers are abandoning Facebook because they feel there are too many adults monitoring their behavior. As you can see in the graph below, only 39% of our students have are active Facebook users while 67% use Instagram. Twitter usage is still behind Facebook, but I expect that to change very soon. 

What Does This Mean? 

Even though I pride myself on being “tech savvy”, I am always late on the technology bandwagons. I have only had a Twitter account for the past year or so and finally forced myself to join because I knew there were some great benefits for networking. I have resisted Instagram because I always thought it was just something middle school girls used for taking “selfies”. As I looked into it more over Christmas Vacation,  I realized it too had a lot of possibilities. Plus, I knew it was about time I learned more about the tool that so many of my students were using. As someone once said, don’t fight change. Embrace it! 
Both Twitter and Instagram utilize hash tags (#) to share and search for information. The “aha” moment for me (and the deciding reason why I joined Instagram) deals with my plans for the upcoming summer. As many of my teacher friends already know, I am planning to volunteer with kids in Morocco through an organization called Cross-Cultural Solutions. After doing research into the organization and their destinations around the world, I learned that each CCS destination has its own hashtag. For example, the Morocco hash tag is #ccsrabat. If I search for this hash tag on Twitter, Instagram, or Flickr, I can find pictures and information from past volunteers. Very cool!

The Old Scavenger Hunt

Last year, I had students do a photo scavenger hunt as a fun way of reviewing some of the chemistry concepts we had been learning before vacation. They took pictures of elements, compounds, and mixtures around the school building with their cell phones and iPads. They also searched for evidence of physical and chemical changes. We spent another day in class sharing these pictures in groups and making presentations using Google Drive. Each slide had to have an image, a label (element, physical change, etc.) and an explanation. There was a final day where groups presented to the class. All in all, it was a fun way to segue back into learning after a school vacation. The drawbacks were the troubles sharing pictures in a group, and I thought three days was a bit too long. 

The New Scavenger Hunt

Over the vacation, as I played around with Instagram, I reflected on how to make this year’s scavenger hunt even better by including elements of social media. I decided to give students two options: Instagram or Twitter. 
If students opted for Instagram, they would take pictures or videos (up to 15 seconds) using their own Instagram account. They would choose from a list of hash tags to identify each image. The student must have a public Instagram account for this to work because hash tags are not searchable on private photos.
If students opted for Twitter, they would take pictures and upload to Twitter. If they wanted a short video clip, they would use the Vine app, then share it on Twitter. Like with Instagram, they would label each one by choosing from a list of hash tags. 

The Hash Tags…

#8goldsci (this hash tag would be used for all images)

How Did It Turn Out?!

Luckily, we had our “team time” first period. I polled the team and realized that while most of them wanted to use Instagram, very few students had public Instagram accounts (which is a good thing for their privacy but not for this lesson!) I ran into another room and created a new team account (@8goldteachers). Luckily for us, Instagram supports multiple log ins for the same account. So, rather than have students use their own account, I was able to have ALL students take photos on their phone using the new 8 Gold teacher Instagram account. There were some small delays uploading photos, but overall it worked out very well.
Students took some great pictures and videos, and most of them (unfortunately, not all) were labeled accurately. The next day, I looked through them all and shared some of the best ones on our team Twitter site. Students seemed more engaged than last year and were very excited to see that some of their photos were “liked” by others. I even noticed a few of them “liked” photos using their own accounts as well. 
There is one improvement I will make next year. It was tough for students to remember all of the hash tags and how to spell them, so next year each group will receive a handout of all hash tags, along with the definitions for each label.
Have any other ideas for using Instagram in class? Please share!