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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Crash Course: History and Science Videos

John and Hank Green are two brothers from Montana who started an educational YouTube channel one year ago called “Crash Course”. Most of their videos are around 9-12 minutes in length and focus on specific topics related to one of their six main courses: World History, US History, English Literature, Biology, Ecology, and Chemistry. The videos are entertaining and informative.

John Green produces the history and literature segments while his brother Hank focuses on science. Hank recently announced that would be starting a new course on Chemistry. The first Chemistry video was released one week ago. It focuses on the atom’s nucleus and already has over 120,000 views!

World History Highlights: 

  • Rise and fall of the Roman Empire
  • Five pillars of Islam
  • Dark Ages
  • Renaissance
  • Capitalism, Socialism, and Imperialism

English Literature Highlights

  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Great Gatsby
  • Catcher in the Rye

US History Highlights

  • Colonizing America
  • Natives and the English
  • Natives and the Spaniards
  • More to come…

Biology Highlights

  • Animal and Plant cells
  • Photosynthesis
  • Heredity
  • Mitosis and Meiosis
  • Evolution/Natural selection
  • Human systems (muscular, digestive, etc.)

Ecology Highlights

  • History of life on Earth
  • Community Ecology
  • Ecosystem Ecology
  • Ecological Succession

Chemistry Highlights

  • The Nucleus
  • More to come…

How can these videos help you? 

We all know that any educational video is going to be aimed at a certain audience. After having watched numerous Crash Course videos, I would say their target audience is high school students and older. Younger students can definitely understand the material presented and find it entertaining, but I would give some of their content a PG-13 rating.

These videos are great for you all to watch. The two brothers do a great job of making the information entertaining and interesting. I would recommend them if you would like to review some material or maybe learn more about a new topic. However, you should screen the video first before showing it to students. Most are okay, but some can be a little inappropriate for younger students.

Personally, I am very excited about their upcoming Chemistry course. The first video (embedded above) on the atomic nucleus is excellent. It is relevant, appropriate, and gives a great overview of important concepts my students need to know.

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How to transfer photos and videos from your iPad

Despite all of the apps out there, one of the iPad’s greatest features is its camera. Newer models have front and rear-facing cameras that let you take some pretty impressive photos and videos*. All of this media lives in the device’s “camera roll” and can be shared with others through email, text messages, Facebook, and photo stream to name a few. Sometimes though, you may want to share many photos, or you may want to transfer all of the photos and videos on your iPad to your laptop. In order to do this, we need to get a little more creative.

*When I talk about “photos and videos”, I am referring specifically to the pictures and video you take using the iPad’s camera function. The steps below to do not apply to pictures and videos created with an app such as iMovie.

Apple makes it easy for people to sync their photos and videos on the iPad directly to their computer’s photo library using iTunes. Unfortunately, this option will not work for you if you are using a school-issued iPad. Shrewsbury teachers are not allowed to plug their iPad into a computer because it will cause management problems. This is a necessary step to set up the syncing process. We must go to Plan B.

Apple’s iCloud is a neat feature that lets you store your stuff online. It lets you access your music, documents, photos, calendars, contacts, and more from whatever device you are on. Once iCloud is set up, it automatically syncs things between your iPad, iPhone, and computers.

Take a photo with an iPad, and it will show up on your laptop.
Download a new app on an iPhone, and it will immediately download onto your iPad! Watch the video below for a better sense of how it works.

How to set up iCloud on different devices:

iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch:

Mac laptop or desktop:

Windows PC:

Dropbox is a free service that lets you sync files across all of your different devices. It is similar to Google Drive and used by a lot of people. I use it as a way of backing up my files and giving me access to my stuff from anywhere. It’s much better in my opinion than backing things up to the school server because you can access files in Dropbox from any computer. 

Click on the links below to read some previous tech tips that pertain to Dropbox:

Battle of the cloud storage (April 24, 2012)
Dropbox introduced a new feature earlier this year for their iPad/iPhone app that lets users sync all of the photos and videos in the “camera roll” into their Dropbox account. It creates a new subfolder called “Camera Uploads” in your main Dropbox folder. The media gets synced each time you open the Dropbox iPad or iPhone app. 
In order for this to be really effective, you should have Dropbox installed on your iPad and your laptop. Personally, I do not like iPhoto very much and much prefer having my pictures end up in a Dropbox folder on my computer instead. 
I use Dropbox to sync pictures and video on both my iPad and iPhone so I have everything on my school laptop and home PC, Even if you use Dropbox for nothing other than syncing your photos, I think it’s well worth it. The image to the right, for example, is a screen shot I just took of my iPhone. It quickly synced to my laptop, and I was able to post it here within thirty seconds.

Photosync ($1.99) is an app for the iPad/iPhone that lets you easily transfer photos and videos to and from your computer. It also lets you transfer between iOS devices, or you transfer to numerous possible “web services” including Dropbox, Google Drive, Facebook, Google Plus, Flickr, Picassa, etc. If you are looking to transfer files to your computer, there is a free utility you should download to make it easier.
Unlike iCloud and Dropbox, the syncing does not happen automatically. You choose whether to sync all files, just new files, or you can choose which photos and videos to sync. 
I have played around with this app to transfer some pictures and videos to Dropbox, Google Drive, and Flickr. Each time, the app was able to sync with my other accounts flawlessly. I had to log in to the other accounts and give this app permission to access my files.

Which option should you use?

There is no clear winner, but I have tried them all and prefer Dropbox. This could be because I was already a Dropbox user and comfortable with it. I like having everything in one spot so having all of my pictures in iCloud is not an appealing option for me. I do like iCloud for other things, just not syncing my photos.
Photosync is a nice “one size fits all” app if you like to transfer photos to numerous destinations. Like I said, I have used them all so if you are interested in trying any of these, let me know and I can help you get started. Also, if you know of any other ways to transfer photos and/or videos from your iPad, please  share them.

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Using YouTube in Your Classroom

Most educators today will agree that YouTube contains a wealth of educational information. Unfortunately, many teachers are hesitant to show YouTube videos in class because they run the real risk of exposing students to inappropriate material. Even if you know the video itself is appropriate, you have had no control over the comments for the video or the “related videos” shown to the side… until now.

ViewPure is a great website that basically strips all of the unnecessary junk (comments, related videos, suggestions, etc.) away and just shows the video you want to watch.

To use ViewPure, copy the link of the video into the site’s “purifier” and click “Create”. This will create a unique link for this video free of any distractions. This link can be shared with students if you would like them to view a video from home.

To make it even easier, ViewPure’s website has a “purify” button that you can drag to become a permanent part of your web browser’s address bar. This button does the same function as described above without having to visit the ViewPure website. Just open a video on YouTube, then click on the “purify” button in your address bar to remove all of the extras.

 Before ViewPure: Notice all of the clutter…related videos, comments, and extra information.

After ViewPure: All of the clutter is gone! There are a few links at the top which allow you to share the video with others.

Additional Resources

Learn about the “YouTube for Schools” community! There is plenty of helpful information on why and how to use YouTube in your class. You can submit or search for content-specific “playlists” of videos. For example, check out my Chemistry Playlist. These are all of the videos I have saved that I find useful to show during my chemistry classes.

12 Useful YouTube Accessories for Teachers and Students

This “Free Tech 4 Teachers” blog post gives additional suggestions for removing clutter, as well as tools for cutting and remixing YouTube videos, and editing videos within YouTube itself.

I have my own YouTube channel, manage a few science playlists, and “subscribe” to authors of videos I find helpful (such as Bill Nye, Steve Spangler, and Discovery Channel). If you are interested in using YouTube more in your class and have questions about any of its features, I would be happy to help you out.