This is the first installment of English Martyrs' School's Science Department Action Research project concerning the use of iPads, apps and personal learning networks. All the background information can be found on this website (www.digilittleacorns.weebly.com) in the Case Studies section.
Summary of our activities so far
- App Development
Christine posted the QR code to her app on her AS/A2 Chemistry website (www.emschemistry.yolasite.com) and asked her Year 12 class to try it out and complete an online evaluation. As of 19th February, 11 of her 16 Year 12 students had completed the evaluation. 6 used an iPhone, and other devices they used included an iPad, Sony Xperia, Samsung Galaxy and iPod Touch. 10 of the 11 students reported no problems with making the app work but one student had difficulty saving it to the home screen.
The students were very helpful in describing other apps they would like to be developed. Here are a selection of comments:
"I think that the app should be produced for the other sciences as well as chemistry as it would prove a useful resource. For example, an app could be useful at helping students learn definitions in physics and biology as well as in chemistry. It is also useful to have a copy of the specification easy to access and this would apply to the other sciences as well."
"Apps would be very helpful to demonstrate different practicals and diagrams of models. Such as 3-D diagrams of molecules and bond angles in chemistry or diagrams of the blood movement in the heart linked to electrical stimulation and changes of pressure. An app could also be used for short multiple choice questions for short periods of revision without books."
"Within chemistry, other things could be added to the app such as different mechanisms and diagrams. Particularly with electrophilic addition and free radical substitution. Also, there could be practice questions in the app rather than just the specification. I think it would be helpful to have this sort of app in biology as well."
They also said the following in the "any other comments" section. Christine was surprised that they wrote so much as it was not mandatory to do so! One student said:
"I think the app is useful; particularly the definitions and specifications page. This is because, I personally lose marks on definitions, and an app where all my definitions are together is helpful, so I don't have to keep referring to the back of a textbook. Also, I think the specifications part is useful so we know how to answer questions, and I find the OCR website difficult to navigate around, so this app helps in finding what I need."
So it looks like the app building is going in the right direction! Over the next few weeks the current apps will be edited in the light of any comments made by students, and one further app will be written. Then they will be placed on the iPads and uploaded to the website so the students can start using them.
Christine found that Polldaddy was a useful tool in collecting responses which can be accessed at www.polldaddy.com and intends to use this for all data collection in the next phase of the project.
- Investigation of Existing Apps
Stephanie has been investigating some existing apps we could try out with our students, on our new iPad minis.
We have been using the Facebook group to discuss apps we have found. Stephanie found some free iBooks and had a look through the physics and biology ones and thought that they were great! Christine agreed that the chemistry one looked great too.
However, the books seem to now be £3.49 each, although it looks like we can get a free sample of each one, so it still may be worth trying. Apps that were free a few months ago seem to now have a small cost. We will have to decide if they are worth purchasing when we have tried them out on our iPads.
Regardless, there are plenty of free apps we could try. Firstly, we thought that a free Periodic Table app may be worth investigating. Periodic Table ! https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/periodic-table-!/id536810204?mt=8 is one possibility. As is Periodic Lite https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/periodic-lite/id328354870?mt=8#.
For Biologists, there are some great cell apps like HudsonAlpha iCell, https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/hudsonalpha-icell/id364882015?mt=8 which is also free. It may help both KS3 and KS5 students with their cell structure and function aspects of their courses.
For Chemists, there is a free app called goREACT https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/goreact/id649585694 which may be worth investigating. It seems like students will be able to view reactions between different elements.
Stephanie already has downloaded Science360 which has a range of free science videos and images https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/science360-for-ipad/id439928181?mt
- Digi Little Acorns Network
Apps need to be written or edited so we have 3 good, working apps to share with the students. This is Ian's main priority, though he will be supported by Manisha, Paul and Christine.
These apps will then be downloaded onto the iPads so they can be used in class. Students involved may be asked for their opinions on the apps immediately or after a period of use as appropriate. Data should be collected via Polldaddy if possible, but if not, paper copies can be given and then data stored securely in an Excel spreadsheet. Christine will ensure consent forms go out to the students involved to check they agree to taking part in the project.
Stephanie will make a final decision into which existing apps will be put onto the iPads. The ICT department has said that if we send a list of the required apps including those created by the department, they will put them on the iPads and get them set up for us. We will do that in the next week or so, once we've made our final decisions in a department meeting. We will also be writing a code of practice when using the iPads so we know who has used each one and when. Then we will plan lessons whereby students use the apps and again, get feedback via questionnaires and informal observation.
Christine plans to attend an event about Twitter for Educators on 5th March which will be a good opportunity of networking and sharing the project with other staff in the city.