Media Matters

November 2013

Cool Apps for Science Lessons

From Richard Byrne's "Free Technology for Teachers" blog:

The Bill Nye The Science Guy iPad app is a free iPad app on which students can watch Bill Nye videos, play games, and discover kitchen table science experiments to do at home with their parents. The app is beautifully designed. Students enter the app by “scanning” their thumbprints. After entering the app students select an object on Bill Nye’s desk. Each object launches a new element of the app. My only complaint about the app is that in the video section it looks like you have to buy the videos (it’s an option) even though you can watch them for free.

goREACT is a free iPad app from the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago. This free iPad app allows students to virtually create chemical reactions. To create the reactions students simply drag elements from the periodic table to the “reaction area.” The app includes suggested reactions to help students get started. In all there are nearly 300 chemical reactions supported on the app. The app includes pictures and videos related to the reactions that students can virtually create on goREACT.

Powers of Minus Ten: Bone is a neat iPad app for biology students. The app takes students through ten levels of viewing the inside of human bones. Students can zoom through and explore each of the microscopic levels. The imagery starts at the level of viewing bones from the outside and ends with viewing the atoms within the bones. A neat aspect of the app is that students can select “healthy bone” or “broken bone.” By selecting “broken bone” students can view a broken bone and see how it heals.

Virtual Heart is a free iPad app that allows users to take a closer look at how the human heart functions. The free app lets users speed up and slow down the virtual heart rate. Users have four views of the heart in the app. The views are of the electrical system, the valves, blood flow, and the interior of the heart. Each view can be experienced with or without labels. The first time each view is tapped, a short introduction to that view is displayed.

3D Brain is a free iPad app that features a model of the human brain. he app provides a three dimensional model of the human brain that students can rotate. To look at a specific part of the brain select it from the drop-down menu and it will be highlighted on the model for you to view. Click the “info” tab to read one page summaries about each part of the brain. On the app you can also find some case studies about disorders and brain damage.

Essential Skeleton is a free iPad app that students studying the human skeletal system should download. The app puts a 3D skeleton on your students’ iPads. Students can zoom-in, zoom-out, and rotate the skeleton 360 degrees. When students zoom-in and tap on a bone they will see its name in English and Latin, have the option to hear an audio pronunciation of the bone’s name, learn about the connected bones, and write their own notes about the highlighted bone.

Solve the Outbreak is a free iPad app produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The app is a game that contains three epidemics for students to research. In each investigation students have to read the background, read clues, analyze data, and answer questions. The questions put students in the role of a medical professional tasked with helping to curtail the spread of the epidemic. Points are awarded to students for correct answers.

Catching Fire

The second book of the Hunger Games trilogy hits theaters on Nov. 22! Junior Library Guild has created a reading and activity guide, which provides a chapter-by-chapter analysis, along with genre, character, conflict, and plot analyses. There are book recommendations for those students looking for similar reads and engaging library applications, such as researching and comparing Panem to Ancient Greece or Rome.

See the exciting movie trailer here:

Study SC

StudySC is a website that provides online content to support South Carolina-specific curriculum standards. Resources are arranged by grade level and by subject area, so that you can find information quickly and easily. Features include: Culture, environment & geography, government, history before 1865, history after 1865, glossary of SC terms, and SC people. This is one awesome site!

Common Core Lesson Tools

OpenEd is a site that claims to be the world's largest educational resource catalog. On OpenEd you can search for videos, games, and other educational materials. Your searches can be conducted according to content area, grade level, Common Core standard, or a combination of those factors. As a registered OpenEd user (registration is free and takes less than thirty seconds to complete) you can create courses and playlists of videos and other materials that you find in the OpenEd directory. You can align your courses and playlists to standards. If you choose to align your course to a standard, OpenEd will suggest materials to you.

ReadWorks is a free service that has cataloged hundreds of lesson plans and more than 1,000 non-fiction reading passages aligned to Common Core standards. With a free ReadWorks account you can search for lessons and reading passages by grade and skill. In your account you can create digital binders of the lesson plans and reading passages that you want to use.

Space Math @ NASA

What a great way to integrate math and science! Space Math is a NASA website that contains space-themed math lessons (aligned with the Common Core standards) for students in elementary school through high school. You can search for lessons according to grade level or mathematics topic. Here is the link to the grades 6-8 lessons, which includes eClips videos:

Animoto App (Free)

If you've ever used the Animoto website, then you know how amazing it is! The app is even easier to use, and you can create some gorgeous videos using photos in your camera roll. Plus you can take pictures and videos on your ipad and import them directly to your Animoto project. There are 40 different video styles and a huge music library to choose from. Videos may be shared via email, text, social media, or saved to your camera roll. It only takes a minute to sign up for the free account, and you're ready to start creating some great-looking videos! Look for it in the app store!

Poster My Wall

PosterMyWall is an online site that will allow you or your students to easily create free, high-quality posters. You can use the pre-loaded backgrounds and clipart or upload your own. Plus, you can upload your own images, and the program comes with some awesome fonts and font effects. I was able to create a poster without signing up for an account, but teachers can upgrade their account to a FREE teacher account after signing up for the initial account. Just go to: and upgrade your account. Then your students can save their work without any need to have an account of their own. Finished projects can be downloaded and and printed or added to other documents such as MS Word. Or, projects can be published to social media sites such as Facebook or Pinterest. This site requires Flash, so it does not work on ipads.

What Should I Read Next?

Need help with book recommendations for your students? Just enter a book that they like and a recommendation will be suggested, from their huge database of real readers' favorite books.

Helping Students Develop a Desire to Read More

Nancy Steinke, a high school English teacher and author of several books, shares suggestions for how to retain rigor, yet regain fun when it comes to reading assignments:

Use Accessible Texts: When text is too hard, students give up. Richard Allington defines an accessible text as one that a student can read with 98% accuracy, encountering about six unfamiliar words per page. While the CCSS demand text complexity, this doesn't mean offering text that cannot be read independently: independent reading is the definition of homework reading!

Use High Interest Texts: Students are more likely to complete reading assignments they find interesting. While textbooks serve well as resource material, interesting reading comes from the real world. Keep an eye out as you read newspapers or magazines for articles that pertain to your units of study. Use those articles for homework reading and use the textbooks in class to research concepts the articles introduced.

Give Choices: Whenever you can, give students a choice in their reading, whether it's a choice of three different articles on solar flare or a choice of six different literature circle novels. Just making that choice will give students greater ownership in completing the reading.

Create Interest and Understanding: Pitch the text and hook the reader; make it enticing! Read a bit aloud, discuss an opening paragraph, view a provocative illustration. Also, explicitly teach unfamiliar concepts with visuals. Google Images and YouTube make that quick and easy.

Read Actively: Give students an explicit way to interact with the text: creating discussion questions, drawing a summary picture, etc. Then actively use those notes the following day so that students see their value.

Teach Students to Plan: When reading is assigned, stop and ask students to jot down answers to these questions: How long do you think it will take to complete this reading? Where and when are you going to complete this reading so that you have it finished for tomorrow's class? For longer reading assignments such as a novel, offer a calendar with all of the reading due dates so that students can plan and, if necessary, read ahead. (Note: Mrs. Jackson tabs the students' books with post-it notes so they know how much they need to read each day to meet the goal.)

Make Post-Reading Collaborative: Make the completion of reading assignments social. When students know they will be engaged in small group discussions, discussions that will suffer if the reading is not completed, they are far more likely to do their homework. Also, if you structure opportunities for student groups to get to know each other and practice necessary collaboration skills, group commitment to the task of reading will increase tremendously.

For you and all that you do!