Friday, December 13, 2013

The iPad Classroom

There has seemed to be a lot of controversy lately regarding the distraction iPads cause in the classroom.  I have a lot of opinions on technology and have had a 1:1 classroom for 5 years now, so I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of what works and what doesn't.

"Do your kids play games in class?" Yes, they do...and some of those games really help them learn, some of them make their brains think logically or in a different way, while others seem to serve no purpose at all.   

What it comes down to, in my opinion, is lesson design.  If the educator has created a lesson that is interesting and engaging, the problem of gaming really doesn't exist. 

If I am running a lesson in my classroom and look out and see my kids disengaged and playing Madden, that forces me to re-evaluate MY lesson.  It makes me a better teacher to have that challenge facing me each day.  

I don't want a room full of disengaged game playing students.  I want them to be interested in what we are doing and learning how they can exist in the digital world.  I want them creating content to share and teach the world.  I want them to leave my room with a positive digital footprint.

When I first started teaching my course, over ten years ago,  it was an elective.  I had one section of the course and about 15 kids signed up.  I knew that if I didn't create engaging lessons that they liked, I wouldn't be teaching it again the following year.  This was prior to iPads, smartphones, and computers in my classroom.

It is not about the device, its truly about the design of the course.  There have always been distractions in the classroom, only the type of distraction has changed and will continue to change.   Make kids want to be in your class.  Teach the kid and not the stuff.  Find out what they are good at and find a way to incorporate their skills into your curriculum. Connect it to their lives.  It's the same philosophy most teachers have had for years.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Creator

I think Book Creator is now one of my favorite creation apps!  Several of my Health Without Borders project groups are using Book Creator to develop their final product to teach elementary kids health concepts.  They were pretty excited to get to use the new drawing option now, as many found it difficult to find free for re-use images in Creative Commons or Wikimedia Commons  that were appropriate for their topic and target age group.  

They found the app very easy to work with and really had no questions for me at all.  They loved that they could AirDrop the book between group members so different people could contribute easily.  The voiceover option is also simple to use and works well with just the microphone on the iPad.  I was so impressed with their final product!   

A couple of example pages are shown below.  These books are based on the topic "You Are What You Eat" and focused on how food is digested in the body.  If you want to see the entire book, several books are published in their iTunes U course

This group drew their pictures by hand - scanned them in with Cam Scanner - imported into Comic Maker App to give distressed look to images and add text - imported into Book Creator as images - added voice over - exported as ePub file to be posted in Health Without Borders on iTunes U.

This group drew their pictures in the free version of SketchbookX - took a screenshot to camera roll - imported images into Book Creator - added voice over - exported as ePub file to be posted in Health Without Borders on iTunes U.  

Our Health Without Borders iTunes U course now has over 26,000 subscribers so my students are pretty motivated to be published.  They are competitive in trying to create a unique project that teaches the concept while engaging their audience.  Book Creator allows them to easily AppSmash to create something above and beyond my expectations!  I can't wait to see what they submit for the next sections of our course, Heart Smart, which should be published mid December.  

Image credits from book screenshots:  Clare M., Jinny R., Joyce C., 
Shannon D, Maddie T, and Jasmin H.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


This summer I was able to attend the BLC Conference in Boston.  While I was there, Alan November asked me (in front of a large crowd of people I might add) "Why do you publish all of that for free?", referring to my Anatomy and Physiology course in iTunes U.  I actually have no idea how I answered his question because I really hadn't thought much about it and I was very nervous talking in front of that giant room. :)

Since then, I have been thinking about it and I guess it is a pretty simple answer.  The content I am publishing is being used BECAUSE it is free.  I am not doing any additional work to post my lessons in iTunes U, none at all. It is just as simple as posting something on a Google site or Edmodo, only iTunes U has a huge worldwide audience.  Don't believe me?  Check out these emails...

Right now a teacher in Minnesota is using my course to teach her A&P class that she wasn't prepared for.  She was given a new course to teach two days before school started and had no time to prepare quality lessons for her kids in addition to her regular and pre-AP biology class she was teaching.  Now those 30 kids get a fun experience in a class, when they may have just ended up doing a bunch of worksheets and watching a lot of videos.

A school in South Africa is using my class to help their teachers learn how to teach in the digital age. Their school is considering iPads but had no training on how to incorporate technology.  Now one of their teachers has an example of a technology infused anatomy course she can use. 

A school in Venezuela is using my class as a prerequisite to their nursing program.  Talk about thinking twice before you publish something...this has made me a better teacher knowing my work is being used in these ways.

I have so many examples like this.  I love all the emails I get from all over the world, many of which I have to translate.  

So that is the why.  I publish because #1 its easy....#2 its fun to share....#3 it connects my classroom to the entire world.  My students are given opportunities to publish into the A&P course to a real audience of over 100,000 subscribers.  They have the ability to Skype with schools in different countries.  They get to learn about a creating a positive digital presence for themselves.   

More than anything, the iPad gives them the ability to create cool things that are being published and used, not just a device to use for Googling answers to worksheets. 

Want to create your own course in iTunes U?  Start by logging in at  Course Manager
In iTunes U, search "creating iTunes U courses" and find multiple resources 
for how to set up your class!  Or tweet or message me if you have questions!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Lets All Move to New Zealand?

This morning I was woken up at 6:30am to my 6 year old in my face..."MOMMY, I need you to teach me how to rainbow loom!" While I was trying to process what he was even asking, he grabbed the iPad and said "Nevermind, I'll ask YouTube." 

My favorite thing about the iPad Summit was that it was NOT about the iPad. It was about transforming education to meet the needs of today's society. We don't need to teach them "stuff". They can find out whatever it is they need to know, as my six year so nicely put it, by asking YouTube.  The iPad is just the driving force of change. 

Are educators still standing in the front of the room playing PowerPoint Karoke to unengaged kids who could easily Google or YouTube the majority of the state standards for their course?  Can educators be empowered to force their kids to ASK questions of the unknown?  Leverage student interest and develop experiences around them while naturally incorporating digital citizenship.  School could be SO much more fun and purposeful.

My favorite moments from the Summit:

Dr. Ruben Puentedura - The SAMR model is not a ladder you climb, but it is instead a web that you use to develop more enriching, authentic experiences for kids.

Patrick Larkin - For change to occur with educators, schools need leadership that can have hard conversations when necessary.  Empower your educators with visible, encouraging, supportive leaders.

Reshan Richards - Quite possibly my favorite comment of the conference - You don't learn about curriculum, you learn through curriculum.  (A close second would be "Oh crap I almost just fell off the stage...don't tweet that.")  :)

Richard Wells - Schools in New Zealand are completely allowed to design their own curriculum to meet the needs of their culture. There is NO content in any of their curriculum, only processes and thinking skills.

For example: Why do American schools force students to learn specific content that possibly will never benefit them in their future? An objective from the TEKS (Texas): "compare the structures of viruses to cells, describe viral reproduction, and describe the role of viruses in causing diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and influenza." An objective in New Zealand "Analyze a New Zealand health issue".   Why are we so focused on facts?  Our kids are missing out on the connections and big picture because they are too busy memorizing the 5 steps of lysogenic viral replication.

Anyone that ever has an opportunity should attend the EdTech Teacher Workshops.  It is inspiring to be with so many other teachers and administrators that have the same desire to make a difference in education. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

iPad Summit Presentation

Here is my presentation for the iPad Summit in Boston on Global Connections using iTunes U.  So fortunate to be here and to have such great students who come up with amazing ideas and challenge me each day.  It really isn't about the iPad transforming education, it is about a design shift to encourage our students to be creative innovators instead of regurgitators of facts, from consumers to creators.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Get Up and Move!

Our second unit is almost ready in Health Without Borders!  All content should be added midweek before I fly off to present this project and iTunes U at the awesome EdTech Teacher iPad Summit in Boston!

If you teach elementary school and want to join us, its pretty easy...just subscribe to our free class in iTunes U on your iDevice! Here is how it works...

Choose from these available activities -- or do them all!

(1)  Encourage your class to take a health challenge. This challenge asks students to find a way to improve bone health.  Once the challenge is complete, have your kids blog with us - or blog as a class and let us know what you did.

(2) Learn from our class.  My students created some pretty amazing iBooks using the Book Creator App to teach basic concepts over bones and muscles.  Look for material to be added by the end of the week!

(3) Do a lab or two. See how your diet alters the strength and appearance of bones or see how your flexibility is changed when you warm up before exercising. 

(4) Design a better prosthetic with some very cool PBS Kids online lessons.

(5) Help us log miles by moving your bones and muscles.  Submit your miles to our spreadsheet and lets see how far we can walk.     Get Up and Move Challenge

SKYPE:  Want to talk to us?
We would love your feedback on the lesson.  What did you learn?  What questions do you still have? We would also love to discuss how your society is different than ours in Texas!!

Take pictures and share them with us on Twitter using #chsAP or @jdeinhammer! Here is our photostream so far!  Thanks to those that shared pictures.

Thanks to everyone that participated in the first lesson...from Coppell, Texas to Venezuela, Bejing, and the has been amazing hearing from everyone!  :)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Zaption is actually REALLY cool.  I was looking for a better way to organize blended learning days for Anatomy and this might be the solution.  Being able to pause video and insert text slides, add questions, or provide key terms all will help the student learn how to work through material on their own.  Starting with guided activities will help teach them how to be independent learners.  I like that you can export their answers to see how they did, and I just found a feature that allowed them to check their own answers.  There are so many possibilities with this!  

This is the first one I created:    The Muscular System
This is a video from Crash Course Science with added questions and text. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Health Without Borders

So my class is creating a MOOC for elementary school kids...We want to teach you about being healthy!  Join us in Texas as we partner with schools in New Zealand, Brazil, Chicago, Nashville, and others to try to change the health habits of our society.

If you teach elementary school and want to join us, its pretty easy...just subscribe to our free class in iTunes U on your iDevice! Here is how it works...

Choose from these available activities -- or do them all!

(1)  Encourage your class to take a health challenge. This first challenge asks them to find a way to eat healthier for a couple of days.  Once the challenge is complete, have your kids blog with us - or blog as a class and let us know what you did.  We will respond to each post.

(2)  Read a couple of iBooks that my class created on the topic.  This first unit is on digestion so learn about why you should eat healthy food.

(3)  Watch a couple of short videos my class created.  Again, the first unit is on digestion so you would learn about your stomach, intestines, and how food is absorbed.  See some experiments we ran to test how unhealthy food damages your organs.

(4) Challenge your class to do something to improve health where you live!  You can share the products you create with us if you want.  Suggestions are provided in the course.

(5)  Check out some fun apps we found that you might like.

(6)  Skype with us and let us know what you thought about the lesson.  You can also take pictures and share them with us on Twitter using #chsAP or @jdeinhammer!

Join the first lesson, You Are What You Eat, in Health Without Borders!  Other chapters will be added over the course of the school year.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Student Designed Learning

After hearing an amazing presentation from NoTosh at BLC this summer, I decided to let my students design our curriculum this year.  Kind of scary? Yes. Worth it?  Totally. They seriously amazed me with their thoughts and ideas.  They want to learn WAY cooler things than the state of Texas recommends for them. 

So here is how I set it up….On the first day of school they had to submit an idea or question of what they really wanted to learn in anatomy class this year to a
google moderator group chat.  On the second day, we took those questions and sorted by topic and then removed the ones that were really just questions they could Google easily.  Some of the Googleable questions were reworked by different groups until they came up with a lot of pretty amazing ideas.  

Here are a few examples of questions my students developed :

How does the brain differentiate between dreams and reality?

Can a serial killers brain be reprogrammed?

Can we create a better system of distributing vaccinations 
in an efficient and accessible manner?

How can we encourage unhealthy people to make better dietary 
choices to improve their overall health?

How can medication be developed to decrease the chance of side 
effects while still helping the patient?

Can we create an alternative to radiation treatment?

No offense to the state of Texas, but these questions are way better than anything a committee of grown-ups could develop.  And they created these in less than 52 minutes...with minimal effort...while they were tweeting...and texting their friends...and playing Candy Crush.  They are capable of so much more than we expect from them.  

I have the questions sorted now into 6 major themes and one category of ‘other’.  The first days of each six weeks will be devoted to taking one of the themes and looking at their questions for that topic and developing our six weeks plan around what they actually want to learn. They take the topics and discover a way to connect to society or a current health and wellness issue. 

Sounds way more exciting than “summarize the human growth and development cycle” or “evaluate models according to their limitations in representing biological objects”.  

We did this in an old fashion kind of way - (especially considering that all 150 of my students are carrying around a brand new school issued iPad) But we were kind of just making it up as we went along so post it notes was the way to go!

So far, we have developed a MOOC in iTunes U [Health Without Borders] with over 27,000 subscribers learning from my class and their creations.   Students have the ability to choose what they teach, how they teach it, and the products have been outstanding so far.   

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Power of iTunes U

When I first posted about iTunes U, I was pretty unsure of how it all worked and how it would fit into my classroom.  Six months later and I cannot imagine teaching without it!  My entire course is set up all in one place for my learners.

My course was original set up in January and I made it public sometime in February.  Today, I have over 110,000 people subscribed to it.  I get emails all the time from people around the world asking questions about the content or if I can offer a certification once they complete my course.  When that many people are looking at your course, it really makes you think about what content you are throwing out there...but in a good way.  The students in my classroom became editors and helped find content, apps, websites, etc. to help with particular topics. They developed a great level of ownership in their iTunes course.

I have also been contacted by several educators asking about different labs or activities I was doing -- some people had great suggestions on how to extend the lesson or how to connect globally and collaborate.  We were able to Skype with a school in New Zealand (we are in Texas) about a blog challenge my class was doing regarding health and diet.  It has opened up so many doors for my students to reach outside of our classroom walls.

My class is now developing a course in iTunes U called Health Without Borders.  This course has my students creating lessons and inquiry based science activities for students around the world. What better way to learn than to teach someone else?  The content is student determined, student developed, and student delivered.  They choose -- their ideas and their lessons....

So far, their course has almost 30,000 subscribers and we have been contacted from students in the Ukraine, Cambodia, and China to name a few.  Mobile learning and iTunes U makes amazing things happen in the classroom.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


As we work through the digestive system and nutrition, students will be challenged to convince someone to make a lifestyle change to improve his or her health by developing an infographic. Topics can range from artificial sweeteners to growth hormones in food to fast food in the United States.  Using the website Piktochart, students will develop an infographic of their research. I also found this blog that has a ton of other infographic creating websites they can choose from.   Requirements will include the use of Google Scholar and we will discuss the need for reputable sources for all information used.  After students have completed this assignment, I think we will take it one step further by designing a lab to test what they claim. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Click and Learn from HHMI

As part of our preparation for Healthy Cowboy Challenge,  we have discussed the heart, coronary vessels, and the effects of adipose on the heart.  We will also discuss the insulin blocking action of adipose when we get to nutrition and digestion in a few weeks. 

Before we begin to measure our clients weekly, I want students to understand how a persons body fat percentage is determined.  I found an app developed by the Howard Hughes Medical Institution called Click and Learn that has GREAT interactive tutorials with higher level thinking questions embedded. The one called "Measuring Obesity" shows the different methods of body fat measurement and has the students develop opinions of the pros and cons of each. 

I will have the students work through the tutorial and form an opinion on the best method, if any, to use to measure our clients body fat percentage for our Health Challenge.  This will help the student when they are working with their client to determine if body fat measurement is something they wish to record over the 12 week project.

Healthy Cowboy Challenge

We are starting our semester project in the next few weeks.  The Healthy Cowboy Challenge has students in charge of creating a healthy lifestyle for teacher on our campus. Students work in teams of 4-5 with one teacher/educator/administrator who volunteered to participate. Students find a community partner in the medical field to mentor them and provide guidance throughout the entire process.  Some groups find personal trainers, dieticians, and other professionals to help give advice as well.  Some students skyped with their professional contact during class, while others met outside of class.  Some professionals actually came to class and met with the teams a few times during the project. 

Students monitor the clients blood pressure, weight, hydration level, measurements, flexibility, and BMI for 12 weeks.  Each Friday, the clients come to class for their weigh in and meet with their team.  The team provides them with one weeks worth of a healthy menu and a work out program that is designed to meet the clients needs. Students develop incentives and provide motivation to their client each week. 

This project covers a large number of my objectives for the year, but many other topics come up along the way.  We start with the muscular system and effective methods of exercise.  Next is the cardiovascular system and how obesity and sedentary lifestyles alter heart function.  Digestion and nutrition are a huge portion of this project as well.  It is easy to tie in multiple objectives.  

As for the technology involved... we use the iPads to monitor the vitals with digital blood pressure cuffs.  We use a Google spreadsheet to keep track of all the data each week.  The document is shared with me, the group members, and the client so they can see their progress.   Clients track their food and exercise intake with My Fitness Pal app and they can 'friend' their group so the students can analyze diets each week and provide suggestions for improvement. We had groups do various things to maintain communication with their client throughout the week - from developing Pinterest boards of healthy recipes to creating a blog to journal, students were very creative and I left it entirely up to them.  Grading this wasn't so easy, but definitely worth it.

Here is a video of our results from last year.  This year we have 28 teachers signed up ready to start in about two weeks! 

iTunesU and Infuse Learning

While working on my iTunesU Anatomy course, I came across a great online science text.  I am not usually a fan of textbooks, digital or hardcover, but this one was kind of cool. E. O. Wilson's Life on Earth was only $1.99 and had an entire section on the human body.  The animations, specifically of the heart were some of the best I have seen. 

I used Infuse Learning to create a few short quizzes over content I want them to understand from this book. They don't have an app that I could find so I just have my first period class type in the link to their website in Safari and have them create the shortcut.  It makes it much faster for the other classes :)

What I loved about Infuse Learning is how easy it is to set up, access, and use in class.  I also love that you can share with other teachers.  You have the option of importing pictures too, which I use often. 

*side note - My iTunesU course is a test right now.  I am trying to see how it works and if its worthwhile to put all my information into one spot for students.  I am about start the unit on the Cardiovascular System so that is the only one with much content at this time. It's a work in progress :)