iPad Apps for the Classroom Part 4

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This post is the last part of a series. You can read part 1 here, part 2 here and part 3 here.

Science. Thats a dirty word in many households due to the great hatred far too many students have for the subject.

Perhaps the problem with science class has always been too much textbook, too little exploration. That was my experience anyways. Here are three beautifully crafted apps that can and do help with that particular problem.

Star Walk, Solar Walk, and The Elements are the kind of apps that I dreamed about before I knew what I could be dreaming about when it came to technology. Weve advanced so far since my childhood and every day something new is being thought of or introduced that boggles my mind. I never thought Id see the day when a device actually does what these three applications do when used with the iPad. Simply amazing!

iPad Apps for the Classroom Part 4

Star Walk ($4.99) Remember being a kid and looking up at the night sky in awe? Can you feel that sense of wonder again? I do, and its because of this app. I was fascinated by the stars early on in life, and my wife was tooprobably more so than myself. Over time I kind of fell out of love with space. Chances are it was school that did it to me. All those boring pages in textbooks, the constant notes from overhead projectors, movies that sounded and looked like they were made 30 years ago. None of it was appealing to meI wanted to know what was up THERE. I wanted to see it for myself. I wanted to explore! With Star Walk I can, decades too late unfortunately.

This app is something I never thought Id have in my hands. When it first loaded and I took it outside I was struck by a sense of I cant believe thisthen my wife joined me and I wasnt sure Id ever get my iPad back. From my backyard I can lift the device up and the it beautifully renders the night sky above. Not just some random section of space, but the sky above MEright then, right there. Star Walk allows you to go back or forward in time and watch the sky change in front of your eyes, move around the sky to find just what is out there. Users can pause the app when they locate something interesting above, bring it back down to eye level and read amazing information about whatever it is they have found. From constellations to random stars and even Moon phases, users are treated to an app like no otherexcept

Solar Walk ($2.99) For users who found Star Walk to be a treat (and it is), the complimentary app is Solar Walk. Using Solar Walk lets one feel close to the solar system and all the wondrous planets and satellites. Developers have provided a very nice 3D model that allows users to zoom in and out, change the angles, investigate the orbital paths of the planets, and discover information about each by rocketing to the planet. Once you rocket in, the planet is rendered beautifully and general facts are provided, as well as the ability to see what the internal make up of layers actually is.

There are too many different features to list, but anyone who has a love of space, the planets, or science will enjoy using this applicationand for $2.99 you cant beat it, especially because you also get the iPhone version for on-the-go astronomy lessons.

The Elements: A Visual Exploration ($13.99) The Elements is based on the best-selling book by Theodore Gray, a Popular Science columnist. This app took me straight back to high-school Chemistry class. Man, I remember having to fill in that paper chart for an exam. I had flashcards and spent hours memorizing each element trying to understand what exactly they were, what the point was, and why anyone cared about a bunch of boxes with letters and numbers all over it. As an adult I have to admit, in my profession as a technology teacher I have yet to ever use this information. However, if an iPad had existed when I was in school, and the teacher brought in this app, I may have actually paid attention, I may have actually understood what I was looking at.

In The Elements users are treated to a visual representation of the periodic table. Visual being the key and most important word. When you open the app you are given a table with every element provided, only instead of boring letters and numbers, each element is shown rotating in its place. Want to read about a particular element, tap the image and you are given a picture filling the screen, beautifully. There is also a column of facts about each that goes into great detail. While this is enough to amaze, by delving deeper users will find more images that represent the element and can be examined and explored thoroughly.
Want more? How about using any number of fingers/hands to spin your objects, fast or slow, watch videos that detail certain elements, and find the current commodity price of items such as gold, silver, and copper. Once you have opened up this information, share it via email or Twitter. This is not your fathers periodic table, its not even MY periodic table. This is the future of books. This is what the technology industry had in mind when imagining a tablet computer in the classroom.

I believe fully in these apps as tools for classroom use, they have amazing appeal. But who am I? A technology teacher. A reviewer. Why should anyone take my word for it?! I wanted to gather a sense of what actual students think of the these application so I grabbed the iPad and took it to work with me. Here are a few of the responses

Star Walk

Amazing., Thats the coolest thing Ive ever seen., There is no way that is real!

Solar Walk

Wow, so thats the difference in the paths of the planets and stuff., Can I have this instead of our textbook?, Is this available online?, I may actually like space stuff if we used something like this man.

The Elements

This is so much more beast than that stupid wall chart we have in our room. It looks like its been here for a century., This isnt like learning at all.

 The author of this post is Jonathan Norman

I’m Jonathan Norman. Some people call me Jon. Some call me Red. Many call me Norm. I like to write things. I like to say things. I love Apple, Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey, Music, Movies, and Family. You can visit my website www.casuallynorm.com to read more from me.