Using iPads in Science

“Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event.” – Heidi-Hayes Jacobs.

With STEM as a focus, the above quote is something that is ever present in the mind of teachers at North Ormesby and some subjects have been at the forefront of receiving the tech upgrade as an aid to teach them (particularly maths) but here you will see how the use of iPads in Science is crossing curricular boundaries and making previously distant concepts much more accessible and engaging.

National curriculum objectives for Science present primary school children with a range of abstract topics, many of which mean very little to them in the present day. Much like History (where the scientific discoveries they study most often apply) the subject frequently gets lost on the way to the children, because talking about something someone who lived a very long time ago discovered gets the response: so what? And, how does that apply to me? They need to feel it; to witness it; and to discover it for themselves before they can begin to understand what it means.

The basics

By basics, we’re looking at using technology to present what would ordinarily go into books in order to provide an alternative. Explain Everything is a great one to start with as the icons to the side of the screen are self explanatory and therefore easy for children to navigate. In the example below is a very basic display of researched information which has been backed up with images. To extend understanding, children can access a record function to verbally explain their interpretation of what they have found out. When complete, the document can be exported as a video file which plays the voice recording; or as an image.

Other apps we deem to be necessities are Book Creator and Keynote. Book creator is a useful tool much in the same way Word is on a laptop and Keynote is a presentation app which holds its own against PowerPoint. Ways both have been utilised in Science are: to record observations during experiments; to make predictions and to conduct write-ups. Both apps make it easy to add photographs which give the students a chance to record their own work and take more ownership for what they produce.

We have also produced some beautifully presented fact files on both apps for scientists who are relevant to our topics at the time as well as using Morfobooth to bring the profile to life; we have even ‘hot seated’ Albert Einstein!

Charts and tables

Popplet is another easy-to-use app which offers an alternative to drawing out tables/charts in books which, more often that not, are indistinguishable from student to student. Below is an example from when classification was our focus and the task was to design a resource to show younger students – which is where the images are key.


Life cycle of an animal or plant? Animate it!

This is a wonderful app and really easy to use. Students make each stage physically happen by drawing it out and piecing each stage together like a mini movie. It is recommended to keep the subject simple (unless you want to incorporate an art lesson) so this can be done with plants or animals. Below is a screenshot of each stage put into Book Creator to document the actual activity to go into workbooks. Although not entirely necessary, it consolidated learning at the time and served as a visual recap.

Other great tools for animation are iMovie and Clips. These have been used to produce stop motion animations (on the subject of light and manipulating shadows) that were acted out with clay characters then filmed. Later, voice over information was added by students to explain the findings of their experiments.

AR and VR

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are very much becoming a reality within education and can bring to life formerly inaccessible realms such as: space, dinosaurs and a range of wonderful habitats. More information on how we use VR in school can be found here

AR circuits is an exciting app for use during the units on electricity. In school it was used to theorise and plan before actual electrical equipment was brought out. There are also elements of coding with this app, if the circuit doesn’t work – why? If a problem is encountered then students essentially ‘debug’ by changing the set up until the circuit works.

Pre and end of unit assessment

Tests with a twist! Apps for this include the competitive and interactive Kahoot! and Socrative, which provides great analysis of results. Bought schemes of work often come with an end of unit test to ensure that success criteria have been met: why not turn these into a fun competition? This isn’t necessarily always against other children which can cause issues and this is where the start of unit assessment comes in handy. As a progress measure, we’re missing a vital trick if we don’t assess at the start of a new unit as well as the end. This way children have something to aim for if they keep a record of previous scores and they can actually see the progress they have made.

The suggestions in this blog are purely to support – not replace physical experiments. In some cases the apps used go hand in hand with the physical side of Science and in turn make the write-up more fun! This is also a powerful move in terms of AFL as the editing process is more accessible on an iPad thus leaving presentation in books at a higher standard so that children take more pride in their work in their Science books – as they do in their Writing books. Added to this is the fact that you are offering children more chances to become more ICT competent in an increasingly tech-based world and making distant concepts more accessible to a generation who only look to the future rather than spend any time wondering how and why things came to be.

Mrs Lyndsey Frost - Y5 teacher (March 2018)