Finger on the pulse…

One of the other areas I covered in my science workshops at BETT was investigating heart rate and circulation.

There are a number of apps that could be used in the classroom to measure heart rate, and during the workshop I demonstrated What’s My Heart Rate (download the app here, free). During the workshop, I demonstrated how Labdisc could be used to capture pulse rate and cardio graphic data using the pulse meter included with several of the Labdisc models.
This data could then be compared with data from apps such as What’s My Heart Rate

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This app uses the front facing camera of the iPad to detect changes in the blood flow through capillaries in the skin. Another app which uses similar technology to measure blood flow in the fingers is Cardiograph (download the app here – £1.49).
Students could compare accuracy of these ways of measuring pulse with more traditional ways. This is very current medical research, where efforts are being focused on whether smartphone cameras can provide accurate medical data, so your students could also be contributing to cutting edge medical research while they investigate heart rate!

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Showbie – the missing link for the classroom?

One of the biggest challenges for some people when using an iPad for the first time is where files are stored and sharing those files in an easy way. When working with students in the classroom, the sharing of files is particularly important. At a really simple level, most apps allow completed work to be emailed from the iPad, which has worked well for some of our teachers. This does require some clever use of folders to keep work from multiple classes on multiple assignments organised (some of our teachers use clever automatic filtering and clear subject lines to do this for them).

With iOS 6 there are now many more options for opening a file created in one app in another app. This, and the advent of cheap and often free cloud storage, has given many options for sharing of files within the classroom.

Online storage provided by such as Dropbox, Box and Skydrive provide plenty of free options for storing files online that can be accessed easily by any device with a suitable app and internet connection.

While these apps do provide a method for sharing files, the elusive missing piece in the classroom has always been a way for teachers to provide valuable feedback on work that students share with the teacher.

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Enter Showbie (www.showbie.com), a pretty unique combination of app and website. This service allows teachers to create hand in folders for classes at the showbie website. Students then register using the code the teacher provides, and have access to class folder where they can hand work into. The teacher can upload documents to the folder to provide resources for the class, and provide both written and audio feedback to individual students on assignments that they hand in.

I’ve been lucky enough to see this in action in some of our classrooms at school, and the results have been very impressive. Several of our High School teachers have gone completely paperless by using Showbie in conjunction with other apps like notability (which gives them the ability to download submitted work as a pdf, mark it just like they would a paper copy, and then resubmit it back to Showbie). Students hand in work to the assignment folder and can see when teachers have added comments or verbal feedback (which can be recorded straight from the iPad).

Showbie also provides some really useful videos and support to show you how to get the best out of Showbie’s webdav capabilitities with a whole variety of useful classroom apps (Using webdav and Showbie).

Showbie is completely free for students and teachers get 10 assignment folders for free. Annual school subscriptions are also available at a very reasonable cost (I have just signed all our teachers up for around $7 for the year).

Download the app here.

If you want to try this out, I would recommend setting up both a teacher and student account. This will allow you to also join the class you set up as a student to explore how the app works from both the teacher and student perspective.

I’m very excited to see how the use of Showbie develops at school this year, and I’ll keep you posted.

STOP PRESS – After the release of iOS 6.1 last week Showbie launched a fairly major update to the app meaning it is now possible to carry out the entire workflow just from the app. I changed my workshops part way through BETT last week to highlight all these new features and will write an update later this week. I was also lucky enough to meet and spend a bit of time with Colin Bramm, founder of Showbie at BETT who proved to be a thoroughly great guy – I look forward to further conversations in the coming months…

Colin also announced that free teacher accounts will come with 200 free assignments from the middle of last week, which essentially turns Showbie into a completely free service for teachers, as assignments can be archived each year (they remain accessible by the teacher but do not count towards the total number of assignments). Colin hinted there are some exciting developments to come in the enxt few months for pro users, so I am excited to see how Showbie will develop further – this is a truly great tool for iPad based classrooms!