iPad Apps for Biology

This is going to be the first in a regular series of posts of how instructors can start to use the iPad in introductory science courses. We all know that the iPad is a great entertainment platform, and is increasingly being used in the business world. So how about the sciences – and especially for teaching biology? After all, according to the Apple website, there are over 300,000 applications available for the iPad (that number is probably a little low, since new applications are being added almost daily) – however, most of us do not have the time and money to review them all.

So lets start with an application that makes our lives as instructors easier. Many of us already use RSS feeds from journals, magazines, and blogs as a way of keeping up with advances in our chosen specialties. However, reading through a long list of RSS feeds using a program like Google Reader is, at best, boring. An iPad app helps solve this problem. The app is called FlipBoard – and it was named the 2010 App of The Year by Apple.

What Flipboard does is to convert the Twitter feeds of popular sites into a magazine-like format. For example, both of the journals Science and Nature have Twitter feeds of journal contents and recent news (see links below for addresses). By adding these feeds to your FlipBoard site – you develop a virtual magazine of recent posts. Each entry within the “magazine” is linked directly back to the website of the source.

Furthermore, these are highly visual pages, with images enhancing the posts in a way that is not possible with an RSS feed directly. Individual entries can be reposted to Twitter or Facebook pages with a single click – making sharing of the information quick and easy. No more scrolling through pages of tweets, or worse yet- having updates sent as text messages to your cell phone (I made that mistake for about 10 minutes once!). When you are ready to read the tweets from your favorite organizations, all you have to do is open the app and then flip through the pages.

There is no doubt that Apple was on the money about this being the App of the Year. If you add this application – check out the RicochetScience Twitter feed . There we will be posting links to all sorts of articles, websites, and interactive materials that are useful for teaching introductory biology.If you have a favorite app, or would like for me to review an app for potential use in the classroom, drop off a comment below. Be sure to include your email so that I can contact you for advice, your opinion, or with any questions!

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