Category Archives: Screencasts & How-To

PaperPile: Managing Citations in GoogleDocs

I have been looking for something that can replace MS Word’s citation manager and work in a similar way to Zotero. Here’s a quick post on how to use the PaperPile add-on for managing references in GoogleDocs. Paperpile is free from the Chrome store, though I am using the upgraded version.

GoogleTrends: Exploring Patterns in Search Data [DBQs & Inquiry]


GoogleTrends allows you to plot the popularity of search terms (since 2004), by geographical region or worldwide. This could be a great way to launch inquiry on a topic in science that has seasonal trends or patterns, and could be used to set up simple DBQ practice. It is limited in the linear presentation of data, and the data are search frequencies rather than scientific data, but as the patterns raise questions, they could be followed-up with searches for more valid sources and explanations.

In the example below, Frank Swain (@SciencePunk) had put in the search term “morning after pill” for the UK and found a peak every Sunday. An interesting pattern that could set up some discussion in class based on reproduction, behaviour, risk management, ethics, hormonal control or more.

“Morning After Pill” search term on GoogleTrends

This could lead to a quick (though basic) way to set up some simple data-based questions or stimulus for exploration. Here is a plot for the search term “vaccine”. Think of the questions it might raise in discussion.

GoogleTrend Worldwide since 2004: “Vaccine” What DBQ’s could you ask?


What questions does it raise and how would it lead to further exploration? Here are some examples:

  • Why does it peak each October?
  • Why was traffic so high in 2009-10?
  • What do you predict for the coming year?

This leads into discussion of sources of information, accessing databases and the reasons for vaccines.

One neat feature is that you can add other search terms to the graph in the same time period, though it will normalise the data. Another is the ‘headlines’ feature that shows some popular news headlines near peaks. Yet another is the ‘predict’ feature that will model the coming year based on trends and patterns. “Predict” is often asked in DBQ’s, so this might make for some good questions. Here’s what happens when we add “flu vaccine”, headlines and the forecast:

GoogleTrends: “Vaccine” and “Flu vaccine”, worldwide, 2004-present.

From this exploration, you could move onto looking at flu trends, and GoogleTrends has special sections for tracking flu and dengue fever:


This next one is a neat demonstration of what happens when you change the scale of the y-axis. In this case, the second dataset is added, compared to the original and the original becomes much less noticeable as a result. How many times do we tell our students to set appropriate scales on the axes and make use of the space to be able to see trends and patterns?

For another bit of fun, here’s one on “Genome”:



  • A quick, easy launching pad for inquiry
  • Develop simple DBQs easily
  • Does need to be supported by inquiry into more valid sources for the topic
  • Each graph is ‘normalised’ which could lead into useful discussion of the effect of scales on data presentation


Extended Essay Frame and Word Citation Tool

IB Store

IB Store

Here’s a document we are using in my Extended Essay group. The intention is that students set it up from day 1, keeping all of their reading and research in a section at the end which will allow them to build their citations database. This section of notes will be deleted before final submission, unless any of the resources they save are worthy of an appendix.

By this point, students have read the examiners’ reports for their subject area EE’s, looked at some excellent examples (on sale in the IB store) and have read carefully through the EE guide, noting the subject-specific guidance for each criterion.

At the end of the document is a set of rubrics for self-assessment, which they should refer to on a regular basis. I have set it up so that they can add their own checkboxes above each rubric, listing what is most important for them to achieve.

There is a screencast below the document which gives a very quick introduction to using the Word citation manager.

Check out these great resources from Purdue’s OWL project on APA citation.

What I would love to see

If I could make one request of the IB, it would be that rolled into our programme fees for DP we could have access to university-style academic searches and journals. Wouldn’t it be great if the IB subscribed to the journals and schools could access them through Athens or Springerlink (or something else), to use in EE’s and research?

Video: Word Citation Tool to make life easier

On the final day of MoVember (please donate), here is a short Movember-themed tutorial video on how to make the citation manager in Word work for you. There are more tutorial and lab videos on my YouTube Channel.

Using YouTube to make quick lab videos

I made these lab videos easily using my iPhone (other smartphones will do the same), and sending the video directly to YouTube. YouTube’s editing tools make it easy to annotate the video, so pop-ups appear to explain what is happening and highlighting areas for students’ focus. This is ideal where you want to record, upload and annotate videos quickly and easily.

There are four great things about producing videos this way:

  1. With GoogleApps, all students and teachers have a YouTube account, which they can sync with their phone or have ready on their laptop. They could also record the video from their laptop webcam.
  2. If videos are pretty straightforward there is no need to spend time importing into iMovie or MovieMaker, editing and then uploading to YouTube.
  3. You can make quick edits and corrections to annotations on the ‘live’ video. You don’t need to re-upload the video.
  4. YouTube also has an online video editor for making more complete edits and putting clips together.
The slideshow below shows some tips for how to get it working.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Lab Videos, posted with vodpod
( doesn’t actually allow Picasa albums to embed directly – but VodPod is a good workaround). 
Here are some videos made for Chemistry class this week (although they look a bit like I’ve taped the phone to my head – I need to get a tripod!)

This next one was made very quickly and uses the YouTube video editor tools to mash two short clips together. By this point I’d got hold of a retort stand and created a super-adjustable iPhone camera triunipod – patent pending and soon to be available at an exaggerated cost from the Apple store ;>


Applications beyond lab videos:

Students could make their own explainers or video clips for class, such as lab report methods, annotated sports performance clips or notes on a speech or presentation they (or a peer) have given. Teachers can use it (like I have above) to make vodcasts for students who can then repeat or look back at work in class. In this example, students have carried out these reactions in class, but I will be away the following class. This gives them an opportunity to see the reactions again with some annotations to help them through the theory work.


  • Having a lot of students online uploading at the same time can impact bandwidth.
  • Students may need help in setting up their school YouTube accounts and assigning permissions and privacy settings – you would need to be aware of appropriate student-created content.
  • Although quick and easy to use, it is unlikely to look polished enough for a publications class or professional piece of work. It will be fine for simple tasks focusing on content or explanation.

SpliceIf you want even more power to edit on the phone, I like this free app called Splice. It has enough features to get you putting clips and photos together, with transitions and themes, and will upload directly to YouTube (though it can take a while to render).

Using your IB Bio GoogleSite

This is for my IB Bio SL class: keep the site updated using these tips:

(Go fullscreen and HD)

Excel Graphing Screencasts

These two videos are for my classes, made using the free screencast tool ScreenCast-O-Matic.

The first is for my IB Bio group for setting up a graph for a complex set of data, adding extra datasets, error bars and formatting. The second is a similar video for a simple Physics investigation in Grade 10.

Hopefully they are helpful as you can go back and re-watch important bits as you do the write-ups.

If anyone knows of a decent way to add best-fit curves (lines are easy) to datasets, please let me know!

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