Submitted by Maggie Geselbracht / Reed College on Fri, 09/17/2010 - 22:42

Our CIO just announced a request for proposals from faculty exploring the use of an iPad in teaching.  The carrot here is an iPad for the faculty member!  I love thinking about better ways to use technology in helping me improve my teaching and helping my students advance their learning.  And a "free" iPad wouldn't be too shabby either.  :-)

But I'm not really that familiar with the capabilities of the iPad as it might apply to teaching inorganic chemistry.  Anybody out there have any ideas?  Are there any good apps out there that might be applicable?  If you are an iPad user, what features do you like best that are different from a laptop and that might be useful to think about in applying it to your teaching?

I am not sure if there is a separate program for the students to gain easy access to an iPad for class or if this would just be something that I might have to use in the classroom.  If the students could get one too, one thought I had was to use this to solve the "no perfect textbook" for my course conundrum.

Curious to hear from the wisdom of the VIPEr crowds on this...

Sibrina Collins / Marburger STEM Center (MSC) at Lawrence Technological University

Dear Maggie,

I just published a brief contribution entitled "What's in Your iPod?" in the October 2010 issue of the J. Chem. Educ. I have not thought about the iPad though!

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 19:05 Permalink
Betsy Jamieson / Smith College
When I was at Boston ACS, Michael Kenney from Case Western presented a poster on using Kindles in intro chem at the Sci Mix session.  Looking quickly over the abstracts, there was another poster about using an iTouch for teaching organic.  So, there definitely are people out there using this kind of technology to teach chemistry.
Tue, 09/21/2010 - 10:25 Permalink
Barbara Reisner / James Madison University

I've always thought that this would be a great way to help with online office hours with my students. Talking with students online is easy these days, but drawing structures, doing math, equations, etc. is much harder. The iPad seems like it will bridge some of the difficulties with writing online.

Last year when I taught general chemistry, I've had 1-2 online office hours a week using Elluminate (over Blackboard). My one complaint about online office hours is that I find it hard to draw using a mouse, so it's hard to do things like equations, etc. I fiddled around with using an iPod (app = Whiteboard), but the screen was too small for me. There is definite potential with writing on an external device and broadcasting to an audience.

I'd like to try this again with an iPad next semester. I'll give Whiteboard another try) since it showed promise. My informational technology person recently suggested that I try I haven't played with this one yet so can't comment on it.

If anyone has a recommendation for a good stylus, I'd love to hear it.

Sat, 09/25/2010 - 08:57 Permalink
Kurt Birdwhistell / Loyola University New Orleans

Somewhat related.  You might try using a  livescribe pen (pen casting).  You can show anything that you are able to draw on a piece a paper and back it up with an audio narrative.  The pen you use feels very normal.  You have a special tablet (tablet looks like a spiral binder with paper pages)  that the pen uses to sense where the pen is on the page. 

I will insert a small nomenclature exercise I posted for my inorganic class.  I usually post these on blackboard.…

 I hope you are able to access the above.  It took me about 10-15 minutes to write it out and post it. Very interesting technology.  


Sat, 09/25/2010 - 11:13 Permalink
Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College

wow, Kurt, that looks really cool!


Sat, 09/25/2010 - 14:35 Permalink
Betsy Jamieson / Smith College
Kurt - that pen techology is amazing!  We have a smartboard that I once used for teaching inorganic.  I liked that I could just keep adding new boards to write on, which made it easy to go back to what I had written when students had questions.  I would save everything written on the board as a pdf at the end of class and post it on our Moodle site.  (I debated whether or not to post, but given that this was an upper-level, small class with good attendance, I did it.)  This pen is even better since it has the audio to go with it.  I could see using it for things like taking students through some of the more complicated problems on problem sets.  Wow.  Very, Very cool.
Tue, 09/28/2010 - 09:47 Permalink
Kurt Birdwhistell / Loyola University New Orleans

These livescribe pens and pads are not very expensive.  One pen and a set of 5 spiral notebooks which could last you several years is about $170.  I think the pens sell at Target now.  I have no financial stake in the company.  Maybe I should though. 

Info can be found a



Tue, 09/28/2010 - 10:02 Permalink
AlanW / none
Having an iPad is almost every student will dream of. (That is based from my observation). We can’t deny that we are living in a more advanced way of living and in order for us to go with the flow; we also need to be familiar or even just get updated on the new gadgets and developments in technology. Most students are techie and they sometimes used this to be able to socialize. There’s nothing wrong if we are going to use it in teaching and I guess, there are lots of applications that is available for us to use in our method. The only problem is it is so expensive that not all of us can afford to buy.  
Mon, 10/11/2010 - 05:06 Permalink
Maggie Geselbracht / Reed College

After doing some research, I found several blogs, wikis, forums etc. that addressed the use of iPads in teaching, favorite apps, etc.  Here is a small list of useful sites I found.  Be sure to browse the comment threads as these hold a lot more good suggestions!

1. ProfHacker from the Chronicle of Higher Ed: 5 iPad Apps I Can't Live Without

2. NITLE: iPad Apps for Small Liberal Arts Colleges

3.  Vassar Blog: iPad Talk - the iPad in Education

4. Female Science Professor Blog: Cool Teachings

And the good news is that I was able to pick up a "free" iPad from my institution to evaluate for use in teaching.  I'll report back with anything exciting I do in the area of Inorganic Chemistry.  The App I am most interested in trying out in the classroom is called AirSketch. And of course, trying to figure out a learning object with the Elements app by Theo Gray.  Again, I promise to share with the VIPEr community!

Mon, 11/08/2010 - 19:25 Permalink
Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College
I just got a livescribe pen; its nice to have a small slush fund for things like this, because I likely wouldn't have bought it with personal funds.  The learning curve is not flat, but not terribly steep either.  I am going to make a few answer keys with it to test it out and see how I feel about it and more importantly, how my students feel about it.  I think that teaching MO theory with the audio/pencasting would be very handy.
Wed, 11/24/2010 - 11:05 Permalink
Jason D'Acchioli / University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Hi all,

I've been using a Wacom graphics tablet (purchased with intramural technology funds) in my general course and Advanced Inorganic course for the past 5 years. I couple the tablet with the Mac app Curio (best app I own!) to create slides and annotate them on the fly (see for some samples). For capturing audio, I use an external MP3 recorder (I haven't played with ProfCast, since it can't annotate). 

I've shied away from the table approach a bit in the Advanced course, since having three chalkboards in a room can sometimes be easier to use.

On the original intent of this document, I've been toying with the idea of developing an Inorganic textbook geared towards iPad deployment. Anyone interested?


Fri, 12/31/2010 - 16:22 Permalink
Nick K / University of Michigan-Flint

Hello everyone,

 I am in my second semester of my tenure track appointment and I am teaching Inorganic for the first time.  I have 6 students and 4 of them bought the electronic version of the book and are using tablets of varying sorts to take notes and read the material.  

 I am taking part of a pilot program designed to help with development of active learning strategies in the classroom especially ones that incorporate technology.  As part of this I get a professional development stipend that I thought about using to purchase an Ipad and incorporating it in Inorganic chemistry.  

 Maggie I look forward to hearing how it worked for you last semester and any ideas that you may have along with the feedback that you have gotten.  I think that this is an excellent possibility and something that is going to be at the forefront of education in the future as more and more students purchase electronic text books. 


Tue, 01/18/2011 - 15:24 Permalink
Sheila Smith / University of Michigan- Dearborn


 welcome to the UM system.  I too am trying to incorporate my ipad into my classroom, although I'm still a little at a loss as to how to do that.  I recommended the ebook for inorg but I think only 1 student out of 20 chose that route.  I'd love to talk to you more about what you're doing with the tablets. 

Wed, 01/19/2011 - 14:19 Permalink
Gregory M. Ferrence / Illinois State University

If you are interested in 3-D visualization of molecules on the iPad and you have the 'Molecules' app already installed, try navigating to .  Here you can link to assorted small molecules. Note:  any browser should navigate to the SmallMol page, but many links from that page and sub-pages will appear to be broken unless you are accessing them using an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch on which the free 'Molecules' app has already been installed.

The app called Molecules runs on the iPad/iPhone/iPod touch.  It is designed for interacting with 3-D molecules found in the .pdb, much like Jmol or Chime, albeit with limited functionality.  Two of my students and I have been formating some small molecule data to be easily imported into Molecules.  It is a work in progress, so check back regularly.

If your class is small enough, consider loading a small molecule onto the iPad, then pass your iPad around the room.  Students seem to see the 3-D better when they are manipulating the image.  I like to use live images in class.  Sometimes I pass around a bluetooth mouse and let the class interact with the image on the lecture screen while I speak. 

Sun, 01/30/2011 - 20:43 Permalink
Maggie Geselbracht / Reed College


Thanks for posting this resource!  I had been looking for something like this for the iPad.  Unfortunately, when I tried the Molecules app with a few rhodium carbonyl cluster pdb files that I had on hand, I was disappointed in that the default settings did not draw all the bonds I wanted, and so it made it somewhat difficult to recognize the molecular structure.  Is there any way to control the default settings for what constitutes a bond between any two given atoms?

Also, is there an easy way to set up some online directory to point the app to (as you have done above) to readily access a bunch of pdb files?  I was transferring them 1 by 1 to the iPad using DropBox but that is not the most efficient way to have a large number of files at my fingertips.

Now, if only someone could take an app like this and allow one to draw in the locations of any symmetry elements they see...hmmm......

Tue, 02/15/2011 - 02:53 Permalink
Hilary Eppley / DePauw University
I just got my iPad 2, so I am also trying to find good things to do in the classroom.  Thanks Greg for posting the link to small molecules.   Now we need some inorganic molecules on that list :).  On a related iPad note, our department is currently deciding on our textbook for next year and after getting the CourseSmart App for iPad, I went around to all the publishers and asked them to put particular books to review on my CourseSmart bookshelf.  My back is thanking me already (plus I have no more room on the shelves in my office anyway)!   
Wed, 03/30/2011 - 14:10 Permalink
Lori Watson / Earlham College
Does anyone have a favorite stylus and note taking ap for ipad?  I just got an "Alu pen" from Just mobile and I think it's my favorite stylus thus far (it's heavier, so you don't have to press hard to get it to read the "pen" strok).  And I've been using UPad Lite for the notetaking app.  But I'm curious if there's a better stylus or app or both out there?  I can see real advantages to keeping track of notes this way!
Thu, 06/02/2011 - 10:44 Permalink
Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College
At the AALAC workshop at Smith College in June 2011, I did a brief demonstration of my Livescribe pen and pencast.  Here is the LO where I use this technology to demonstrate my technique for generating LGOs and MO diagrams. 
Sun, 06/26/2011 - 09:31 Permalink
Sibrina Collins / Marburger STEM Center (MSC) at Lawrence Technological University

Dear All,

Well, I purchased the iPad2 as a b-day gift for myself not really for use in the classroom. However, I did use it recently to show a powerpoint presentation, which worked out well. Since there is no ChemDraw app, that I am aware of, we can't draw structures on the iPad. Still learning to use it....


Sun, 09/25/2011 - 19:30 Permalink
Kyle Grice / DePaul University

I may be aquiring an ipad soon, with the hopes of using it in my research as a laptop substitute and eventually in teaching.  I'll definitely check out all of the links above, and I'll keep my eyes out for more useful apps.  I've got to plug a web-based App that was developed by a collaborator's group that puts together a database of activation energies and the thermodynamics of surface-based reactions relevant to catalysis.  It could be used in teaching upper level-inorganic, materials science, or catalysis clases.


Tue, 07/17/2012 - 19:45 Permalink
Barbara Reisner / James Madison University

I've finally found a great application for the iPad - teaching instrumentation. I have picture of instrumentation & theory in Keynote presentations and can refer to this as I'm teaching students instrumentation.

Tue, 07/17/2012 - 11:47 Permalink
Sheila Smith / University of Michigan- Dearborn

I rushed out and bought (with my own personal funds) an ipad 1G planning to use it for teaching only to be stymied by the inability of the 1G to project from all but a few apps.  The ipad 2G solved that issue, so again, I rushed out to buy the 2G (again with my own personal funds).  This time I was frustrated by the fact that my school cannot afford wireless projectors so I was still tethered to the front of the room.  Now, a year later, I have finally found my solution and I am so excited! 

Doceri ( is an app that allows you to control and interact with your laptop/desktop using your ipad.  You can annotate powerpoints, look up webpages, etc. all from the middle of your classroom as you're working on active learning with your students!  It will also record your annotations so that you can share that with your students.  I am not sure what else it can do, since I have just found it, but I will post more as I explore, and if anyone else is familiar with it, maybe you will chime in.  

Here's what I have done with it:

  • control my powerpoint slides (move to next, etc) 
  • annotate my powerpoint slides
  • run ChemDraw to draw structures in real time

When you are connected, you still have full functionality on the laptop itself.

It is very inexpensive.  The iPad app is free.  The desktop/laptop app is $30.  They do also sell a special stylus but you can use any stylus (or your finger).


Thu, 07/19/2012 - 10:57 Permalink
Sibrina Collins / Marburger STEM Center (MSC) at Lawrence Technological University
Greg, this is a great link. I notice there are a few inorganic compounds. I downloaded it to my iPad2 yesterday. One of the students working with my colleague this summer actually has the app on her iPhone, so I will bring this into the classroom in the Spring.
Mon, 07/23/2012 - 20:32 Permalink
Kyle Grice / DePaul University

Hi again,

So, with an ipad in hand, i searched some apps, and here are some that might be useful in teaching(all free because I'm a cheapskate)

1) Data Analysis - This could be used in a lab if you give each team an ipad and they can record data as they collect it and fit lines.

2) MolPrime - drawing like Chemdraw (annoying ads though) and includes templates for common inorganic chemistry structures like bipys

3) Ball & Stick - basically the same as "Molecules"... haven't seen if you can import files from web addresses like you can with Molecules

4) Distillations - Connection to the Chemical Heritage Foundation ( Podcasts, which could be cool to play for a class

I'll let you know if I find more.


Fri, 08/10/2012 - 14:27 Permalink
Kyle Grice / DePaul University
Found one more. ODM tech has a pH meter app to go along with their pH meters. That might be cool to use in a lab class.
Mon, 08/13/2012 - 16:33 Permalink
Kyle Grice / DePaul University

Hello viper community,

cCWCS has an upcoming workshop on teaching with iPads!

Unfortunately, I have a conflicting event already planned for those days in January.  However, if someone attends the workshop, I would love to hear about it!

Here's two other free apps I've found recently that could be used in teaching:

Chemical Engineering App with lots of resources:…

ChemDoodle also has an iPad App.




Postdoctoral Researcher, UCSD

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 14:52 Permalink
Joanne Stewart / Hope College

App collection: Just saw this in a recent ConfChem posting. A wiki has been set up for collecting science-related apps. Check it out and add your own favorites!

Mon, 11/19/2012 - 15:52 Permalink
Kyle Grice / DePaul University

Thanks Joanne, that looks like a great resource!

Mon, 12/31/2012 - 14:28 Permalink
Kyle Grice / DePaul University

Did anyone go to the ccwcs teaching with iPad conference? I hope to go next time they have it.


Mon, 03/11/2013 - 00:45 Permalink
Barbara Reisner / James Madison University

ChemDraw is now available for the ipad! (Thanks for the heads up, Karen.)

Thu, 06/27/2013 - 07:46 Permalink
Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College

I downloaded and played with two note taking apps for my new iPad. I used them at the organometallics Gordon conference and then at the  workshop at Northwestern last week.  they are UPad and Notetaker HD

UPad. This app as a great GUI and i like the smoothness of the writing with my stylus. It is an optical trick; if you move the pen faster it makes a thinner line so the writing is more realistic. The app is somewhat buggy (but free if you only create <5 new docs; you can delete or export old docs to dropbox, pdf, email, etc) and the website for tech support no longer exists.


Notetaker HD: I bought this app for something like $4.99. It is stable and provides good import/export capability. I am currently using this app to annotate a grant review pdf. You can write, type, highlight (as you can with UPad) and then export in a variety of ways.

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 18:07 Permalink
Kyle Grice / DePaul University

Has anyone used chemdraw on the ipad? Comments/thoughts?


Wed, 01/11/2017 - 11:47 Permalink
Mark Schofield / Haverford College

I've used Explain Everything ( on my ipad to make videos for uploading to youtube, BlackBoard (or Moodle). You can start with a blank page in a variety of designs and, using a combination of stylus sketching or typing (also on the iPad or with a wireless keyboard), you can build lectures with audio captured. 

As an alternative, you can start by uploading a pdf (could be a slide talk, a single- or multi-page handout) that you can annotate in real time again with captured audio. I've used this to make both short (5 minute) and long (45 minute) videos to supplement the lecture, starting with a template that contains routine stuff that I don't want to write out (character tables, tables of constants, equations, etc).

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 13:13 Permalink
Anthony L. Fernandez / Merrimack College


I have used ChemDraw on the iPad. It is fairly intuitive and easy to use. I acutally like it better than ChemDraw on my computer. My colleagues are starting to use it more in organic chemisty as well.


Tue, 05/30/2017 - 11:42 Permalink
Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College

a few updates

1) chemdraw no longer is supported. supposedly it still works if you downloaded it before but you can no longer get it.

2) I still use Notetaker HD for notetaking. Its a great app

3) I just bought Doceri and hope to use it this semester in Frosh chem

4) a lot of students use Notability for notetaking and annotating PDFs. I have seen students use it and I have it on my iPad but haven't used it. It seems similar to the Notetaker HD app, but more designed for filling out pdf worksheets and pdf design and not just notetaking. I've played with it a little and it seems like a good app. its $9.99

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 17:42 Permalink
Anthony L. Fernandez / Merrimack College

I have transitioned my inorganic class to be totally iPad based (with the exception of paper lab notebooks). I have found over the course of the semester several useful tips.

  1. My students really like Notability as their note-taking app. I use it as well and it is very easy to use.
  2. I have distributed documents in a variety for formats but students prefer getting PDF files that they can jsut annotate. They also like using Numbers documents as containers and you can write directly in them.
  3. The Apple Pencil is transformative. Students have found that the Apple Pencil allows them to do just about everything on their iPad and my students stopped using paper notebook for notes.
  4. There are few good strucutre drawing programs on the iPad. Many of them cannot handle coordination complexes correctly. I am going to write up a longer post on this later.

If anyone has any questions about how I set my course up, feel free to ask!

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 11:36 Permalink
Natalie / Beyond Benign

Hi Anthony,

     Thanks for sharing! I am working to transition myself to my ipad fully. I use Notability (which I learned about from a student) and find it's going very well. Few questions for you!

Do you use your ipad during lectures? 

Do you share your notes with your students after lecture seeing as they are in an easy pdf format? 

What are the "good" strucutre drawing programs? 

Thanks for your time in advance! 

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 14:45 Permalink
Anthony L. Fernandez / Merrimack College


If you are thinking about the transition, I would be more than happy to speak with you about how I accopmplished the transition and the things I have learned during the process. Let me give you a few ideas and answers to your questions below.

  • Yes, I use my iPad during lectures. I pull the PDF file containing my slides into Notability and I annotate them with my Apple Pencil. (If you are going to do this, get yourself an Apple Pencil - it will transform the way that you use your iPad. You should also get yourself a strap to put on your iPad so that you can easily hold it with one hand.)
  • Many chemistry resources have now transitioned to HTML5 and are therefore viewable and accessible on the iPad. (This was not alwyas true even just 2 years ago.)
  • I have students work alongside me on their own devices so that they can work at their own pace. Before my students all had iPads, I would choose a student and let him/her "drive" on my iPad.  The student would have to work through the activity collaboratively and annotate the document on my device. I would then share this document with all of my students after class.
  • I do not share my notes becuase I have students working at their own pace and they generate much of the content on my bare-bones slides. I have found that my students work collaboratively and share their notes with each other after class. (This happened on a regular basis without me prodding them.)
  • There are some okay structure drawing apps for the iPad. I have purchased many and have been unhappy with they way they handle coordination complexes. The two apps that are reasonable are MolPrime+ (free) and MoleculeSketch ($2.99). Neither of these are perfect, but they will get you a quick structure. MolPrime+ has some nice templates and is a bit more refined. MoleculeSketch just came out with a new update and I have not tried out the newer features.

If you have any other questions, pleae reach out to me directly my email ( and I would be more than happy to have a longer video chat or phone call with you. Good luck!

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 20:42 Permalink
Meghan / Indiana University

In addition to what people have already mentioned, I use an iPad during lecture, but I use the Doceri software. 

Like notability, it allows me to annotate notes in class, however, I use Doceri for the ability to live-record my lectures and capture my voice, notes, and annotations I make on the slides when coupled with Kaltura.  Our classrooms have classroom desktops that I can pull up PowerPoint slides on and a software called Doceri Desktop (located on the desktop) links with the Doceri (free on an iPad/surface pro) so everything on the desktop shows up on my iPad and I just teach from that and the desktop captures everything I'm writing. 

The reason I do it is I use Kaltura software (our university has it on the desktop, but I believe there is a web version) to record lectures each day and I love that students can see everything I am writing on the slides.

I would be happy to talk to anyone about how I have integrated the technology to work together!

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 13:35 Permalink