Category Archives: iPad

How I Learned Biology with my Textbook, iBook and Audiobook

Miller and Levine Biology book on the iPad - A must!

Miller and Levine Biology book on the iPad – A must!

I finished up my high school freshman finals yesterday with a 100 on my biology final exam. Yea! My favorite subject this year was..yes, you guessed it…biology!

I had a fantastic time learning about biology, and here are just some of the topics that we studied during the year:

  • Ecology: Plants are autotrophs, which means they produce food from solar energy. They’re primary producers and very tasty to heterotrophs like us, since we get our food from consuming plants and other living things.
  • Cells: We have eukaryotic cells, which means our DNA is enclosed in a nucleus, unlike prokaryotic cells.
  • Genetics: A round of applause to Father Gregor Mendel for founding the science of modern genetics and for his experiments with pea plants. (They were easy to grow for the study dominant and recessive genes.)
  • Evolution: Ah. What fun it would have been to be on the HMS Beagle with Charles Darwin in 1831 and be able to explore nature, so new and mysterious. (I learned about Darwin’s Finches at a Science Under the Stars activity at the UT Brackenridge Field Lab a few years ago.)
  • Plants: CO2 + H2O — sunlight –> C6H12O6 + O2 (Photosynthesis, need I say more?)
  • Animals: Who knew cladograms could be so interesting? Cnidarians, like jelly fish and sea anemones, are the simplest animals to have radial body symmetry.
  • Human body: Thanks hypothalamus for monitoring concentrations of water in my blood and releasing more antidiuretic hormone (ADH) to let me know I’m thirsty.

Miller and Levine Biology Textbook, iBook, and Audiobook

We used the Biology textbook by Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine. Although the book is wonderfully written with great illustrations, it wasn’t easy for me to learn from with my dyslexia. Fortunately, I was able to to get the iBook version from iTunes and the audiobook version from Learning Ally.

I liked being able to select portions of the iBook version and have my iPad read the text out loud to me. Unfortunately, it couldn’t read the text on pictures or diagrams, and that’s why it was helpful to have real people describing the drawings and reading the text in the Learning Ally audiobook that I also listened to using the Learning Ally iPhone app.

Miller and Levine Biology iBook quiz

Miller and Levine Biology iBook quiz

I also liked being able to take the quizzes with each iBook chapter to practice for my tests. (The iPad version is a lot lighter in the backpack too!)

Try this setup to be surrounded by all things biology: Have your printed biology textbook in front of you, your iBook on the iPad on your right, and your audiobook on your Learning Ally iPhone app to your left. Oh, and your herbarium on the wall in front of your desk!

(If you want to learn more about Learning Ally and what they and their many wonderful volunteers have done to help dyslexics and those with reading challenges, watch my YouTube video, The Sound of Reading.)

The iBook version of Miller and Levine’s biology book is only $15 on iTunes. Even if you’re not in high school, but you would like to learn about Biology in a fun and easy to understand way, the iBook version is well worth it.

As much as I love my iPad and audiobooks, I’m always going to treasure my printed textbook with all my notes, highlights, and well worn pages. Thank you Miller and Levine!

An awesome summer ahead

I’d also like to thank my wonderful teachers, especially my biology teacher, and my parents for all their help and encouragement this school year. I took a lot of walks with my Dad where we talked about what I learned in class, studied upcoming quizzes and tests, and talked about new advances in science. It was a great school year!

I really love science and I’m going to miss all the fun biology labs. (But I’m looking forward to some amazing chemistry labs coming up during my sophomore year.)

I hope you’ll join me for an awesome summer as I get caught up on my blog posts and videos on science, invasive species, and dyslexia. And I also hope you’ll help me kick off the summer at the first Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on Thursday, June 12. I’m bringing my Invasive Hunter Academy to help train future invasive hunters and have fun with plants at the same time!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Biology, Dyslexia, High school, iBooks, Invasive Hunter Academy, iPad, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Learning Ally app, Nature Nights

Central Texas Gardener Tackles Invasive Species

Linda Lehmusvirta, Commander Ben, and Tom Spencer on the Central Texas Gardener TV set

Linda Lehmusvirta, Commander Ben, and Tom Spencer on the Central Texas Gardener TV set

Last month, I had the great honor of being invited to appear on the Central Texas Gardner show that is aired on PBS. When I arrived, I was met by Linda Lehmusvirta, the producer of the show. She took me up to the studio where the show is filmed and introduced me to Tom Spencer, the host of the show. It was so great to meet both of them and they made me feel right at home.

Before the show started filming, Mr. Spencer and I took our places on the set and talked about different things while the make-up artist prepared us for our close-ups! 😉

When the show was about to begin Ms. Lehmusvirta took my mom to the control room. (My mom said it was really cool!) Once everything was “quiet on the set”, the cameras began to roll and Mr. Spenser asked me all sorts of questions about invasive species, my blog, my videos, and my work with the University of Texas and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The 10 minute interview went by so fast! It felt more like a minute.

The whole adventure was so much fun and I am so happy I had the chance to meet both Mr. Spenser and Ms. Lehmusvirta. They’re the best! Many thanks to both of them! 🙂

The KLRU schedule for the Central Texas Gardener show with my interview is listed below:

  • Saturday, September 14 – Noon and 4 pm
  • Sunday, September 15 – 9 am

Updated: Interview air dates.

Started high school

It’s been very busy with lots of homework, but I’ve been enjoying my first few weeks as a freshman in high school at St. Michael’s Catholic Academy (SMCA). I’ve been using my Learning Ally iPad app for the audio of all my textbooks, including biology and my English books!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Central Texas Gardener, High School, Invasive Species, iPad, KLRU, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Learning Ally, Learning Ally app, Linda Lehmusvirta, PBS, St. Michael's Catholic Academy, Tom Spencer, Wildflower Center

The 1 in 5 Initiative: Learning Ally Creates a Site for Dyslexics by Dyslexics

As I have shared with you in the past, I have very severe dyslexia, but luckily, I also have Learning Ally. For years now, I have used Learning Ally’s audiobooks, which has made it so much easier for me to keep up with my textbooks for school, as well as being able to listen to all sorts of books just for fun.

Learning Ally has a great website with lots of audiobooks and resources, so if you haven’t checked it out, be sure to soon. (The have a great iPhone and iPad app that I use to listen to my textbooks.) But now Learning Ally has even more to offer. They’ve started a new site called The 1 in 5 Initiative.

Their site is all about dyslexia. But it’s even more than that. It’s an interactive site where you can do all sorts of things like create blog posts as well as videos about yourself and your experiences with dyslexia. My “Commander Ben’s Dyslexia Story” video is also featured on their Being the one stories page.

Oh! I almost forgot…you may be wondering…Why do they call the site “1 in 5”? That’s because it is believed that 1 out every 5 people has some form of dyslexia.

So be sure to check out the 1 in 5 site soon. I think you’ll really like it.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Dyslexia, Dyslexic, iPad, iPhone, Learning Ally, Learning Ally app, The 1 in 5 Initiative

Talking about Invasive Species and Dyslexia at Rawson Saunders

Commander Ben talking about invasive species and dyslexia to science classes at the Rawson Saunders School

Commander Ben talking about invasive species and dyslexia to science classes at the Rawson Saunders School

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of speaking to the 8th grade and 7th grade science classes at the Rawson Saunders School here in Austin, Texas.  What is so neat about Rawson Saunders is that it is a school for kids who have dyslexia like me. Founded in 1997, Rawson Saunders is the only full-curriculum school in Central Texas exclusively for students with dyslexia.

I was invited to speak about my experiences with invasive species and dyslexia, and I had a wonderful time visiting with some great kids who are like me.

The day started at around 7:45AM when I arrived at the school and met Dr. Nadia Cone, who is the Academic Technology Coordinator for the school.

Commander Ben and Dr. Nadia Cone

Commander Ben and Dr. Nadia Cone

Dr. Cone brought me over to the science lab and introduced me to Mr. Jacob Hendrickson, the science teacher. I set up my iPad and hooked it up to a projector for my Keynote presentation. Then around 8AM, the 8th graders started piling into the classroom. I was so nervous! This was the first time I would be giving a presentation to kids my own age. I have given presentations to elementary school kids and high school kids but never middle-schoolers.

Commander Ben and Rawson Saunders Science Teacher, Mr. Jacob Hendrickson

Commander Ben and Rawson Saunders Science Teacher, Mr. Jacob Hendrickson

I was worried that middle school kids might be really hard on me. But I had no need to worry. The kids were great – both the 8th grade class and the 7th grade class. I made lots of new friends!

Commander Ben presenting to the Rawson Saunders 8th grade science class

Commander Ben presenting to the Rawson Saunders 8th grade science class

My presentation was all about invasive species, blogging, movie-making…and of course…having dyslexia. It went great. The kids had some interesting questions and also shared some of their own stories with me about things they like to do. It was a lot of fun.

Commander Ben answers some great questions from the students in the 7th grade Rawson Saunders science class

Commander Ben answers some great questions from the students in the 7th grade Rawson Saunders science class

Many thanks to Dr. Cone and the great folks at Rawson Saunders for inviting me to speak to your students. I look forward to visiting again in the future.

Invasive Hunter Academy at the Milam County Nature Festival

I’m excited about giving more talks to school kids about invasive species and dyslexia, including my upcoming talk to 350 upper elementary students in Milam County this Friday!

Plus, I’ll be bringing my Invasive Hunter Academy to the 4th Annual Milam County Nature Festival at the Rockdale Fair Park this Saturday, April 13, 2013. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I hope to see you there!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Apple, Dyslexia, Invasive Species, iPad, Jacob Hendrickson, Keynote, Middle school, Milam County Nature Festival, Nadia Cone, Rawson Saunders School, Rockdale Fair Park, Science class

iPhone and Android Apps to Learn About and Report Invasive Species

Invasive species apps on the iPhone

Invasive species apps on the iPhone

There are a lot of great mobile apps to learn about and report invasive species. Mr. Chuck Bargeron, technology directory for the University of Georgia’s Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health (also known on the web as Bugwood), has created many apps about invasive species.

I had a chance to talk with Mr. Bargeron at the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference:

In my How to Succeed in Hunting Invasive Species Without Really Trying blog post, I created a video about a fictional mobile app, but there are lots of great real invasive species apps for your mobile phone.

Here are some of the apps that Mr. Bargeron and the University of Georgia helped to create for citizen scientists on the hunt for invasive species. In the following listing, I’ve include links for you to download the iPhone (iPhone and iPad) and Android app versions and a brief description of the apps from their web pages:

  • EDDMapS West
    iPhone | Android
    EDDMapS is a national web-based mapping system for documenting invasive species distribution.
  • Forest Insect Pests
    iPhone | Android
    The photos present in this app are intended to help foresters, urban landscaping employees, or others working with trees recognize some of the common pest insects affecting trees in North America and understand their life cycles and how they damage trees.
  • IveGot1
    iPhone | Android
    Submit invasive species observations directly with your mobile device from the field. These reports are uploaded to EDDMapS and emailed directly to local and state verifiers for review.
  • Outsmart Invasive Species
    iPhone | Android
    The Outsmart Invasive Species project is a collaboration between the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (MA DCR), and the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia.
  • What’s Invasive
    iPhone | Android
    One of the greatest dangers to natural areas is the spread of invasive species. This app accesses local lists created by National Park Service rangers and other professionals to show you top invasives species in your area.

These are some of the apps that I’ve tried out on my iPhone, but there are more out there too, including:

  • Texas Invaders (TX Invaders)
    iPhone | Android
    The Invaders of Texas Citizen Science program collects species observations from volunteer citizen scientists trained to use a specially developed Invasive Species Early Detection and Reporting Kit.

I’ll have a special blog post on this app for citizen scientists to report Texas Invasives soon. 🙂

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, Android, Apple, Bugwood, Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, Chuck Bargeron, Citizen Scientist, EDDMapS West, Forest Insect Pests, Invasive Species, iPad, iPhone, IveGot1, Mobile app, Outsmart Invasive Species, Texas Invaders, University of Georgia, What's Invasive

How to Succeed in Hunting Invasive Species Without Really Trying

The video concerns a young, ambitious native plant defender who, with the help of the smartphone app, “How to succeed in hunting invasive species without really trying”, rises from a budding environmentalist to a fighting naturalist.

Commander Ben goes to high school

I have great news to share with you! I’ve been accepted into St. Michael’s Catholic Academy for high school in the fall. I’m very excited, since I’ve been studying hard and took the ISEE exam to get in.

Last year, the drama team at St. Michael’s put on a play, “How to succeed in business without really trying“. It was a musical comedy with lots of great student actors, and this got me thinking about making a fun video with invasive species that’s similar to the opening of the play.

I hope you enjoy this latest addition to my Battles with Invasive Species video series!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Android, Apple, Battles with Invasive Species, High School, How to succeed in business without even trying, How to succeed in hunting invasive species without really trying, iPad, iPhone, ISEE, St. Michael's Academy, St. Michael's Catholic Academy

Commander Ben Talks About Invasive Species with Highland Lakes Master Naturalists

Thanks to my friend, Miss Sheryl Smith-Rodgers, I recently had the honor of speaking to the Highland Lakes Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists.

Commander Ben & Sheryl Smith-Rogers, Texas Master Naturalist, Highland Lakes Chapter

I had such a fun time giving my invasive species presentation to their group! Everyone was so nice to me, and they were passionate about protecting native plants. Plus, after my talk, they gave me a great goodie bag with some things to help me during my adventures fighting invasives.

Top three invasives for conversation starters

To start the day, the master naturalists group treated my Mom and me to a delicious lunch at an Italian restaurant in Marble Falls. It was a lot of fun chatting with everyone over a great meal (I had a salad) and luckily there were no invasives in sight there.

I had a good time talking with people over lunch about three invasives that they really dislike:

  • Bastard Cabbage (Rapistrum rugosum) – One lady talked with me about how her property is being over run by Bastard Cabbage, and how she is going to put it down Indian Blanket seeds to try and stop it.
  • Malta star-thistle (Centaurea melitensis) – Another person talked with me about how one day his property was great, but then invasives struck! His property was overrun by Malta star-thistle, KR Bluestem, and Johnson grass with a touch of Salt cedar…and don’t forget that insidious cursing plant…Bastard Cabbage.
  • Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) – Another lady talked about how Japanese honeysuckle is overrunning her property and how she and her husband just can’t stop it. It grows along their fence line so rapidly.

In my interview with biologist Mr. Darrell Hutchinson, “Austin Invasive Species Corps Aid Golden-Cheeked Warbler“, he talked with me about the web of interdependence in nature. I shared his insight with the group, and they found this analogy very interesting.

Next, I shared some information from my interview with with Dr. Jay Famiglietti, “Last Call at the Oasis: Interview series with Dr. Jay Famiglietti“, how he explained to me about the water, energy, and food nexus. They also found this really cool.

Presenting with my trusty iPad

After lunch we headed over to the group’s meeting area where we started to set up. I was amazed by how many naturalists were there! It looked like about 75 people, maybe more! I was really excited.

I had my iPad with me where I had prepared my presentation using the Keynote app. The group provided me with a great projector so that I could show my Keynote slides and videos on the screen behind me.

When it was time to start, everyone quieted down and Miss Sheryl gave me a great introduction.

Miss Sheryl Smith-Rogers introduces Commander Ben to the Highland Lakes Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist

During my presentation, I talked about:

  • How I got started as Commander Ben – the Invasive Hunter
  • What invasive species are
  • Some examples of common invasive plants in Central Texas
  • How I fight invasives, and
  • Why I started the Invasive Hunter Academy.

Then I showed the group three videos from my “Battles with Invasive Species” series:

All the videos got a great reception, but I think everyone especially enjoyed seeing the grumpy scientist in the Amazing Invasive Hunter Man.

I ended my presentation by sharing with the group some of my experiences with dyslexia, and the technologies that I use to write my blog and make my videos. Plus, I gave them a glimpse into what’s next for Commander Ben: Working more with invasives, dyslexia, and high school!

Everyone loves stickers

When I finished, everyone applauded and then Miss Linda O’Nan, vice president of the group, presented me with a goodie bag including a great Texas Master Naturalist hat! I also got to meet Miss Fredi Franki, president of the group.

Great goodie bag! Thank you!

Love the hat! 🙂

Commander Ben and Linda O’Nan, Vice President of the Highland Lakes Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist

Commander Ben and Fredi Franki, President of the Highland Lakes Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist

After my presentation, I chatted with all the master naturalists as they came and looked at the Invasive Hunter Academy stuff I had brought along with me. I noticed even the adults loved the stickers. Who doesn’t love stickers!

Thanks to Miss Sheryl for the great blog post of the event, Commander Ben Enlightens Us.  Be sure to check it out.  Miss Sheryl has a fantastic nature blog!

Many thanks to all the Highland Lakes Chapter Texas Master Naturalists! I had a great day and look forward to seeing you all again…maybe out in the field!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Apple, Bastard Cabbage, Dr. Jay Famiglietti, Dyslexia, Highland Lakes Chapter, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, iPad, Japanese honeysuckle, Keynote, Malta star-thistle, Marble Falls, Mr. Darrell Hutchinson, Sheryl Smith-Rodgers, Texas Master Naturalists