Friday, November 2, 2012

1:1 Physics - Computers and Labs

I love having access to these iMacs for labs - it makes entering and maintaing data across a class very, very easy.

In a recent lab we looked at the basics of gravity, frequency and period by swinging a pendulum.  Students created their pendulum apparatus and then entered their data into a Google spreadsheet I had created.  I love the effect - there were 6 groups simultaneously entering data into the spreadsheet which quickly populated a graph I had created.  It didn't take them long to see the major physical concepts that the lab was looking for simply because the data was so quickly generated.

To have 6 groups do 3 tests each, every student got 18 data points in the it takes them to do 3.  Thus, through the simple act of having the ability to enter the data in real time, students were making connections (and changes) to their pendulums based on the data.

Then it got even better because they were able to pick a new variable and construct the graph THEMSELVES which was immediately available to everyone.  More testing later and within a lab they had created and tested a second hypothesis all because they could see the data trend.

Is this possible without the computers?  Of course - every group could record the data and later enter it, but I don't believe that would have the same effect as seeing the data being created while they work.

I'd love to try something like this on a much larger scale - a Tweet out, for example, to enter some basic data into a spreadsheet and watch as the data just pours into the models students had already created.  Something to think about...

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