Exploring physics in the palm of your hand.
The internal sensors within students’ smartphones are capable of collecting the data required of a traditional introductory mechanics laboratory curriculum. Some instructors have already begun to implement these data collection devices into their labs.
Our project—titled “MyTech,” or “Measurements using everydaY TECHnologies”—includes the development of a curriculum, the creation of a mobile app (with the help of NC State’s DELTA), and the determination of the impact of students’ smartphones on their learning of physics concepts, attitudes regarding their laboratory experience and use of the devices outside of class. We have been able to determine these impacts using a battery of pre- and post-semester testing as well as video recordings throughout the study. Administration of the CLASS, for example, indicates greater positive shifts in “real-world connections” for the section using smartphones. We have also developed a new tool for video analysis that aids in determining the nature of the student-equipment interactions during the labs.
The MyTech laboratory curriculum was adapted from a series of mechanics labs at NC State University. The new curriculum takes advantage of the internal sensors within students’ smartphones and the webcams attached to their laptops, and thus does not require any additional electronic interfaces or sensors.
Preliminary results from the MyTech study indicate that students’ kinematics graph skills do not drastically change with the new equipment, however, their attitudes about physics labs change for the better. Specifically, students’ abilities to make real-world connections improves, and the students can even accurately describe how their phone collects their experimental data.
The project has been recently featured in The Physics Teacher and APS News.