Saturday, August 10, 2019

Experimenting with Google Science Journal

This month I familiarized myself with Google Science Journal in preparation for a session I led at the annual SPARCC conference. Evidently, Google Science Journal has been around for a while, but I have never explored it until this summer. It offers some good possibilities for creating and recording information and data during science experiments.

Google Science Journal is a mobile app, available for iOS and Android and Chromebooks that can run apps from the Google Play store. In order to use it with a G Suite for Education account, it must be enabled by a district's Google apps administrator. Regardless of which version used, the app allows the experimenter to use the sensors that are native to the mobile device to collect and record data. These include accelerometers, magnetometer, light sensor, sound sensors, and more. If you use any Bluetooth sensors (like the GoDirect line by Vernier), it's possible that the app can also collect data using those.

When you open the app, you will be prompted to sign in using your Google account. Once you do, a folder called Science Journal will appear in your Google Drive. In addition, the app will sync across multiple devices when a person is logged in to each one, so you can start and experiment on an iPhone and finish it on an iPad. 

The uncomplicated app is easy to navigate. Get started by clicking the purple + sign to create a new experiment. This will open a "card" on which you can record information. Add text to record observations or write a hypothesis. Tap the sensor icon to access the sensors and collect data. You can grab a snapshot (one data point) or create a recording (a graph of how a value changes over time). You can also access the camera or insert other images.

If you record a graph, simply tap it to edit or annotate. Text notes can be inserted to show where particular events happened on the graph. The recording can be cropped, shared, archived, or deleted. Cropping is as easy as dragging a slider to the desired location.

Here's an example of an experiment you could do with students. Get some noise making toys (or instruments or objects or whatever). Open the Science Journal and use the Pitch and Sound Intensity sensors to record what happens with these values when the object makes some noise. Grab screenshots of those graphs. Show the objects and the graphs to students and ask them to hypothesize which object created each set of graphs and record the hypotheses in the Journal. Then assign an object to a group of students for further investigation. As students record data, they should annotate the graph to indicate where the pitch or intensity changed and why. Complete the experiment by asking students to make a claim, supported by evidence and reasoning, about which graphs were created by the object the experimented.

We tried this in my SPARCC session today with these objects:

Here are two of the graphs. 

Can you guess which object created these graphs?

When the experiment is complete, it can be exported to Drive as a PDF. Then it could be shared like any other Drive file or turned in through Google Classroom.

There are many possibilities for using this with students, but luckily you don't have to think them all up! Here is a "long list" of experiments that can be searched by level and type of equipment or duration. The experiments are being authored by many reputable science organizations. If you are interested in learning more, you also might want to check out Google's Science Journal support.

Are you using Google Science Journal? Feel free to comment to share your uses.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Lessons from a Crocheted Jellyfish

For the last several years, I have wanted to create amigurumi. Even if you don't know this term, you have probably seen these small crocheted creatures and objects, typically about 4-6 inches tall and always adorable. I can't explain why they appeal to me, and I don't do any handwork crafts like that, but I have always wanted to give it a try. I did some research a couple of years ago; I read that it is helpful to already know some basic crochet stitches in order to make an amigurumi something. I tried in the winter to learn to crochet. It was a dismal failure.

My sister Paula visited me last week. She taught herself to crochet by watching YouTube videos a couple Christmases ago, so I told her that I wanted her to teach me. She said she was willing, but she only really knew how to make granny squares (she didn't know amigurumi). Twenty-four hours later, I had a crocheted jellyfish and some of my summer's best professional development, a reminder of things I need to think about as I head back to school.

Lessons Learned from a Crocheted Jellyfish

  1. You need essential skills before you tackle something big. Paula only knew how to make granny squares so she demanded (literally, demanded) that we make granny squares. A few rows in, I put my hand work down and proclaimed that I was ready to make the jellyfish. She handed my square back to me and told me to finish. Paula knew that I wasn't ready, that I needed to practice more before I tackled something bigger.
  2. You won't always understand what you're doing at first and you have to trust the teacher to get you there eventually. She kept telling me to count Vs and stitches and I often had no idea what she was talking about. I asked her to show me over and over again. After hours of trying, I started to see the patterns that I was blind to at first.
  3. Practice creates automaticity. I was guilty of wanting the end result without putting in the practice. At first, I was using my fingers more than my crochet hook. My sister kept firmly saying, "stop using your fingers." By the end of the jellyfish, I could crochet by just relying on my hook, but it took hours. There is no shortcut for putting in the practice.
  4. It helps to have an enthusiastic and supportive teacher. Learning something new, something totally out of a wheelhouse, is hard. I quit a lot of times. I berated myself. I cursed a lot. I kept saying I was incompetent, that I couldn't crochet. Paula just kept handing my work back to me and telling me I could do it. She wouldn't let me quit. I finished because she told me I could.
  5. When learning something new, you will make many mistakes along the way and if you fix them, you become better. When I graduated from granny squares, I started the jellyfish. In fact, I started it around seven times because I just kept tearing it out and starting again when it didn't look right. On the sixth time, Paula tried to stop me from tearing it out, but I knew it wasn't right.
  6. When you complete the task, you will feel accomplished. My jellyfish isn't perfect. It's far from perfect. But it looks like a jellyfish. And I made it!
None of this is earth-shattering. As you read this list, you might be thinking that this is pretty basic stuff. It is. But, as teachers, we know this but we don't always feel it or experience it. We know learners need to practice and learn in chunks, but when we have to be the learner, it crystallizes these ideas in a way that only learning something new can.

I'm taking the jellyfish to school this year. I'm going to start on a duck that I hope will join the jellyfish. I hope they will serve as a reminder of how hard it is to learn and how important it was to have my teacher-sister encouraging me. If you have a chance to learn something totally outside your wheelhouse this year, I hope you'll take it.