Jim Blattman doesn’t exactly think fondly of “the good old days.” Before he had the advantage of Vernier data-collection tools, he says teaching science at Lowry High School in Winnemucca, Nevada was frequently a challenge. “I tell my kids, ‘you have no idea how bad it used to be!'” Blattman laughs. “But now with the sensors, probes, and software from Vernier, things are simple and my students get good results, every time.”
Blattman has been teaching physics, math, and physical science for 33 years. For the last two decades at Lowry, he’s had the advantage of innovative educational technology from Vernier. Starting with Apple II computers and Vernier Photogates, Blattman and his colleagues have since amassed a complete collection of Vernier products that they use to measure nearly all of their labs and demonstrations. He says the contrast between classes in “the good old days” and the present is enormous.
“The Vernier tools make collecting data really easy and fun!”
“We used to do labs with things like spark-gap timers, and other means of collecting data that were often unreliable, difficult, or expensive to keep working,” Blattman remembers. “The Vernier tools make collecting data really easy and fun! I like to play with the probes and sensors, and the kids pick up on that and get very enthused as well. They truly get a sense of ‘wow, we’re doing something that’s new and cool.'”
Using Logger Pro software, Blattman says, his labs immediately become visual. He often projects the desktop view onto a large screen, providing students with a clear view of the data collection process. “Logger Pro is really sweet,” he notes. “For example, I can do a demonstration of a car rolling down a plank. Then by using an LCD projector, my students can watch the velocity increase on a graph in real time. It’s so visual, it’s remarkable!
“Also,” continues Blattman, “we can connect a swinging pendulum bob and a motion sensor to Logger Pro to show the changing of position and velocity in a way that everyone can easily see and understand. As a result, I do a lot less hand-waving; I simply point to something on the graph to explain key concepts.”
“They were really excited about their results … and so was I!”
Though the tried-and-true labs clearly have their merit, Blattman believes it’s beneficial to enliven his lessons with Vernier products. Recently, students studying the motion of a pulley employed a Rotary Motion Sensor and a Force Probe to collect displacement and force data. Then using Logger Pro, they found the integral of the force versus distance graph as a measure of the work input. “It worked perfectly,” Blattman reports. “They were really excited about their results … and so was I!”
Each week, Blattman’s ninth-grade physical science class completes a lab from Vernier’s Physical Science with Vernier, such as a friction demonstration that employs a Vernier Force Probe to track average force over time. Thanks to the new video capture and analysis capabilities of Logger Pro, Blattman says his students can also videotape their experiments and later analyze them with the software. He says there are many useful “library” video clips in Logger Pro as well that help illustrate mathematical and scientific concepts.
Though many teachers suffer the inevitable burnout that comes with 30+ years in the classroom, Blattman’s enthusiasm is unflagging. Credit his use of Vernier products with keeping his (and his students’) engagement high.
“As a physical science teacher, it’s a pure joy to get data that matches your theory – to find that yes, that line is a true parabola, and it comes right where you thought it would be.”
“I feel lucky that after all this time I still look forward to coming to school every day,” he muses. “As a physical science teacher, it’s a pure joy to get data that matches your theory – to find that yes, that line is a true parabola, and it comes right where you thought it would be. With the Vernier instruments, we all get real-time data that is immediately visible and very accurate. Physics and physical science students have never had it so good!”