Video Physics

One of the things I want to do in my return to the classroom is to use more inquiry-based activities for the science students. Today I had them engage in an activity in physics where they were challenged to find the acceleration due to gravity. We’ve done a few other labs involving acceleration, and they’ve used a few different techniques and pieces of equipment. Each group designed and carried out their own investigation. I’m keen to see how the different approaches pay off. In the spirit of equality, I decide that I’d play along as well, and I downloaded two apps from Vernier, Video Physics and Graphical Analysis. Each app was $4.99 (yikes!) but I was very interested in how they’d work.

I used the Video Physics app to video a student as they dropped their weight against a wall. Then, using the app, I was able to plot the path of the object as it fell. That took about 2 minutes to figure out. Then I was able to see the graph of the motion with one tap.

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With another tap, I was able to send this data to the other app, Graphical Analysis. There, after about 5 minutes of fussing around, I figured out how to select a section of the line, and fit a linear equation to it. This equation (y=mx+b) also gave the m-value, which was the slope. Since this was a velocity-time graph, the slope was the acceleration due to gravity. My value came out to 9.593 m/s^2, which is pretty close to the accepted value of 9.8 m/s^2! Not bad for a few minutes with 2 new apps!

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So, I think I’m a fan of these apps for physics. Now, how can I get a 6 or 7 iPads for my science classroom?! 🙂 If you’ve got an iOS device, like physics, and have $5 to drop, try these out. I’d recommend the Video Physics one for sure. I’ve already used it to analyze the launch of a toy rocket at science club this week. Too much fun.

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Oops, I did it again.

So my blog and I have had a love-hate relationship. Earlier this week, I just went to pop into to check on one thing, and got a white screen of death from WordPress. It was a variable passing error or something crazy. It did give me a list of the file that was causing the error. It was apparently part of the theme that I had installed.  I’m not sure what happened to cause the error, but I had updated a few things a few days earlier, so maybe something broke during those updates. At any rate, I couldn’t even access the login page directly via URL. I was pretty much scuppered. So after I got home from work, I tackled it again. In the end, out of frustration, I went in via FTP and simply deleted the entire folder for the theme. I didn’t know if that would completely destroy the site or not, but I was out of options. When I went to the direct URL for the login page, I was presented with the familiar WordPress login screen. Hooray! I logged in, and was immediately met with a message that the ‘current theme was broken’ and that WP had automatically reverted to a default theme. Since I had deleted the other theme, being ‘broken’ was a bit of an understatement, but I appreciate the effort. 

So I learned to be more careful how and when I update things. I do have backups made of the site, but had no idea how to start with a reinstall, so I’m much happier with this result. I think I’ll stick with the default theme for now. It’s simple and clean. I just put my own header pic on it, and that’ll do. Until the next time I break something. 

Who says you can’t go home?

Tomorrow marks the start of another school year, and for the first time in 5 years I’m heading back to a classroom. I made the decision last year to not return to my role as a consultant in our school board. There was a few factors that played into the choice, most notably the arrival of Andrew in our family. Other factors included being tired of the distance to get to the office when we had purposefully chosen to build our home 7 years ago in-town. I now have 3.4 km one way to school, when it was 86 km to the board office. Crazy. It feels like I get 2hrs of my life back everyday.

Over the summer, I had more than a few people give me odd reactions to the news that I was returning to a classroom. The most common was to ask me if it was my choice? I’m not sure what I was supposed to answer to that. It was my choice, but is it one that people aren’t expected to make? Do not many folks move from those central board-level positions go back to where they can actually interact with students on a daily basis and, ya know, teach? I know of several who have. Granted, there are others that move on to administration positions as well. But there was enough people who gave me the same reaction, that I noticed it as a trend. Odd.

At any rate, I’m back in the classroom, have a great timetable that I was totally not expecting to get, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the year will bring. Lots of ideas of things to try out in the class are in my head, and I think the biggest thing will be trying to decide how to narrow down those ideas to make it manageable. Small steps to start I suppose, but I’m excited to be getting back to the science classroom. Hopefully my Jedi teaching powers are still intact…

My classroom awaits!