The View From a Small Town Physics Classroom

Let me paint you a picture. Not something physicists normally do but I’ll give it a shot.

I teach in a small town in BC. For most of my career it has been lower on the social-economic scale, a true blue-collar place but things are changing. More and more people are being pushed out of the big cities due to high house prices and ending up here where life is more laid back, more affordable, more idyllic?

Again, for most of my career the supplies I have had access to are the same supplies that came with the school when it was built…back in the 1950s. Trying to modernize my lab has been a challenge but just like the city, things are changing.

I’ve used PASCO products since my university days and have always found them to be intuitive and practical. When I had the chance, I purchased some of their GLX data loggers for demo purposes. I started to show the students the power of probeware and they yearned for more. Yes, I used yearn to describe students. I know, almost unheard of.

When I procured the funding to buy a class set of the GLXs after buying one a year for 5 years I was ecstatic. I called PASCO to order and was told that they were discontinued. I was bummed. What now? They told me about their new product, the Spark LX as a tablet data logger. I was intrigued. Many discussions happened, and I started to get on board. PASCO even took some of my suggestions about what I thought the logger should entail. After months of waiting they finally arrived; just in time for the start of a new school year.

I happily got to setting them all up and preparing their first interactions with the devices. I would use the Match-Graph software to give my physics students some hands-on real life to graph interactions. After a few hiccups of the airlinks needing firmware updates which my school computer wouldn’t allow I had the students head out into the school to test out the Spark and the software.

The looks we got from the other students and staff started as bewilderment. “What is his class up to now?” was heard more than once. My students didn’t even hear. They were too engaged to notice. The beginner graphs which were too hard mere seconds ago were now too easy. Harder graphs please. Harder and harder they went and the more competitive they got. “I’m addicted to this!” one student exclaimed. “I get it now.” Yelled another. They were hooked at first use.

I can’t wait to see how the next experiment goes. This is how technology should work in class. Relating physical experience to life experience to learning.

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Glenn Grant has been teaching physics, math and science for 20 years in a small town called Mission, BC. 
“For most of my career I’ve been using equipment from the 1960s. I was the first person in my district to start using a Smart Board and then started getting into sensors about 10 years ago.  Since then I’ve cobbled together whatever I can to give my students access to something from the current century.  I believe that technology has a place in the classroom as a tool to further the learning.  Using the new PASCO equipment we can do labs 100 times a class and the discussion becomes more in-depth.  Why did they choose the data set they are using?  What makes that data “better”?  Can you replicate the graph on the board using the equipment.  It allows for more actual science than just content memorization. As I deepen my understanding of the equipment and its uses, I’ve been teaching the other members of my department and other teachers in the district.  I’m not an expert yet but I’m working on it.”

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    Gurpreet Sidhu | Physics Instructor | University College of North | The Pas, MB

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    Throughout the province of Nova Scotia, PASCO’s probeware technology has been merged with the rollout of the new P-6 curriculum. We chose a number of sensors for use with our project-based activities. Both the functionality and mobility of PASCO’s dataloggers enable students to collect authentic, real-world data, test their hypotheses and build knowledge.

    What we find important to a successful implementation and adoption by teachers is showing that the probes are not a ‘standalone technology’. The datalogging activities are very cross-curricular and can incorporate math, english, science, and geography outcomes.

    We are excited to learn more about PASCO’s new weather sensor because our students enjoy projects where they can share and compare their data with weather stations from around the world and be part of a global community.

    Mark Richards | Technology Integration Consultant | Annapolis Valley R.S.B. | Nova Scotia

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