Being a STEM specialist teacher, a lot of what I teach requires physical resources. With Covid-19 forcing learning and our schools upcoming science fair online, I turned to Google's Science Journal App to see if it could help. I had used this app a few times before, but quickly realised I had only scratched the surface of its benefits where learning outside the classroom was involved.
The Google Science Journal is an application that allows a user to record and view real time data from a device's inbuilt sensors. Essentially, this app turns your mobile phone into a data logger, recording and graphing real time data from the sensors inside of a mobile phone. Most phone users are not aware of the vast array of complex sensors that are built into their devices. These sensors enable a phone to sense and interact with its users. Using the Science Journal app, I can see the range of sensors built into my own device (see image).
I must admit, I’ve never used the app much in the classroom. In class, we would usually be connecting sensors to Micro:Bits, Arduinos or robotics equipment. We would go through the process of learning how sensors work, before programming these devices to interact with each sensor.
Although the Science Journal app skips this part, It does allow kids to begin genuine and creative science investigations from their own home. They can skip a lot of the complexities around how sensors work, or how to connect and program them, and get straight into recording data.
According to Google, the app “transforms your device into a tool that encourages students to explore their world and make new, exciting discoveries. As they conduct eye-opening experiments, they’ll record observations and make new, exciting discoveries.”
After not using that app in over a year, I found myself experimenting with the magnetometer, a sensor that detects magnetic fields and can measure magnetism. I’d never used this sensor before. Like Google stated, I was quick to experiment with different items in my house and was surprised by the range of objects that triggered the sensor. Little experiments like this are exactly why this app is so great. It allows students to turn anything into an experiment, without the challenge of programming something or setting up complex equipment.
|Another great feature that I wasn't aware of, was the fact that you could have multiple sensors recording at the same time. So, if you wanted to determine if there was a link between the acceleration of a car and the noise it made, you could have the accelerometer measuring acceleration and the microphone measuring sound intensity (decibels).
The app also allows users to take photos and notations about what they are observing during the experiments. This is great, as students doing science fair projects sometimes forget to record enough information or keep track of the sequence of events that happen during experiments.
The Google Science Journal links with your students Google accounts, so any photos or sensor recordings can be exported to their Google Drives. Here, the data can be viewed in Google Sheets, allowing students to analyse their findings with a bit more detail. The benefit of doing this is that it allows them to create a range of graphs to present their findings.
Even with schools soon to be opening their doors again, Google’s Science Journal is something I’ll be encouraging my students to use in the future. For our science fair participants, it will hopefully translate to some unique and original topics and scientific investigations that take place from a variety of locations, not just school.
This app is available on all devices iOS and Android, even on Chromebooks. For teachers interested in giving this a try, there are loads of lessons onhttps://sciencejournal.withgoogle.com/ to get you started.
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