Monday, May 20, 2013

iPads for Physics & Astronomy Education

What most distinguishes the iPad as a teaching tool for Astronomy and Physics is the fact that it has many internal sensors.  For example, the "Star Walk" app that I previously featured utilizes the fact that the iPad knows the direction that it is pointing and so can show you on the screen a map of the stars immediately behind the iPad, as if you're looking through a window onto the universe.  Another app I featured uses the iPads microphone to measure the incoming sound waves and can show a graph of the spectrum of the sound.  For my final post, I'll mention 2 more such apps:
1) Video Physics from Vernier: let's say you record a video of a basketball in flight.  This app lets you click in the locations of the ball at different times and it will then generate graphs of the x and y positions as a function of time, from which you can display velocities, accelerations, forces, etc
2) Graphical Analysis from Vernier: this one utilizes the internal accelerometers and allows you to plot the x, y, and z accelerations of the iPad as a function of time.

My overall assessment is that the iPad provides some unique capabilities for teaching Physics and Astronomy.  I imagine that sometime soon, we'll be able to plug additional external sensors into the iPad to use it as a data collection device.  Putting iPads into the student's hands will provide additional exciting options.

It's been fun reading this blog, so thanks to all.  -Steve

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