At the beginning of this school year, the PBL Education Foundation awarded opportunity grants toward the purchase of Vernier technology to Daron Johnson, 8th grade science teacher, and Lauren Donoho, 7th grade science teacher. he Foundation contributed over $900 for various kinds of probeware which made it possible to use the Vernier software and interface in science experiments. In his application for the grant, Johnson said, “The technology allows students to collect and analyze data through precise measurements that were not previously obtainable in the classroom.” He and Donoho both attended a conference last month, where they acquired the training necessary to use the technology in the classroom. Johnson was quick to point out, however, that both he and Donoho are both still learning the real potential of this technology.
Recently the 8th grade science classes used the temperature probe and the pH probe to determine the pollution level of a local stream. As students used the probes, the data was automatically stored on the small, portable computers that are a part of the Vernier technology. From the computer, students can also send the data to their iPads or phones.
In addition students observed and recorded the life forms that they found in their water samples. They identified the various insects and crustaceans from resources loaded onto iPads which are available at each table. Determining what is able to live in the water is a key element in analyzing pollution levels. Eventually, the students combined and analyzed the data to determine the level of pollution.
Eighth grader Paige Ritz said, “The technology helps a lot. It’s much better than Mr. Johnson just telling us.” Joel Deatrick added, “The computer interface makes collecting data much faster and helps with the analysis. The probes do measurements that we could not have done before.”
Those student comments directly address the main purpose of incorporating this kind of technology into the science curriculum. Illinois has adopted the Common Core Standards as the measure of education in this state. In the area of science, there are 8 key scientific practices that public school education should incorporate, all of which emphasize the importance of students “doing” science, rather than just listening to someone “telling” them science. Asking questions, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating data are all part of the 8 practices. In addition, Johnson pointed out that analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of data are also a large part of ACT and SAT exams. Johnson is hopeful that Vernier technology will be extended into the high school curriculum.