Education and Manpower Bureau
Using Datalogger in the Teaching of Physics


Teaching using datalogger:

1. Summary
A datalogger plus interactive teaching strategies equals improved results.

2. What is a Datalogger ?
Essentially a black box that links a computer to a measuring device which records measurements (from one or two a day to millions per second).
These measurements are stored and analysed - either with software or manually.

3. The Problem
Teachers can give the best explanations in the world, but "Nothing works unless the student works" -
Donald Simenek

Students come into our classes with strong misconceptions about how the world works.

Traditional instruction has very little effect in changing this point of view.

There is good research to show that a cluster of new interactive teaching strategies combined with powerful ICT tools actually "work".

4. The Strategy: The Interactive Demonstration Cycle
Based on work by Sokoloff, Thornton and Laws ("Interactive Lecture Demonstrations")

1: Set up a scenario

In this case we will assume we have a datalogger connected to gear.

2: Mime it, describe it, but don't actually carry out the demonstration

"We are going to roll the cart up the inclined plane. We are interested in the motion from just after it leaves my hand until just before it reaches the top of its run"

3: Finish with a clear question.

"If we do it, what will happen?"
"What will the velocity/time graph for this motion look like?"

4: Get students to make a prediction (1m 40s)

We usually use a worksheet for this with a brief description, space for a prediction and space for the actual observed result. Click here for a sample.

5: Get students to discuss their prediction with a partner (2m)

This can be difficult for some students who become used to the habit of only copying down the "right" answers.

6: (Possibly) Elicit some discussion/comment

"Ok, let's see what possible answers there are ".

7: Do it (2m)

In this case the datalogger can provide a real-time plot of the required graph. Students are immediately confronted with the "answer".

8: (Possibly) Elicit some discussion/comment

Follow up with a question or problem. Typically 3 or 4 ID cycles may be used in a lesson.

5. Summary: The Key Ingredients
Active student involvement (individual predictions and discussion in pairs).

Short time delay between the event and follow-up analysis.

Powerful ICT linked with effective teaching strategies.

6. Results
Improved student learning.

Greater retention (in fact concepts tend to strengthen with time).

Increased confidence and motivation in students.

Case Study:

  Teaching Cases Description
  Teacher Demonstration
  Teacher can use the set of datalogger to do demonstration of the experiment to the student.  
  Student Hands-on Experiment (need 6-8 set datalogger)
  Teacher only give guidelines to the student. Grouping the student to 6-8 groups to carry out the experiment and analysis during the class.  
  Student Hands-on Experiment
  Teacher can arrange one group to do experiment using datalogger during the class.  
  Let students select their own topic to investigate. Ask them to present the result of their finding to the schoolmates and give report of the investigation. In this case, datalogger is only a kind of tools for student to carry out experiment.  

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