Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2016
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Lab4Physics

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Bring physics to life using lab sensors built right into your smartphone

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Math
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6-12
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Pros: A dynamic low-cost way for students to gather and analyze physical science data.

Cons: Students may get stuck initially, but by following the tips they'll figure out this innovative tool.

Bottom Line: Use your smartphone to gather data and study speed, gravity, waves, and other physics concepts.

High school and middle school physical science (and math) teachers can use Lab4Physics to help students practically apply concepts in their classes. Have the students use the pre-designed experiments first to help them figure out how to use the tools provided by their devices. Then empower them to design their own investigations.

Math teachers might show four different linear graphs to their students. Then, have students use the speedometer tool to create those same four graphs. By physically moving faster or slower, students will learn what slope actually means.

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Lab4Physics uses the accelerometer, camera, and microphone already built into smartphones (and tablets) to gather data for physics experiments. Some of the topics include Movement, Waves, and Force and Energy. Students can select a pre-designed experiment to puzzle through questions such as “How many people does it take to move a school bus?” Or, students can use tools such as the sonometer or speedometer to design and conduct their own experiments. Either way, students will need inexpensive materials such as string, tape, and pebbles to conduct the investigations. Each student group will use the app on a device to gather data in real time. 

The Teacher's Resources site is a portal where you can find tips from other teachers, letter templates to send home to parents, tutorial videos, and other helpful support. Along with the lesson plans provided on the site, teachers can create their own experiments. 

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Lab4Physics is an incredibly low-cost way for students to design and conduct physical science investigations. Equipping a physics lab with sensor tools and software can cost districts over $5,000. This app accomplishes many of the same things using the smartphones that students already have in their pockets.

An extensive teacher resource website provides activities aligned to the Next Generation of Science Standards. Whether spinning like a tornado using the accelerometer or transforming their phones into pendulums, students are gathering real-time data themselves. After using tools such as the accelerometer, students can manipulate the way the data is represented, looking at acceleration, velocity, or position over time. This tool embodies a shift in science where students are the ones actually doing the science and figuring out the best way to make sense of and share their results.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Physics feels like play because kids gather data as they run, jump, and spin. They work in groups to figure out what their data means and the best way to represent it. 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Students are in the driver’s seat as they put theoretical knowledge to the test. Gathering real-time data helps students truly understand physical phenomena.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

An extensive support website is available in both English and Spanish. Teachers can download directions for experiments and tips on how to use the app.


Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

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