Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2016
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The PocketLab

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Gather and analyze live data anywhere

Subjects & skills
  • Science

  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Sensors are durable and lightweight, so students can be creative about how they design investigations.

Cons: PocketLab better exemplifies the nature of science when students design or modify existing labs instead of following them step by step.

Bottom Line: A science sensor that pairs with your mobile device to gather and analyze data is perfect for inquiry-based learning.

PocketLab is flexible enough that once kids know how to use the app, they can design investigations that matter to them. If a student is interested in gymnastics, they could tuck the sensor into their waistband and gather data while flipping. Kick your rocket lab up a notch by attaching the PocketLab sensor to your water rocket and collecting the live data.

Pairing the sensor with a device can be tricky for kids. Try having one student press the lever with the back of a pencil while another student holds the device next to the sensor. Head to the Educators page to find curricula and lesson plans. 

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PocketLab is the latest in a series of efforts to make sensors affordable for classroom use. It is a small, wireless sensor that pairs with smartphones or tablets to gather data such as acceleration, pressure, magnetic field, and temperature. Then, the data can be analyzed using tools such as Excel and Google Docs and even through the Scratch programming site. 

One sensor works for all the different types of measurements. Want students to learn about momentum and force through collision carts? Instead of purchasing an expensive air track you can strap two PocketLab sensors to a pair of carts, collecting data on two smartphones. The same sensors can be used to measure the magnetic field of a slinky and to build your own seismograph. Because PocketLab is lightweight and durable, it can be used almost anywhere.

Other apps like Science Journal and Lab4Physics are free, but all data is gathered directly from students' smartphones. PocketLab stands out because the sensor is separate and can be placed anywhere, from inside a soccer ball to the top of a ceiling fan while it spins. While the sensor is in play, students are holding their tablet or smartphone and watching the data in real time. The sensors are expensive, around $100 apiece, but still cheaper than outfitting an entire lab with traditional equipment.

PocketLab has created a series of experiments with clear step-by-step directions to help students do things like build a barometer that measures weight. This activity promotes learning by helping students see how pressure is affected when weight is added to the bag. These labs do most of the planning for the students, but teachers could modify the activities to allow for more student-led investigation.

Overall Rating

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

Kids can gather data about the things that interest them in their world while it is happening. This includes soccer, gymnastics, and rockets. The creative potential is endless. 

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

Sensors can be used in a myriad of ways, allowing students to design their own investigations. Students can gather evidence to explain phenomena or to test engineering solutions to problems.

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

Videos walk users through the setup with different tutorials for each platform. On the Educators page teachers can share their ideas for using the tool or use one of the PocketLab-developed lessons.

Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Chris N. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Stanford University
Stanford, CA
Great for hands-on science activities that empower students!
I love how easy it is to get started. My students were able to get comfortable with the app in less than 10 minutes while using it on their own. PocketLab is a fantastic student tool because the students do not feel intimidates by the equipment. They can think creatively about the science activity and not worry about how to use the technology.
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