Saturday, December 26, 2009

Seismometer App

In FFFFOO Agents AB | 4 Stars | Science
The good: Measures shaking down to a subtle heart beat. Very creative use of iPhone's builit in accelerometer. Realistic looking needle.
The bad: No recorder. Can't scroll back to see results. In its current form, you can't quantify, label, or time-stamp data.
The bottom line: For students new to the study of earthquakes, Seismometer 1.1 is a great introduction. Simple, interactive, fun, worth it.
Price: $.99
Reviewed on an: iPhone 3G
Version reviewed: 1.1
This Week In Ed Tech’s Review
by Buzz Garwood
Ever taught a lesson on earthquakes and tried to explain how a seismometer works? I've built simple models before, using nothing more than a shoe box, pencil, string, and some paper, but my models usually fall flat and the seismographs they produce are usually less than impressive.
One of the first apps I downloaded for my iPhone was Seismometer. It's a nice introduction to how real seismometers record seismic activity. Last month, my students began a unit on earthquakes. I turned on my iPhone, launched Seismometer, and placed my iPhone under the document camera for everyone to see. Just as you might imagine, the digital graph paper began scrolling across the screen as a needle drew one continuous line. I then invited a student to approach the table where the iPhone was set, and asked him to shake the table. Immediately, the needle spiked.
The students were impressed with how sensitive the iPhone was to even the slightest shaking. I barely jarred the table and the needle jumped. I then shook the table violently for five or six seconds, and students immediately noticed the difference. This little app was just the right thing I needed to build interest in my unit on earthquakes, and open some good conversations about how scientists study them. 
The developer has built in some nice features since the 1.0 release, such as toggling the high-pass filters on or off; adjusting the sampling frequency: 20 Hz, 40 Hz, 60 Hz, or 200 Hz; choosing between logarithmic or linear scales; and the choice to measure either z axis, y & z, or all.
One might expect a scientific app like this to allow users to scroll back and see results. Unfortunately, in its current form, you can't do this because it does not save recordings. In addition, the iPhone's small screen makes it possible to only see about five seconds of activity at a time. Also, you can't label, time-stamp, or analyze data in any quantifiable way. It would be nice, in future releases, to build in some kind of data collection and analysis functionality. 
Despite the lack of more advanced scientific features, the novelty itself is worth a buck. Students will appreciate seeing a real seismometer and enjoy making the needle dance around. As a side note, my students recently visited the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, California, where there is a similar device hanging on the wall in their earthquake area - only it's a 40" LCD flat panel TV.  Students are encouraged to jump up and down and see how hard they can cause the needle to spike. This app works exactly the same way, but for a fraction of the cost.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Moving to Squarespace

I'm moving my blog to Squarespace. For all my subscribers, I'm working hard so you shouldn't experience any hiccups in your subscription. I was happy with blogger, but I needed more flexibility to add multiple pages, a discussion board, and overall expandability. Those who have subscribed on your Kindle, I'll be curious to know if the migration is smooth for you.

Let's continue the conversation at Squarespace!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Holidays!

This year, with the help of some great on-screen talent (my principal, Beth Feaster), I produced this fun holiday e-card for our school to send around the district. Enjoy!

Happy Holidays from Coronita, 2009 from Buzz Garwood on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Great Interactive Math Tools: Just a Click Away

Looking for a great math site with tons of engaging activities? You owe it to your students to visit Johnnie's Math Page. Many websites offer math activities for children, but most lack math content. The links Johnnie has chosen are interesting and engaging. The layout makes it easy to find fun and interactive math games, and even a little homework help. Johnnie has conveniently organized math activities from across the web by topic. For parents and teachers, there are worksheets, as well as links to other math teaching resources.

I first became aware of the site while teaching intersession about six months ago, and sharing my SMART interactive whiteboard with a first grade teacher. Being a sixth grade teacher myself, I wondered whether or not the games would seem too juvenile for my more "sophisticated" students. I was pleasantly surprised to find many math activities perfectly suitable and extremely fun for even my most discerning brainiac. Now, my SMART board serves up great math activities to enrich my high-performing students, and remediate my struggling learners.

It's one thing to play a math game on a computer - it's just you and a mouse. But toss in the big screen of an interactive whiteboard, the audience watching, and the fact that you're standing there in front of it - it takes math gaming to a whole new level, both for the player, and the rest of the class watching. Choose from games ranging from numbers, geometry, fractions, multiplications, measurement, statistics, and probability.

Originally created in 2005, Johnnie Wilson created the site to support his math coaching work for teachers in Pajaro Valley Unified School District in California. He is presently working as a Math Curriculum Coordinator at an international school in Europe. Contact Johnnie ( if you have any suggestions for new sites, as he is always trying to make it more user friendly and comprehensive.

Thanks, Johnnie, for bringing the best of the online math games together in one, well organized website. Great fun! Keep it up!