Testing iPad Dataloggers

At Lambeth CLC we are always exploring how new technology can support learning across the curriculum. Recently we have been thinking about how iPads can be used to support science investigations and datalogging. The iPad comes with some fantastic science apps (like this heart rate monitor), however we always felt external sensors were required to turn an iPad into a really effective mobile laboratory.

We had tested some sensors, for example, this temperature probe. But we were really excited when we came across the Labdisc at BETT. The Labdisc, developed by Isreali company Globisens, contains several different sensors (Temperature, Light, GPS Tracker, HeartRate, sound and distance) all bundled into one device. This device can then connect to an iPad (or a laptop) via bluetooth. We were wowed by the demonstration, which showed how the GPS tracker could be used to map a flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul, showing the average speed at different locations.

We showed the Labdisc to colleagues at our Science Conference in February and we had mixed responses. Some teachers saw some potential, however many were put off by the elaborate bluetooth connect process.

We felt some more rigorous classroom based testing was required, and we found a willing guinea pig in John Anderson from Hitherfield Primary school. John had the datalogger for Term 4 and gave us the following feedback.

Thanks John.

Overall I found it easy to use but frustrating. Synching it with an iPad was harder than I expected but I think this was due to the Labdisc being low on charge, speaking of which it’s annoying to charge as it can’t be used whilst it’s charging. That said I was impressed with its battery life.

In terms of what it’s good, for the best feature is definitely the GPS tracker. This really impressed me especially its accuracy tracking journeys on foot. As part of our work on different wheeled vehicles I tried to teach a lesson comparing the average speed of my journey using a car, train and bus but unfortunately the iPad wasn’t able to consistently load and display a map using so many data readings (the maximum 10,000 I think). A word of caution therefore is it’s better to gather smaller sets of data as the app coped much better with these.

Frustratingly, the GPS feature does seem to be limited to displaying speed on a map. It would seem much more useful if you could combine location with another measurement. For example if on a walk around our local area the dots on the map became a darker red the noisier the location. This was what I originally wanted to use the Labdisc for. It seems like something it should be able to do but I wasn’t able to pull it off.

My biggest problem with it though was using the sonic ruler. I was teaching a lesson on area which revolved around the children measuring the length and width of our new studio. Originally I’d planned for the children to measure the distances before we checked them using a more accurate device. Unfortunately the ruler was only capable of measuring distances up to 6m which was less than the width of the studio so we went back to a good old fashioned trundle wheel. I’m not sure if this is due to a fault with the Labdisc I had or a wider design flaw. Either way it limited the devices use as I’d only want to use a measurement tool such as this to record longer distances.

Overall I think the biggest problem with the Labdisc is that it requires an Ipad to get the most out of it. Yet there doesn’t seem to be enough things that a Labdisc can do that an Ipad with the right apps can’t do. Indeed the Labdisc App works without a Labdisc for a couple of its features. This makes me question the value of buying Labdiscs over investing in apps specifically catered to your investigation needs.

Whilst this wasn’t something I’d look to use again in the future I did enjoy the opportunity to experiment with it, especially as it might me think in more detail about how I can use ICT in different contexts.

Leave a comment