Pokémon Goes to Science Class

Hidden in the details of each Pokémon is a lesson starter on the metric system, estimation, volume, and density.

Watch the video below to learn more:

Download the worksheet and slides to get started.


Here are some new things people sent me after the post that can help us teach with

If 550 Pokecoins cost $4.99, how much real money does incense cost?
If 550 Pokecoins cost $4.99, how much real money does incense cost?

Other Links: 


The Internet built my daughter an app

In May, my nine-year-old daughter suffered a stroke. The stroke weakened the left side of her body severely. However, with therapy she has managed to improve each week. Because of the stroke, she has a lot of tone in her arm. This causes her arm to pull up close to her body instead of naturally resting down and at her side. She has to make a conscience effort to put her arm down and we are frequently reminding her.

One day I got an idea. Could we use sensors to measure when her arm is up and use a vibration to remind her to put her arm down? After a little digging online, I quickly learned that the Pebble smartwatch has an accelerometer that could be used to detect orientation.

As a physics teacher, I understand accelerometers and I have a little bit of programing experience but I had zero experience with the Pebble watch. So I reached out to the community of Pebble enthusiasts and developers in the Pebble Forums. I explained my situation and asked if my idea was even possible.

What happened next was truly remarkable. Within a day, I had a response explaining that my idea was possible. By the next day, another user made me a working prototype app. I learned how to install the app on a Pebble watch that my good friend loaned me. I made adjustments to the code using an online development tool called CloudPebble.

Watch app triggers a vibration in this position
Watch app triggers a vibration in this position

Another user offered to merge the app into a watch face “so the watch doesn’t have to look like it’s only there for the stroke.” From here, things really took off. With my feedback, we added several other features such as a learning mode so the app could be used by others in similar situations.

Info screen gives us feedback
Info screen gives us feedback

This experience has shown my daughter the true power of the Internet. She saw that it is so much more than a place to consume media. The Internet allows total strangers from all over the world to work together. She learned that people will volunteer their time and skill to create new things and help others.

It is the best lesson about the Internet I could ever hope for her to learn.

No child left without coding skills

In this article, Andy Young writes:

Programming is the act of giving computers instructions to perform. This is true whether the output is your word processor, central heating or aircraft control system. If you can’t code, you are forced to rely on those that can to ensure that you can benefit from the greatest tool at your disposal.

I can’t agree more. Every kids should learn to code. Even if it’s just a little bit. Programming skills are empowering and they teach kids the importance of building models.

The easiest way to get started is to teach your students how to build a simple web  page using HTML. It’s not really programming but it will get kids thinking about code.

Learn HTML


To dive into programming, check out these tools to get kids started. My personal favorite is Scratch. It is free, easy to use, and designed so even  young kids can understand programming without actually having to write out complex code. Below is an overview.

Resembling Scratch, App Inventor is another easy to use programming tool for building apps on Android devices.

App Inventor

App Inventor was announced by Google but has recently been handed to MIT to manage. Watch for the “MIT App Inventor” this spring.

Finally, maybe for the more experience coders, give VPython a look. It allows students to create 3D interactive models. Compared to Scratch, it looks a little intimidating. However, there are many sample programs and tutorials available to help you get started.

Three apps to help your iPad dress up like a PC

Don’t get me wrong, the iPad is great. However, some of us have lots of our work living in the Windows environment. To help us out, many apps have been created for the Apple tablet to help us out.

I'm a PC
I'm a PC

Below are three free apps that try to bring a few more windows to the iPad.

  • PocketCloud – Pocket Cloud lets you access your work or home Windows PC via Remote Desktop. There are several other apps in the Apps Store that offer this functionality but for a fee. When you need to get to your computer using only an iPad, PocketCloud does the job nicely in a touch environment
  • CloudOn – CloudOn is an interesting new app that allows you access to the files in your DropBox account so you can edit them in a virtual version of Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. The service was simple to set up but I did find editing documents to have a bit of lag.
  • OnLive Desktop – The OnLive Desktop app takes virtual computing a step farther for iPad users by giving you an entire Windows desktop (Start menu and all) to play with. OnLive Desktop gave me the smoothest transition back to the Windows world. Creating an account (and waiting for it to activate) took longer than I expected but it came with 2GB of free storage for all my Windows files. Editing documents in MS Office was much smoother than CloudOn and I found this app to be a great way to show off PowerPoint presentations.

I should be clear about one thing. None of the apps above will replace your Windows PC. You won’t have an iPad that runs Windows too. The apps above are close but some things are are just not the same in a touch environment. If you’re an iPad user who also runs Windows, all three apps above are worth taking a look at but don’t throw out your PC just yet.

When using QR codes, make sure your punch line is worth it

What is this?QR codes have been turning up everywhere from the billboard at the bus stop to the back of the ketchup bottle at your favorite restaurant. These blocky little squares are beefed up barcodes that anyone with a smartphone can scan.

We’re starting to see them pop up in classrooms too. We now have QR code scavenger hunts, periodic tables, and worksheets.

QR codes are great for passing long URLs to your students’ devices. I think they work best when you want to conceal information for a period of time while the students try to solve a problem you have given them. For example, let students scan the QR code for a hint on a difficult problem or create a guess and check bulletin board to review a recent lesson.

Scan and find your science teacher
Scan and find your science teacher

However, are they always worth the time? QR codes are not as quick as they’re name (quick response) makes them sound. They are not worth the time for short messages that your students could probably type in faster than scanning. They are especially slow if your students do not already have the app required to read the codes installed on their device. You risk losing your lesson tinkering with technology for technology sake.

McKee Floyd, director of brand development for Sweetgreen, said it best when he spoke with NPR:

The issue I have with QR codes is that marketing is a little bit like telling a joke, and the longer the joke, the better the punch line has to be — and [using] QR code is a really long joke

I think the same is true in the classroom. If you’re going to use QR codes with students, make sure your punch line is worth it.