The SPARKvue App brilliantly visualizes the process of data collection by plotting information from tests of pH, temperature, acceleration, etc. into line, digital and analog graphs. This free app works for both the iPad and iPhone and allows users to both display and export data from individual experiments through email (as a CSV or ZIP file). Given the many types of sensor data that can be collected with this app, SPARKvue can be utilized in a wide variety of science classrooms for primary, secondary and post-secondary students.
As of March 2013 the application is free. A full version can be purchased for $9.99 (SPARKvue HD for iPad)
SPARKvue allows teachers and students to conduct advanced data collection and analysis within a clean graphical interface, thereby focusing the attention on methods and research rather than note-taking and basic calculations.
Target Student Population:
The target population is high school and college students enrolled in science classes, University faculty, K-12 faculty and pre-service science teachers.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
A strong grounding in both scientific principles and potential analog experiments that might be converted to digital experiments using this app. The ability to use the PASPORT sensor and a working knowledge of high school science concepts.
A basic understanding of how to download and launch iOS apps.
Type of Material:
The recommended uses are to use in amusement park physics and playground physics. The app can also be used in outdoor science labs for biology, environmental science and physical science which require mobility.
Because the standalone free version of the app only performs acceleration tests, you need to purchase a PASCO sensor to conduct any of the other data tests. As such, this app would be ideal for a science classroom with access to the sensors as a supplement to lectures or for demonstrations. With the many tools on the market to send the iPhone or iPad display to a projector, educators can easily share the results of experiments as the primary visuals of their presentations.
The Apple website states that the app is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. It requires iOS 4.3 or later and is optimized for iPhone 5.
Additionally, in order to input data to the app for anything other than an acceleration test, you need to purchase an external PASCO sensor.
Evaluation and Observation
At first click, the user path is clean and directs you to the heart of the content, to create experiments with little distraction. The presentation of the data is engaging and colorful, giving new life to topics that may seem boring to some students. The collection of tutorials on the PASCO website, the many free video podcasts on the PASCO iTunes store and the suggestions by PASCO on which sensors are best for which disciplines/grade levels are all essential tools in making this app a success. PASCO truly succeeds in bringing new technology into the science classroom in a clever and seamless way.
No help files or explanations are available in the free version from within the app other than an intro help screen that you can't get back to after you close it. Rather, users must go to the PASCO website for additional help. Assignment suggestions for each sensor are available on the PASCO website, but it would be nice if they were embedded into the app as well. Because additional material, assignments and assistance must be acquired outside of the app, SPARKvue proves difficult as a standalone module.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
Educators familiar with PASCO sensors will need little guidance on how to integrate this app into the classroom. SPARKvue takes data collection to an exciting new place, and better yet, manages to do so for a wide variety of disciplines and grade levels. This app has the potential to revolutionize the way that science is taught for the 21st century learner.
There are several expensive pieces of equipment needed to make the app work properly. It can cost prohibitive to use in a highschool classroom.
This app is in no way plug-and-play. Instructors must either find external assignments or create them, and in doing so, set the learning objectives and core content by themselves. In terms of prerequisite knowledge required to use the app itself, you have to visit external websites to confirm the best ways to use the app in the classroom to conduct specific experiments.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
With a streamlined interface and the ability to switch between multiple data views, SPARKvue takes simple data and visualizes it in a way that will engage students and teachers alike.
Due to the simplistic nature of the interface, there are no real explanations of what to do once you start an experiment. Additionally, the buttons on the bottom of the screen sit right above an ad, making it very easy to accidentally click and launch the iTunes store.
Other Issues and Comments:
Many of the fancier tools for data calculations, multi-language support, interactive lab activities, student lab journals and data displays are only available in the pay version of the app, SPARKvue HD. There is also a similar version of this app for Android users if you do not have access to an iOS device.