Using Video Analysis in the Science Classroom

Or how does the ant survive the fall?

Mobile learning is a concept as old as time. Taking a book for learning to the park for example is one way to take learning to the mobile level. The concept of mobility as “anywhere and anytime” isn’t new. But the use of mobile devices like tables and smartphones brings it to a whole new level. And as a science teacher, I think a lot about how to integrate digital media into the classroom. Let me show you an example of how implementation could work. I’ll use the freely falling coffee filter to demonstrate air friction.

How does an ant survive this fall?

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This is a fairly simple question. And a staggering one as well. How does the ant do it? Sooner or later, children come to mention air friction. And then it’s time to science the pants off of this phenomenon. Time for some experiments!

I’m a big fan of the analogy of a muffin tin or a coffee filter. True, it’s bigger than an ant and they don’t actually share the same shape. But they are wonderfully easy to come by and show the point of air friction just beautifully. And with video analysis, it’s rather easy to quantify the process and talk real data.

Demonstrating free fall with air resistance with a coffee filter

So I demonstrated the fall of the coffee filter and videotaped it. My go-to-app for video analysis would be Viana but I believe it’s only available in German and only for iPads. An alternative would be Video Physics for iOS or VidAnalysis free for Android. If you want to use a computer, I really like the Tracker Video Analysis and Modeling Tool. But keep in mind to familiarize yourself with these tools. I don’t provide manuals for these applications.

In the video, I provided a scale for accurate measurement. I also had to set the coordinate system to scale and set the measurements right. Because Viana can not only track objects and detect movements, it can also display the motion graphs, which I think is really cool. You can also export the data and then analyze it with a different application like Geogebra or Graphical Analysis.

Let’s take a look on how the Motion Detection looks like:

The red dots are the motion detection of the falling coffee filter.

I used the darker chair as a background, but really, everything works as long as the motion can be detected. And you can always choose to manually detect the falling object. After that’s done, the application let’s you even look at the graphs of the fall! And that is why setting a scale and the coordinate system is so important. Quantification only works as good as those measures are set.

The x-axis displays the time, on the y-axis you can see the vertical distance from where I let go of the filter.

I admit, the graph doesn’t look as stunning as you might have expected. But there is much to see here. Especially how the paper filter starts with a motion that looks somewhat like a downwardly opened parabola and then turns into a straight-line movement. This data can be further analyzed! And all you need is your phone or tablet and a second person to drop a coffee filter.

Varying with different objects with different surfaces and different weight might be a good idea to model the situation with the ant falling of a building. It’s a great way to occupy children for a while and enduldge them in some serious science and technology learning. Tell me if you have ever tried video analysis in your Science classroom!

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