Fertitta defends MS thesis on smartphone apps for science education
On July 20, John Fertitta successfully defended his Master's thesis, entitled “Design and Evaluation of Dedicated Smartphone Applications for Collaborative Science Education.”
Fertitta’s work involved the development of a set of custom apps that were used in a high school physics classroom. Fertitta worked closely with a local high school teacher to conceive of the apps, and then implemented them and supported the teacher in using them in this classroom.
Fertitta's project extended the Engaging Computing Group's Internet System for Networked Science Experimentation (iSENSE), which Fertitta also helped develop. In his thesis work, Fertitta's apps allowed students to gather acceleration data on Android smartphones. These data were then uploaded to iSENSE, and then students collaboratively made sense of the data by overlaying views of their various data sets.
In one of the projects, students went on rides at the Canobie Lake amusement park, and used Fertitta's app to collect acceleration data. Then, back in the classroom, the students completed worksheets where they predicted what their graphs would look like. Finally, students viewed the actual data, and had to figure out which graph matched which ride.
In analyzing student work and in a post-interview with the teacher, Fertitta argued that in this case “smartphones were ‘far superior’ to other technologies” for data collection, and that the use of the iSENSE system, which easily allowed students to overlay each other’s data, “facilitated more in-depth discussion” than other tools.
Fertitta's thesis was advised by Profs. Fred Martin (Computer Science) and Michelle Scribner-MacLean (Graduate School of Education). Fertitta's work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (DRL-0546513 and DRL-0735597) and a gift from Google Inc. A copy of the thesis is online here.
Student prediction graph (left) and actual data from the iSENSE web system. Also, interact with the visualization live on the iSENSE site at this URL: http://isense.cs.uml.edu/visdir.php?id=121