Vernier Gives Science Classes a Technology Advantage
May 2, 2007 12:00 PM,
By Linda Seid Frembes
When David Vernier co-founded Vernier Software and Technology nearly 25 years ago, he sought to develop classroom technology that would aid science teachers in their quest to teach students the often-abstract concepts of subjects such as physics, chemistry, and biology. Vernier had been a high-school physics and physical sciences teacher for eight years when he began programming his first Precision Timer software application. Today, Vernier remains the CEO and is actively involved in all aspects of the company, which provides its software and products to educators in more than 120 countries.
“One of our greatest challenges is the balance between offering state-of-the-art technology and technology that is affordable for school budgets” says Daylene Long, director of marketing for the company. “We design our products to be durable, last a long time, and to keep pace with the education market.”
Vernier’s durable products include interfaces, sensors, software, and lab equipment such as wireless dynamics sensor systems, Vernier spectrometers, and stir stations. The company’s equipment and software are designed for science education topics such as biology, chemistry, earth science, engineering, math, physical science, physics, physiology, and water quality. All Vernier products are designed for educational use only. Per the company policy, “Equipment is not designed or recommended for research or any apparatus involved with any industrial or commercial process such as life support, patient diagnosis, control of a manufacturing process, or industrial testing of any kind.”
“Our company and products are best known at the high school level, with the middle school as one of the fastest growing segments,” Long says. “Overall, we are very good at matching the technology with the school’s curriculum.” Vernier Software and Technology has been very grassroots in its pace of growth. According to Long, they will often receive inquiries from a science teacher or science department chair that has spearheaded the effort in contacting them.
The growing popularity of Vernier software and products highlights the intersection of AV, IT, and peripheral technologies that are used in science education. “Science teachers have unique needs, not only apart from other teachers but even between a physics and a chemistry teacher, for example,” Long says. “In a physics class, demonstrations or experiments happen fast. The teacher can use a Vernier sensor to capture the data and visually graph abstract concepts like acceleration, force, or momentum.”
While a traditional physics experiment does benefit kinesthetic learners (those with a physical learning style), other students may not benefit from using their sense of touch for learning abstract concepts. For students who are visual learners, data can then be projected using the classroom’s AV system or interactive whiteboard for further discussion. “Graphs help the visual learners in class since the teacher can display data in the Logger Pro software and see the results,” Long adds. “This also addresses the technology learner who gets excited about the technology and can learn best while using it.”
Vernier’s Logger Pro 3 software also includes synchronized video capture. Used in conjunction with a webcam, the company’s ProScope, or DV camera, teachers can add a video synchronized with the data, or use the video to track the position of an object for graphing and analysis. The software’s $159 site license allows a school or a college department to install Logger Pro on every school computer, all instructor computers, and the students’ home computers.
In August, Vernier will introduce LabQuest, a handheld device that can be used as a standalone device or as a computer interface for use with classroom whiteboards. LabQuest will have a built-in temperature sensor and microphone for easy data collection in the field, as well as 40MB of built-in storage and a SD/MMC card slot for additional capacity. “For science education, technology will increasingly be important, even in the younger grades,” Long says. “This will continue to be driven by the techno-centric kids and the ease-of-use that technology creates for teachers.”