TL;DR (Too Long, Didn't Read Summary)
Science Journal by Google is an Android and iOS app that allows users to collect scientific observations using the camera and sensors in their Android and iOS devices.
Essentially, Science Journal can transform our mobile phones from tools that distract us from our natural surroundings into tools that help us measure and critically explore our environment. Yeah, Science!
The types of observations available in the journal will depend on the capabilities of individual phones, but may include tools to measure:
- acceleration (accelerometer/gyroscope)
- air pressure (barometer)
- luminance/brightness (ambient light sensor)
- compass orientation/magnetism (magnetometer)
- sound – pitch and volume (microphone).
You can download the app using the links below.
I’m been playing around with Google Science Journal for about a week now, and there is a lot to love about the app, but one big thing to not love about it. As I grew up in a home in which my father could often be found signing, whistling or humming “Accentuate the Positive,” let’s begin with the things to love about Science Journal by Google.
First of all, Science Journal by Google is a 100% free app. There is no free-trail, there is no subscription and there are no features hidden behind a paywall. This is important to note because it is getting harder and harder to find these kinds of apps in the education space. If I had a dollar for every time that I encountered a cool new educational app only to discover that there was a fee to unlock the full features of the app, I would have enough money to purchase them all. But, I digress.
The array of sensors that Science Journal by Google makes available for easy use in the classroom is also very admirable. Students, by simply carrying their phones with Science Journal by Google downloaded on it, enter class prepared to conduct a wide variety of Science experiments and learn more about the world around them.
During my week of experimenting with Google Science Journal, I was able to explore the acceleration of a pendulum, the reflective qualities of different colors of paper, conduct a lighting audit of our high school, and compare the level of noise in our middle school and high school hallways.
With all of the sensors built into our phones and Google Science Journals ability to collect data, the possibilities are endless. That much choice can be paralyzing, so it’s nice that Google curates a sortable set of experiments and tips to get started on the Science Journal Experiments page. Additionally, a simple Google search presents interested individuals with some other ways that Science Journal is being leveraged in class.
Furthermore, the app itself is very intuitive and easy to navigate. The icons are clear and more information about each sensor is readily available within the app. Capturing your data is as easy as recording a video or taking a picture with your cell phone, a skill that most of us have readily developed in the age of the selfie.
Finally, the data captured in Science Journal by Google can be easily shared with other users of Science Journal by Google, and this is a great thing. However, this leads us to the negative…
Useless. CAN’T PRINT OR EXPORT.
This app was, at first, seemingly great…it recorded data, created useful graphs, took photos, had notes/descriptions and was generally very useful during my son’s science fair experiment. Until we went to create his poster. We realized that all that information …all the previous weeks of work was completely inaccessible.
We needed a tri-fold poster visual for the fair (as all elementary fairs require) and couldn’t print anything from the app. All his work was stuck on the app on my phone. Nothing could be exported. The “Share” function did not work on any photos or notes and broke down graphs into long lists of numbers he couldn’t use. After a very frustrating evening trying, without success, to get all his work somewhere, anywhere else we could print his graphs and photos, we ended up taking screenshots of everything. Which then required creative cropping to work on his poster.
This “convenient” app became completely useless. I would say, even a giant waste of time. It makes no sense at all to not be able to use the data gathered in a real-world application (i.e. a science fair display). This Google App does not even allow you to share or save your Experiments to your Google Drive account.
This app had the right idea but missed a vital step – being able to share with others what you discover.
While the above review is not 100% accurate, sharing experiments conducted with Science Journal is more difficult than it should be. It is very easy to share Science Journal experiments with other Science Journal users, and it is very easy to open up data in Google’s Sheets spreadsheet application. However, there is no easy way to share an entire experiment containing images, charts and data to Google Drive for the web.
Furthermore, data shared into a Google Sheet can be shared in a way that is difficult for the average teacher, not to mention the average student, to interpret. Until Google updates Science Journal to ease the sharing process, it is unlikely to receive wide adoption.
Nevertheless, this is an exciting tool and one that should find a home in your Science classroom.