Posts Tagged ‘Solar System’

I recently was asked about the phases of the Moon and why the Moon appears to change in shape in its orbit around the earth. So I thought a good point to start from was to establish what misconceptions people have on this topic and I found this great video by Veritasium (but I would stop it at the end of the interview without revealing the explanation initially).

The most common misconception in the video seems to be that the earth blocks the sunlight reaching the Moon, hence, we see the phases of the Moon when it is behind the earth with respect to the sun. At this point I would slide two circles of card, a white and a black one (with the black one bigger than the white one) past each other (black on top). If the black card is the shadow cast on the Moon by the earth (essentially what happens in a lunar eclipse), the shapes of the Moon due to the light reflected back to earth are considerably different than the shapes we observe from the phases of the Moon. So, we have establish that this model is a misconception.

Now we can introduce a better model and I use the pingpong ball in the image below with the students in the centre of the room. They are the observers on the earth and the light from the sun is coming from the left hand side in the photo.

If you go around the learner in the middle of the class making sure the “lit” face of the pingpong moon is always facing the wall on the left in this case, your students will see the same shapes we observe during the phases of the moon.

To reinforce this demonstration you could show the students this great animation by Keith Gibbs (also available in HTML5 if using an iPad).

Ok, now for the icing on the cake that you’ve all been waiting for! Check out the video below that shows a cresent moon through an infrared camera. You can see the crescent really bright, but you also see the other parts of the side of the moon facing the earth. I believe that is what is emitted by the moon in the infrared spectrum and that gets picked up by the IR camera. It is really awesome.

It’s been a while since my last post on Android apps for the classroom and I thought the upcoming BETT show 2012 would be a good excuse to write something about a few really interesting apps I have used to create resources about the Solar System. Another reason for blogging about this is to inform you about a series of workshops I will run on the ASUS stand at the BETT Show on the use of Android devices in Education. So, if you are going at BETT and if you are interested in how Android apps can be used in the classroom, join me any day from Tuesday 10th to Friday 13th January 2012. You can download the resources to run some of the activities described in this Blog post from this TES weblink. We will demonstrate other TES resources that can be used with Android devices at ASUS workshops and I will represent TES as the TES Science Lead starting this January, but this gives a good idea of some of the activities we will consider!

The resources in the link above were created with the ASUS Eee Pad tablet in mind, but they would work very well with other Android devices.

Google Sky Map

This app is just great! It lets you point your Android device at the sky in front of you and it shows a map of the stars and planets for that particular place and time of the year. But the most impressive feature it the Time Travel function, which lets you set a particular date and time in the past, or future, to see what the sky would look like. So, for example, you could ask your learners to describe what stars and planets Prince William and Kate would have seen on the night of their wedding. You can also search for a particular object in the sky, so if you want to find the position of Mars, you can can type Mars in the search and an arrow pointing at the planet will appear and you can then follow the arrow with your device until you find the object you searched for!

My Solar System

I have already blogged about this app, but I have added it to this resource because it gives good opportunities to develop Numeracy Skills in your learners by comparing magnitudes, orbital period, etc…

Solar Sizer

This app is even simpler than the previous one, but it is a great way to visualise the size of the planets to scale.

Have a look at the resource I uploaded on the TES website and leave a comment with your thoughts about it, please.

I hope to see many of you at the ASUS stand during the BETT Show.


This is my fourth post on the ASUS Transformer, but I will mainly focus on free Android Apps that can be used on any Android Tablet, or smartphone. The apps I will look at are all to do with Education (especially Physics), or at least ways to apply them to a classroom situation.

The first one is a nice mind mapping app called Thinking Space. There is a Pro version that costs £2.95, but I can’t really see why anybody wouldn’t be happy with just the free version which I found really intuitive and easy to use. I used it today for the first time at a conference to take notes and it was very simple to add branches, change colours, etc. It doesn’t give you the feel of a hand drawn mind map as branches are very linear and you cannot add graphics to branches, but it is a useful tool to create quick fire mind maps to revisit later. Thanks to this app I also discovered how increadibly accurate the touch keyboard on the Transformer is. In fact, I could write almost as quickly as with the docking keyboard, but with just the tablet to hold it was much easier to hold take photos of the speakers and presentations, like this one.

Another nice app is My Solar System for Free. This app is quite simple, but useful to show some interesting features of the Solar System. You can tilt the plane of the Solar System to see the planets orbiting around the Sun from different angles and, although the sizes and distances of the planets are not to scale you can make estimates on the relative orbital period of different planets with respect to each other. This could be an interesting way to develop Numeracy in young learners, e.g. “How many Mars’ years does it take Jupiter to go around the sun?”, etc… There is also a nice info “button” that brings up general information about the planes, and if you need more information you have a direct link to Google web and image searches. Ah, by the way, Pluto does not appear in this app, so you no longer have to explain to them that that tiny planet on the last orbit is no longer classed as a planet.

Angular Velocity is a nice Physics game that can be used to develop understanding of various concepts, like resonance, forces, etc. You can “tilt gravity” by tilting your Transformer and that can be a bit confusing for the learners, but you could use this new way of interacting with video games (i.e. using the accelerometer) to simulate real situations, like, for example, the effects of an earthquake, or a toy hanging off the rearview mirror inside a car as it breaks, or accelerates, etc…

Atomic Bomber is quite an addictive game that allows you to control a bomber with movements of your finger while various elements are moving on the ground underneath you. The aim is to destroy these tanks, vans, buildings, etc by dropping bombs. It is a fun way to learn about independence of vertical and horizontal components of velocity. It is also a nice way to show the importance of relative motion when an object below you is moving towards, or away from your moving plane.

Clever Contraptions is another fun Physics problem solving game that gives a good feel for motion and gravity.

These are just five interesting apps that could be used in the classroom and I have only downloaded the free versions because I believe they are perfectly adequate to illustrate some important points about Physics in a different way that could add to the engagement and understanding of some learners. There are thousands more apps in the Android Market that I am sure are very good and I would be very interested in hearing what your experience of them has been so far. What are your favourite apps for Education?