Ed Tech Spotlight- Christine Sapio

Posted by Renda Fisk on 4/10/2019

Christine Sapio  As part of Flagstaff Unified School District’s continued pursuit of providing effective learning environments, the Instructional Technology Team will be featuring educators who are using technology to enhance student learning. Our next feature is a conversation with Christine Sapio, a Science/CIT Teacher & the CocoNuts FIRST Team 2486 Coach at Coconino High School. She has been recognized as a leader in the district for her efforts to bring future ready learning opportunities to students.


What drives you to integrate technology into your teaching?

The technology I use in my physics classes allows the students to bring the concepts we're exploring to life. We collect a lot of our own data using sensors and then analyze it by graphing it with the computer. By doing this, we can develop our fundamental physics equations from real experiences and not just a textbook. I believe that the more a student is involved in their own learning, especially when they have a chance to explore and be curious, the more they have ownership they have of what they're learning. 
Can you tell about a favorite lesson/project that was enhanced and/or made possible by technology?
I have several favorites: In AP Physics, we build crash test cars to rescue an egg being crashed into a wall. We attach 3-axis accelerometers to the cars, which measure the acceleration of the impact in 3 dimensions and film the crash. The students then take a look at their data and determine how many g's their "passenger" is experiencing during the impact. It's amazing to see that even if the egg survives, the g forces are many times so high that there would have been a serious injury. 
AP Physics takes similar data on our annual trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain at the end of the school year. The same technology that allows your smartphone to flip its screen to reorient "up" so you can read it allows them to take 3-axis accelerometer data during a roller coaster ride. My students take data on their phones and then bring it back for analysis, as well as analyzing the video they take of the roller coasters. They can then determine the acceleration, g-forces, velocity, energy, and momentum at any given point on the roller coaster. They then create videos explaining the awesomeness and physics of their chosen coaster to present to the class. 

Another cool AP Physics project is creating their own musical instruments. They have the option of making a string, wind, or percussion instrument. The goal is to make an instrument that can play at least 6 distinctive notes or a recognizable song for extra credit! Students do the calculations, create their instrument, then perform them in class. Finally, they use the Vernier microphones to test each pitch. Using the computer, they can determine each pitch and how close it is to the actual note they were aiming for. 

How does technology enhance student learning?
My classes use a lot of sensors for data collection. Instruments like photogates, motion detectors and force probes make it possible for students to take much more precise data than lower tech counterparts (such as a stopwatch or spring scale) would allow. Sensors like charge sensors and magnetic field sensors allow students to model phenomena that would otherwise be invisible to them. 
How does technology change the way in which students demonstrate understanding?
I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year training my students to interpret data. Once we have a solid understanding of how to build a mathematical model, we use data collection to build real physics equations that you would find in a physics textbook. The difference is that it comes from their data, their conversations with each other and with me. I find that once we have good data, all I have to do is ask the right questions and they're able to describe in great detail the fundamental physics concepts and equations based on their own experience. 



List your top three tech tools you recommend other teachers to try (could be an app, device etc…): 

1. Vernier Graphical Analysis - free app for computers and iPads, used for graphing data

2. Vernier Logger Pro - data collection software + video analysis (allows you to video something in motion and plot it's position and velocity right on the video)

3. University of Colorado's "PHET" simulations and Physicsclassroom.com have awesome simulations and concept builders for physics, chemistry, bio that are fun and engaging



What advice would you give other teachers about integrating technology in their classroom?

Pick one lesson that you want to try using more technology and spend the time to really develop it. Think about how the technology can be used to bring a concept to life and add meaning to learning. Don't forget to try software or device you want students to use before you assign it to students...technology can be infamous for misbehaving at inopportune times!