Here at the University of Reading, the good folks of the Association for Science Education have been holding their annual conference, and RU staff members like myself are invited to participate.

The event manifests itself by an exhibition marquee taking up the larger part of our central lawn, and various traders and institutions are plying their wares.  One which caught my eye was
a Mobile Science Lab – Data logging & computing in a single product
with 65 varieties of probes: humidity, temperature, oxygen for starters.  The brochure describes it as a

  • Student computer with built-in data logger, removing logger/PC communication problems (I like that aspect!!)

I remember the older generation saying things like “when I was a student, we wound our own coils and blew our own glassware”.  Not being adept at workshop practice, I found that rather daunting, but until recently there was always “a man” to do that sort of thing, though these days the funding bodies seem to regard skilled technicians as unnecessary.  But with wonderful gadgets like this, are we going too far in the opposite direction?

One further thought.  This might horrify the stereotypical physics professor who expects his students to think in the applied-mathematical way, but if science education is for all, won't the nearest that most of your secondary / high-school students will get to science in their job be using one sort of -ometer or other?