Pivot Interactives

Pivot Interactives Blog

Science teaching ideas, videos, and education research, from the team at Pivot Interactives.

Back to School Update, Fall 2019

Our team at Pivot Interactives has been hard at work building interactive learning tools to help teachers and students. Here’s a summary of new and useful things ready for teachers to use for Fall 2019.

New Features: Auto-Graded Multiple Choice Questions

You can now create questions that give you and your students instant feedback. When using auto-graded multiple choice (MC) questions, instructors can specify the number of attempts, the points value, and write text that students see for each answer choice they select. One way to use this is to help students learn to make measurements for a particular activity. For example, in Introduction to Studying Motion: The Ping-Pong Ball Bazooka, auto-graded MC questions provide interactive feedback as students learn to use the tools in Pivot Interactives. Both instructors and students can see results as students progress through the activity.

Many activities in the Pivot Interactives library have been updated to include auto-graded multiple choice questions. But you can also add your own questions to any activity in your library. Here are instructions for that..

Besides automatic grading, we added a grade-by-question function to make giving student feedback easier. Instructors select up to five questions in an activity, and scroll through and score all the students’ responses. Using the tab key to move down the page, instructors can provide feedback for an entire class in just a few minutes. Read more about how to use these grading tools here.

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New Features: Video Upload for Video Analysis

Students can quickly calibrate the rulers and grids in Pivot Interactives to match the scale of their uploaded video.

Students can quickly calibrate the rulers and grids in Pivot Interactives to match the scale of their uploaded video.

Instructors can create activities where students upload and analyze their own video. Because Pivot Interactives is a cloud-based app, the students’ videos are not tied to one device. Students can log in to Pivot Interactives with a cellphone to record and upload the video, then log in with any laptop (including Chromebook) to continue their analysis. Teachers can log in to see students’ videos and analysis any time. No software needs to be downloaded, videos can’t get ‘lost’, and the process works on any web-connected device.

While there are other video-analysis apps available, only Pivot interactives lets teachers combine the video analysis tools, data tables and graphing, and interactive instructions in one place, so that both the student and the teacher can see the entire process at once. Designed using teacher feedback, this is another example of how Pivot Interactives works with teachers to improve our products.

Instructors can upload videos as well. Instructions for creating student-upload activities are here and instructions for using teacher uploaded videos are here. Here’s a short video showing the entire video-upload process from the student’s perspective:

New Features: Improved Search and Filtering Tools

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We’ve made it much easier to find the activities you need. New text search and category filtering let you find the right content for your classes. You can filter by AP Subject, NGSS Standard, by topic, or many other choices.

New Physics Activities

Three Ball Race. The video shows three billiard balls on horizontal tracks. Each ball starts at a different time and moves with a different velocity. Students view and analyze a short version of the video and use motion graphs to predict which ball wins the race. After they make their prediction, a second video allows them to see if their prediction was accurate. Seven different trials mean that students don’t all have the same data and outcomes. This activity makes it easy to turn kinematics into an engaging game.

RL and RC Circuits Students plot and linearize graphs of current and voltage in these circuits. As is true with all of our favorite Pivot Interactives activities, students can explore the simplified model, and also see how real components differ from ideal, sometimes in surprising ways. This concept appears frequently on AP exams and inductor circuits in particular are not easy to demonstrate. These activities allow teachers to quickly and easily provide students a chance to collect and analyze real data. More? Well, the inductor is cooled in a bath of liquid nitrogen to reduce the DC resistance. Cool enough for you!? Activities: RL Circuits and RC Circuits

Photoelectric Effect The physics graduate who worked on this activity said “I never really understood the photoelectric effect until I made this activity.” Your students can see how light intensity and wavelength affect the current generated by the photoelectric emission. Students can also make the classic graph that lets them determine Planck’s constant and the work function for the phototube cathode. Using lasers as light sources leads to results more accurate than would be possible with LEDs. Photoelectric Effect Activity.

Measuring Torque Students start from basics and build, learning to apply the equation for torque to a range of scenarios. In each case, students make predictions of the amount of torque and then compare their results with an expensive digital torque wrench. We made two versions of this activity, a scaffolded one that guides the students through the process of calculating torque, and a second, less-scaffolded version that lets students apply what they know about torque to some interesting applications.

Drone in a Box (aka Canaries in a truck) Re-enact the famous story of a truck driver hauling a load of canaries over a mountain pass. Is the truck lighter when the canaries are flying? Would you believe that the truck is heavier and more massive? We were surprised ourselves at some of the outcomes of this scenario where we use a drone in a box on a scale. This is another example of the advantage of interactive video compared to simulation. Real life is more fascinating than simulations. See all our drone-related activities .

New Chemistry Activities

We continue to be surprised how interactive video benefits chemistry learning. Student can make precise observations of so many scenarios that are out to reach of classroom experience. Yes, do labs — and then use Pivot Interactives for the places you didn’t.

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Intermolecular Forces In this activity, students can observe for themselves the differences in intermolecular forces by measuring surface tension. Students compare long vs short alkanes, polar liquids, and liquids that exhibit hydrogen bonding. This 30-minute activity gives students an interactive overview of how IMFs affect physical properties.


Volume of Water vs Temperature. Water has strange properties. It expands when you warm it, unless it is near the freezing point, in which case is contracts. In this activity, students explore the unique properties of how the volume of water changes with temperature. They measure the volume expansion per degree and use it to calculate the increase in sea level that would be caused by a 1 degree increase in ocean temperature. Students also measure how the volume of water decreases when the temperature increases from 0°C to 4°C. There are two versions of this activity, one where students make graphs to see the volume vs temperature relationship, and one where student make individual measurements. The latter is a shorter and simpler activity.


Equilibrium and Le Chatelier’s Principle We’ve made three activities to help students understand these sometimes tricky concepts. The first activity introduces students to the idea of reversible reactions, and allows them to make observations of how the reaction can be pushed either toward the reactant or product side. In the next activity, students make measurements to see how, no matter which direction the reaction moves, the ratio of concentrations of the reactants and products remains the same. Finally, students apply this concept to an example where they can make predictions about the changes in concentration using the ICE table method. Do you have trouble coming up with interactive activities for equilibrium and Le Chatelier’s principle? The Pivot Interactive solution is just a few clicks away.

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Avogadro’s Law Students can measure the mass of one liter of eight different gases. Graphing, they see a constant slope, leading to the conclusion that the number of moles per liter is constant for all gases. A second part of this activity let’s students predict whether a bubble of one gas will float in a tank of another gas. After making their prediction, they select that combination from a matrix of videos and see if their prediction is correct. There are two versions of this activity: one where students graph data to discover Avogadro’s Law, and one where students measure and compare densities of gases

Conservation of Mass During Chemical Reactions Students explore several different scenarios and compare the mass before and after chemical reactions. Students make observations to support the concept of conservation of mass before learning about chemical reactions. Also, if you’ve never seen steel wool burn in a pure oxygen environment, well, you should… Activities: Conservation of Mass During Chemical Reactions Related Activity: Apparent Changes in Mass Due to Changes in Volume

New Biology Activities

Yes, you read correctly. Interactive video for learning biology. Here’s a sneak preview of the first of the new series. Tell your biology teaching friends!

Introduction to Cellular Respiration Imagine if your students made observations of 10 different organisms respiring — fish, fungus, mouse, person — and measured a decrease in oxygen and increase in carbon-dioxide gas. Students gather evidence for cellular respiration before learning the details of the chemical reaction. This "idea of gathering evidence before learning the name is a powerful and engaging method for science teaching, and Pivot Interactives makes it easy. Activity: Introduction to Cellular Respiration

Respiration Rates This matrix of videos allows students to compare the respiration rates of four different organisms — germinating peas, crickets, a mouse, and a rat — at three different temperatures. There are many possible questions students can answer about the factors that affect the rate of respiration. Students can compare respiration rate per gram of body mass for endotherms, or measure the effect of increased temperature on respiration rate of endotherms compared to ectotherms. Activity: Rate of Respiration


Many more biology activities are on the way, including Mendelian genetics, carrying capacity, natural selection, and others. These will be released over the next few weeks, with more to follow.

We’ve been surprised how interactive video can aid in biology instruction. Being able to use time-lapse and microscope videography opens new doors, allowing students to explore phenomena that would not normally be available to them.

New Earth and Climate Science Content

Can interactive video be used to teach the mechanisms that underlie climate change? Yes, they can. Next Generation Science Standards place high priority on learning earth science. But learning these abstract topics interactively can be challenging for instructors. We’re building a collection of interactive-video based activities that help teachers and students learn these exciting and critically important concepts such as climate change.


Greenhouse Effect A series of three activities teach students the components of the greenhouse effect: albedo, infrared emission of warm surfaces, and the effect of greenhouse gases on infrared light. Students can then explore the interaction of all these components using time-lapse video of an atmospheric simulation chamber where students control the parameters, and then observe the outcome. Link to all Greenhouse Effect Activities.

Peter Bohacek