Using data logging technology with special needs students

Many departments have small numbers of data loggers, stuck at the back of cupboards with flat batteries, neglected because no-one really knows what to do with them.  Perhaps they don’t get used because you haven’t got a class set or because the teacher lacks the confidence to use them in front of a group of tech-savvy students.

My advice – if you have PGCE students get them on the case.  PGCE students have to show capability in ICT skills and what better way to learn than by mastering data logging equipment and rolling out activities to the rest of the department.

Data loggers are excellent tools for SEN students – hopefully the ideas below will encourage you to dig yours out and get them up and running again!

Using data loggers as a digital measuring device

At the simplest level just using a data logger as a digital thermometer works.  It is easy to read and using like this is a good way to introduce the technology to students.

Logit explorer

Using data loggers on the IWB to show live data

Most data logging equipment can be connected to a PC and used to show live data from an experiment on the IWB.  You could even get students to take regular readings from this live data, building up skills like timing and recording results, whilst keeping the activity simple.  This is especially useful where there could be health & safety implications from the experiment.

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The image shows the data captured from an experiment investigating the insulating properties of dog fur!  This graph was displayed at the end of the experiment, with live data being displayed on the screen as the experiment was underway.

Data loggers also allow many students with poor numeracy skills to visualise the results and answer questions like ‘did the temperature go up or down?’ which they might not have been able to do from a table of numbers.

Using data loggers to capture data and create a graph of results.

For students who lack the necessary coordination or organisational skills to collect results over a period of time, why not give them a data logger and get the hardware to do the work for them.  Students are released from the requirement to collect readings at fixed intervals, they don’t have to struggle to read the thermometer and the data is even graphed at the end by the data logging software.  More advanced students can even export their data into Excel.

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This graph shows the temperatures collected during the dog hair insulation experiment (unfortunately I didn’t start the data logging collecting data until we had finished using the live display on the IWB).   Again this allows students with poor numeracy to visualise the results, and to make comparisons between the different data sets collected (e.g. which temperature dropped the fastest? the most? the slowest?)

Do you use data logging hardware/software with SEN students.  Leave me a comment and share your ideas with others.

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Published by Rob Butler

Ex-science teacher, ex-school leader and full-time geek.