Monitoring/Data Logging

Data logging is one of those areas that regularly causes some discomfort for primary schools. Possibly because it sounds difficult (it isn’t) and because it needs hardware which can be expensive.

I’ve used Log-It Explorer and the Log-It data loggers for years now and it’s proved to be a very good combination of simple software and robust hardware.

At various in-class support sessions and staff CPD events, we quickly become famliar with how it all works and can move swiftly onto the important stuff, such as: getting reliable readings from your experiment (can anyone read a classroom thermometer accurrately)? Having the information presented as either figures or a graph at the click of an icon, not having to remember to take the readings every x minutes…. and others.

As well as fulfilling the ICT requirement (current PoS suspension omitting) data logging also enhances many experiments in the science curriculum whch rely on light, temperature or sound to be measured. You can get heart/pulse rate attachments too if you want to link to PE.

As I mentioned, the cost of equipment is often seen as a barrier, but I don’t think it need be.

Firstly, whilst it is  fun to have a whole class data logging, with its potential for organised chaos as containers of various sizes, materials and fillings are shaken to see which is loudest,  it isn’t necessary. If all you have is one data logger, then an experiment can be displayed via a projector and the class can view that. This would be a good opportunity for this to be happening whilst the pupils are conducting the experiment using non-ict methods and the two compared. The comparison of ICT v Non-ICT often being overlooked.

This is OK, but if budget stretches, I’d like more than one set available to use. If purchasing sets is too costly for an individual school, a cluster could club together for enough and share them out. This happened many moons ago and seemed to work quite well… as long as everyone doesn’t want to log at the same time of course.

If you’d really like to have class sets for data logging sessions then currently, Hull CLC ( or  01482 616516) has sets of these available for loan, either on a ‘Pay per Loan’ basis or as part of their SSA. Contact them for prices on both options.

So, which equipment to choose? Well, I’m not really best placed to say as nearly all my data logging has been done with the Log-IT/Log-IT Explorer combination. The software is on many  school networks and as the CLC had boxes of Log-IT Explorers, it was natural that this was the combination to use. The software is easy and you can get external sensors to plug in- a must for insulation experiments and measuring temperature of liquids. It’s also easy to set the box to record whilst not connected to the computer for long term experiments. E.g: The temperature of a room overnight.

However, a quick scout round the web brings up 2 alternatives that look viable.

They’re the TTS Log-Box and Data Harvest’s Easy Sense, neither of which I’ve used, but both companies have a strong track record in the education sector.

One thing I’d insist on is to be able have the capacity to have at least 2, but preferably 3, external temperature sensors plugged in. For me, that’s a given. Without that facility, I can’t make use of all the various cups, beakers, lids an insulating materials I have in my ‘monitoring box’ to answer questions like… Does a lid make a difference in keeping your drink warmer?

This criterion pretty much means I can’t data log on my iPod/Pad or other tablet as so far, the best /I’ve been able to find is something like the iCelsius equipment, which looks fine, but only allows one temperature probe to be connected. Better than nothing, but still means I can’t do  comparative experiments… unless you use 3 iPads, which is expensive!

Single sensor experiments, such as sound and light measuring can be done on tablets. IOS pps such as Decibel Meter Pro, or the free Decibel Ultra.  Surprisingly, I couldn’t find a light sensing app for iPod/Pads.

Those with Android devices are better served in this department, as there a few to choose from. Sound can be measured with Sound Meter, but so far, no luck on sourcing temperature probes for Android.

Anyway, as I’ve said, I’d really want the facility for 3 probes for temperature experiments, so maybe this task is just better done on a laptop.

I also have a collection of plastic containers with various contents in different weights to test theories such as… Which is louder 50g dried peas or 50g rice?,  Does 100g of beans make more noise than 50g?, Does 100g rice make more noise in a large container or a small one? I’ve had some wonderful discussions with pupils on this and the fact that you can record your results swiftly and reliably and repeat the experiment if needed makes testing these hypothesis pretty easy.

So, if data logging/monitoring isn’t being done in your school due to expense and/or lack of staff expertise, I hope this has put some of your fears to rest.

As always, please feel free to contact me directly for staff CPD or in-class support.


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