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.

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.

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.

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.

Pepping up teaching the electromagnetic spectrum for SEN students

We’ve been looking at the EM spectrum this week which is difficult with SEN students who find the idea incredibly hard to grasp.

To make this topic more hands on we’ve done a series of practical lessons looking at different types of waves.  Perhaps you’ll have time to squeeze a few of these in – they do make a dull topic more fun.

Radio waves

Investigating properties of radio waves using a mobile phone by using Bluetooth to send photographs to each other (check your school policy on mobile phone use first!).

Factors which affect Bluetooth signals (worksheet)


Measuring the speed of light using a microwave oven


Using a digital camera to view the infrared signal from a DVD remote control.


Spectrum – splitting white light using a prism.

the spectrum worksheet


Ultraviolet sensitive beads (work in sun or with a UV lamp).  Also looking at security markers, money, credit cards etc under UV light.

SEN Science: a tip when working with diagrams

I’ve a group of very weak students covering the EM spectrum.  I just wanted them to have an idea of some of the different uses of EM waves so half the class did a collective memory activity and half did a jigsaw.

Collective memory

If you haven’t done one of these before you really should.  Students of all ages love them – and they are easy to prepare.  I choose a suitable image related to my topic (with text and images/diagrams) and I split the class into groups.  Each group has to recreate the diagram but they are only allowed to come and look at the image one at a time, and for a limited amount of time.  The competition between groups is an excellent motivator – and if you get the groups to plan how they are going to do the activity, and evaluate their practice at the end it makes a good thinking skills activity too!


I’ve attached a jigsaw template to this post.  The premise is simple – find a suitable diagram and then overlay the jigsaw (MS Office tools are sufficient e.g. PowerPoint, Word, Publisher).  Print out the diagram and you have jigsaw lines over the top.  I’ve managed to cut out 5/6 at once or you could pass the image for a teaching assistant to cut out.  Again preparation time is minimal and it is a good way to get SEN students to think about an image – working very well for those with poor hand-eye coordination.

Link to black jigsaw (with transparency – for general printing)

Link to white jigsaw (with transparency- to overlay over photos etc)

This jigsaw was completed by one of my weakest students – he not only managed to complete the jigsaw (telling me about some of the things on it) but managed to glue it down himself too (pity he didn’t quite get the paper the right way around!).