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Data Loggers: Hands on learning using high tech tools in low tech settings

What and Why?

Data loggers (sometimes called probeware) are hands-on technology tools that can support interactive learning in science, health and PE, social studies, technology and mathematics. One of the goals of the Pacific Science for Health Literacy Project (PSHLP) was to enable access to technologies in support of hands-on learning. Through the New Zealand Aid Partnerships Grant the PSHLP teams in the Cook Islands and Tonga were able to purchase class sets of data loggers and physiology probes to support hands-on learning associated with exploration of health and wellbeing in schools. 

Tonga High School girls using Data loggers
Tonga High School Year 8 science class: Collecting heart rate data
  • Data loggers enable the use of technology tools to collect, analyse and visualise data.  
  • Data loggers have been shown to improve learning in science classrooms internationally.
  • PSHLP teachers reported that the use of data loggers increased student engagement in learning and supported the development of concept understanding. 
  • Vernier LabQuest 2 was selected as a product that would be usable in classrooms in the the Pacific Islands where many schools have very limited access to computers and the internet. 
  • LabQuest 2 is a standalone data logger so could be used in schools that had no student computers, and in some cases, some classrooms without wall power sockets, and could be used outside of the classroom. 
  • When computers are used in conjunction with the loggers, the software used in the project is Logger Pro or Logger Lite.
  • Because the focus of PSHLP is on exploring health and wellbeing, the probes made available to schools were from the Vernier Physiology Package.

Data loggers in Pacific Islands classrooms

Tereora L3 Bio students blood pressure
Level 3 (Year 13) Biology students at Tereora College

Feedback from teachers in the Cook Islands

"The provision of data logging equipment to the Cook Islands Ministry of Education has provided opportunities for students on Rarotonga to actively engage in hands-on learning, data collection and data analysis within a health context. Experiments such as measuring heart rate at different activity levels really brings health science alive for the students. They see real-time data graphs and can understand the effect of physical activity changes on the heart."

"Students really love the grip strength experiment, trying to outdo each other, while learning about muscle strength and fatigue over time."

"We have used the data loggers for practical classes exploring surface temperature, grip strength, heart rate, blood pressure and ECGs."

"The data loggers have been used in the Year 11 diabetes module, allowing students to measure heart rate before, during and after exercise."

"We have also used the data loggers in classes besides those in the project. For example in the Level 3 (Year 13) Biology course students used data loggers to measure blood pressure within a learning module exploring concepts of homeostasis."



Form 2 (Year 8) students at Tonga High School

Feedback from teachers in Tonga

"The students are excited by the experience of seeing, feeling and touching the data loggers, as well as actually taking measurements!"


"The students were so focused in these lessons that the bell would ring and they would just keep working. They did not want to leave."


"For us we know what getting students talking about their learning is important. In these lessons the discussions came easily. Students wanted to talk about their learning."

"Becasue it was hands-on that was new for our students. I think that is why the understanding was so good."


Teacher PLD

DL PLD Tonga 2 small
Teacher professional development workshop, Tonga

Professional Learning and Development (PLD) opportunities for teachers are essential. During the project teachers have had a range of opportunities to learn about data loggers and experiment with them before they take them into their classrooms. As in most schools, teachers change from time to time, so it is important that teachers share and pass on their knowledge and experience of using data loggers as a tool to support learning. 

Within PSHLP teachers and learning advisors have had a range of experiences to support development of capabilities and confidence to use data loggers:

  • lead and participating teachers in Tonga and the Cook Islands had intensive hands-on workshops in 2014 andor 2015, introducing data loggers and exploring possibilities
  • project leaders in each country had support to develop booking systems to enable efficient use of the resources amongst schools and ensure that maintenance such as calibration was attended to on a regular basis
  • nine members of the project leaders team in each country came to New Zealand for a week in 2014, during which they had hands-on workshops using data loggers
  • the Cook Islands Ministry of Education learning advisers and lead teachers in the project schools are able to share their expertise with teachers joining the project from other schools, and teachers in Rarotonga who are keen to use the resources beyond the PSHLP project
  • PSHLP lead teachers from Tonga High School are happy to support other schools to learn about and use the data loggers.