Teach Middle East Magazine Apr - Jun 2020 Issue 3 Volume 7 - Page 29

W ith its idyllic village pond and ancient oak trees, Fingringhoe in Essex, UK feels frozen in time. The tiny 88-pupil primary school, built in 1863, also oozes a sense of history. Indeed, it seems an unlikely location for someone to test out a new piece of potentially game-changing classroom technology. But that is exactly what has happened. “Our research, and others', confirms that poor light levels, the wrong temperatures, inappropriate sound volumes and rhythms, humidity, air pollution, CO2 and air pressure can all impair learning. Our Learnometer research tool automatically samples your classroom environment, and makes suggestions through a unique algorithm as to what might be changed to allow students to learn and perform at their best.” Education technology guru Professor Stephen Heppell approached the school and asked them to try out a prototype of the new “Gratnells Learnometer” device he has developed with the leading education business. The small primary now joins 100s of other schools and universities worldwide who have already been piloting the technology. In fact, the Learnometer device measures seven key environmental factors known to have an effect on learning outcomes: Temperature, humidity, CO2, Chemicals (TVOCs), fine dust (PM 2.5), and light and noise levels. Data sampled by the Learnometer is sent over existing school wifi networks to cloud based storage. Teachers, managers and even pupils can then access the data via the Learnometer dashboard to see what is happening in the classroom environment in real time. Professor Heppell says of the project, “Learnometer is a unique combination of hardware, software and analysed data that help learners, and thus schools, perform better by optimising physical environments for learning.” With pilot sites around the world, including in the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the UAE, Professor Heppell and his team have already built up over half a million hours of research data. In Dubai, The Kindergarten Starters (KGS) school has been involved in the Learnometer project from the very early days. Its CO2 levels have decreased dramatically after indoor plants including oxygenating ferns (Nephrolepis), English ivy (Hedera Helix) and spider plants (Chlorophytum Comosum) amongst others were introduced to improve air quality in its classrooms. Professor Heppell is also enthusiastic about ‘Bring Your Own Plant’ or BYOP activities in schools. Having children bring in and name their own plant makes them feel more invested in their learning space. They benefit from better oxygen levels and when the plants are in white pots, better light levels too which in turn increases alertness. Bringing plants into the classroom may also improve well-being and positivity. Speaking about carbon dioxide, Professor Heppell says, “At lower levels, CO2 will affect concentration. Above as little as 1,000 parts per million, and arguably lower still, CO2 will be inducing sleepiness and poor concentration with abnormal heart rate and nausea. We have been dismayed by the damaging levels we have observed in examination and test rooms.” The Learnometer can act as a springboard for introducing many STEAM activities into the classroom, bringing Learnometer data to life. Professor Heppell says that the process of making learning better engages everyone as reflective learners and that making small improvements in each of the key areas measured by the Learnometer leads to the aggregation of marginal gains. Marginal gains, he claims, are as vital in schools as they are in sport. Concluding, he says, “If learning was the Olympics, this is what it would look like.” For more information gratnellslearnometer.com visit