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As with any other piece of apparatus, data-logging systems will need to be stored securely and properly maintained, but they also present their own problems. A dozen or so sensors, each with a 60cm cable, one or two connecting cables, a power supply and a mains cable can get themselves into quite a tangle. A plentiful supply of elastic bands is certainly called for when they are being packed away.

In the classroom, experience has shown that a data-logging system is best stored as a kit with an accompanying checklist for students to consult when they pack up. Students who have not used the equipment before may benefit from labelled diagrams of the sensors on the checklist. On some occasions, perhaps during an introductory session, you will want students to set up their own data-logging apparatus - an important contribution to their developing IT capability. At other times you may want to have a number of activities already set up so that students can have maximum lesson time to carry out investigations. In the latter case you may need to rely on a technician's expertise.

All staff who will use the equipment will need time to become familiar with the system they are using. In particular, the software may have useful advanced features which the students will not be aware of or able to use unless their teacher points them out.

Features to consider:

Good design - sturdy, safe and reliable
Accurate sensors
Quality software - easy to use with good analysis facilities
Compatibility with school computers - existing and planned
Self-identifying sensors
Warranty period, repair arrangements and turnaround
A telephone help line
Battery life
Maximum recording time on batteries
Internal memory - number of data sets that can be stored
Size and portability

 



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