Your classroom environment

How healthy is your classroom?

Professor Stephen Heppell’s research has shown a clear link between classroom conditions and student performance. The Learnometer will monitor your classroom so you and your class can track your air quality and take action when necessary.

Monitoring the classroom

Professor Stephen Heppell and his research team have been gathering data to show how environmental factors can affect student performance and outcomes.

What the Learnometer will monitor in your classroom:

Learnometer is produced by Gratnells in association with Professor Stephen Heppell and his research team. Gratnells Learnometer will constantly monitor your classroom conditions so you can create the optimal learning environment.

Micro-particulates can travel into children’s lungs, triggering health problems that also impact on attendance and performance. The Learnometer can measure from 0 to 1,000μg/m³ ±15μg/m³ or 15%.

Professor Stephen Heppell’s advises:

“When we began the Learnometer project the link between well-being and pollution was clear, but pollution’s impact on learning was largely hypothesised by us, without much good evidence. Since then however some substantial research projects, like this one using data from China, published by Xi Chen et al, at Yale School of Public Health in the US, have suggested that high levels of urban pollution have a major impact on attainment – some children dropping a whole year of progress in their school lives.

Although it is unlikely that relocating a school will be possible, battles against planning approval for siting polluting industries near schools will be a lot easier to win, given clear pollution data from within classrooms. However, a little micro-research study at Anglia Ruskin University’s Cambridge campus has shown us that opening windows to let the heat and CO2 out, can let high levels of urban pollution in – a nice indicator of the complexity of all this which our Learnometer and its algorithms might hopefully inform.

Pollution levels can be damaging in the case of a one-off exam too. Avraham Ebenstein Victor Layv and Sefi Roth found published in 2016 that pollution hurt the exam marks, but that the impact f that lasted into later attainment and employment. Another nail in the coffin of examination equity?

“Exploiting variation across the same student taking multiple exams, we find that transitory PM2.5 exposure is associated with a significant decline in student performance. We then examine these students in 2010 and find that PM2.5 exposure during exams is negatively associated with postsecondary educational attainment and earning.”

Beyond the impact on wellbeing, research confirms that airborne pollution significantly damages learners’ academic progress. Volatile Organic Compounds, otherwise known as VOCs are a diverse group of common chemicals that are often found in the air in our homes and offices. They are both naturally occurring and human-made. The Learnometer will detect between  0 and 60,000ppb ±10%.

Professor Stephen Heppell’s advises:

“According to the EPA, “Studies from the United States and Europe show that persons in industrialized nations spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors. For infants, the elderly, persons with chronic diseases, and most urban residents of any age, the proportion is probably higher. In addition, the concentrations of many pollutants indoors exceed those outdoors.”  Because VOCs are such a common and prevalent indoor pollutant, exposure to them can have a variety of impacts on health and comfort. VOCs can contribute to a host of symptoms including headache, fatigue, eczema, and even cancer.

Exposure to moderate levels of VOCs can trigger allergies and asthma. They can cause nasal congestion, cough, wheezing, and pharyngtis (inflammation and soreness of the throat). Aside from respiratory symptoms, VOCs can cause headaches, dizziness, conjunctival irritation (irritation of the membrane covering the eyes and inside of the eyelids), allergic skin reactions, and fatigue.

Higher levels of VOCs can include irritation of eyes and nasal passages, nausea and headaches, lethargy and malaise, rash, skin irritation, and eczema.

Long term VOC exposure effects also contribute to overworking the liver and kidneys and has been linked to cognitive impairment, personality changes, and  cancer.

Which of these many effects specifically impact most on Learning is less clear but two recent studies, one from China one from California suggest that the impact is significant, so we have increased the pollution monitoring power of our final Learnometers.

A 2018 paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (https://www.pnas.org/content/115/37/9193), analysed language and arithmetic tests conducted on 20,000 people across China nation between 2010 and 2014. For high pollution levels there were significant drops in test scores in language and arithmetic, with the average impact equivalent to having lost a full year of the person’s education.

Just north of Los Angeles, in 2015, a substantial gas leak impacted on many schools. To reduce the impact simple air purifiers were fitted to schools within a  five mile radius. The gas was long gone by then, but there appeared to be tangible improvements in literacy and maths scores. There is some debate about magnitudes, but a 2020 working paper (https://www.edworkingpapers.com/ai20-188) suggests that the impact is similar to a substantial reduction in class size.

In short, pollution hurts learning, even if we are not very clear about how that happens.”

Children learn less well when light levels are low, and behaviour also suffers. There is an equity issue too, when light levels are uneven across a room. The Learnometer will measure light levels between 0 and 64,000lux in brightness.

Professor Heppell’s guide would be above 500 lux, with a target of 750 to 1,000 – but being careful to get suitable Kelvin values in your electrical lighting too. A minimum of 250 lux if there is only conversation taking place.

Professor Stephen Heppell’s advises:

“Poor lighting is a significant barrier to learning. Our work is confirmed by recent school environment studies, and detailed research for other working environments. For example recent research confirms evidence that good lighting significantly influences reading vocabulary and Science test scores (Barrett et al., 2015). Learnometer reports lumen (lux) levels throughout the day and plots them constantly and automatically for you wherever it is installed.

Our guide would be above 500 lux, with a sensible target of 1,000 – but being careful to get the “right” Kelvin values in your electrical lighting too.”

Noisy rooms obstruct children’s ability to concentrate and perform, wherever they are. The Learnometer has an ambient noise sensor measuring between 40 abd 95dB, A-weighted, slow-response.

Professor Heppell advises sound above around 72 decibels starts to be disruptive – although what the sound is matters too. A simple guide for beats per minute is to stay below 80 bpm.

Professor Stephen Heppell’s advises:

“Studies confirm that the classroom sound signature can affect how well students achieve (Picard and Bradley 2001). Learnometer constantly gives you automated feedback on sound volumes (including from the students!) and rhythms (for example from projector fans or air conditioning units) in your classroom, will highlight changes to be made, and plots the results of your changes by hour, day, and even year.

As a starting point we suggest that sound above around 72 decibels starts to be disruptive – although what the sound is matters too (for example is is hard to write when background music contains a familiar lyric). A simple guide for beats per minute is to stay below 80 bpm”

Both humidity and temperature levels are proven to have an effect on the performance of children in the classroom. Humidity tends to have an effect that is closely linked to temperature.

There is an optimal temperature range for learning. Outside that range performance suffers immediately. Learnometer will measure temperatures between -40 and 125°C (-40 and 257°F) ±0.2°C.

Professor Heppell suggests between 18 and 21 degrees centigrade is ideal for learning environments.

Humidity raises similar concerns to temperature, but also bringing other health risks like toxic mould spores. Dehydration also damages cognitive performance. the Learnometer will measure levels between 0 and 100% ±2%.

Professor Stephen Heppell’s advises:

“With much data already logged, we know that many classrooms are either too hot or (less damagingly) too cold for learning. Even though national law (eg UK) does not usually give an upper limit for temperature, research broadly suggests that between 18 and 21 degrees is ideal for learning, although it arguably doesn’t start to be significantly damaging for a couple more degrees.

Learnometer contains a sensitive digital thermometer and hygrometer which tell you the temperature of your classrooms throughout the day. You’d be amazed how much it changes.

Joshua Graff Zivin, of UCSD, and two colleagues in an NBER Working Paper noted that “we find that math performance declines linearly above 21C”. They thankfully didn’t see much accumulation of damage. Fix it and it ends.

More recently, R. Jisung Park, Joshua Goodman,and Mike Hurwitz (who were looking as the equity issue of schools who could cool spaces, and those who could not) found that “Using data from over 12,000 schools and 10 million middle- and high-school students across America, my colleagues and I found that students who experience more hot days during the school year perform worse on subsequent standardized exams. A small 1 degree hotter-than-average academic year reduces learning by about 1%.” An opinion piece by R. Jisung Park is here.

Exposure to excessive indoor carbon dioxide will impair learning, engagement and performance. The damaging levels are surprisingly low. The Learnometer sensor can detect levels between 400-5,000ppm ±75ppm or 10%.

Professor Heppell indicates that above as little as 1,000 parts per million CO2 will be inducing sleepiness, poor concentration with abnormal heart rate and nausea. Problems increase towards 5,000 ppm which many learning spaces often exceed daily. Our recommendation is no higher than 2,200 ppm.

Professor Stephen Heppell’s advises:

“Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide cannot be sensed by humans, both of course have the potential to kill, but at lower levels, CO2 will affect concentration.

Our pilot work suggested a correlation between absence / illness levels and high classroom CO2 levels (for staff and students) and we have been dismayed by the damaging levels we have observed in examination and test rooms. Learnometer logs and tracks the levels of CO2 and particulate matter (“pollution”) to help you identify airflow issues and optimum levels for learning and performance.

A useful guide would be to be aware that above as little as 1,000 parts per million (and arguably lower still) CO2 will be inducing sleepiness, poor concentration with abnormal heart rate and nausea. Problems increase towards 5,000 ppm which is a workplace limit in most countries, but which, disappointingly, many learning spaces often exceed daily.

This 2015 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that carbon dioxide (CO2) has a worse, direct and negative impact on human cognition and decision-making than was previously understood.”

Learnometer is available to purchase online today direct from Gratnells

From £420.00 Inc VAT

SKU: LM001