Edinburgh and Lothian schools in environment-monitoring project to boost data skills

Pupils will be able to monitor environmental conditions in their classroom and learn the skills to become the “data citizens of tomorrow” under a scheme to be rolled out to primary and secondary schools across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

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Sensors that gauge CO2, temperature, humidity, air pressure and light levels in the school will be linked to a high performance computer at the University of Edinburgh where the raw data will be converted into graph form, which pupils can then access on laptops, tablets or a PC.

The project, billed as a prime example of the “Internet of Things” (IoT) in action, will enable pupils to learn how to interpret statistics, improve their school environment and create the optimum learning conditions in class.

Pupils at Roslin with some of the equipment they will use Picture: Neil Hanna

It will also equip them to navigate an increasingly complex digital world and help to prepare them for work in new data-driven industries.

The £9.5 million scheme is supported by the UK Government as part of its £260m investment in Data-Driven Innovation under the Edinburgh City Region Deal, which has a key objective of making Edinburgh and South-East Scotland the “Data Capital of Europe”.

The IoT project is being piloted at Midlothian’s Roslin Primary and Newbattle High schools.

And it will be extended to all 550 schools in Edinburgh, the Lothians, Fife and the Scottish Borders.

The Roslin pupils get to grips with the project Picture: Neil Hanna

Some schools will also receive outdoor air quality monitors, soil moisture sensors and weather stations.

Experts behind the scheme said sensor readings might suggest that improving oxygen or light levels in a classroom, for instance, would boost pupils’ alertness during lessons.

Or analysis of playground air quality might highlight that steps should be taken to reduce levels of exhaust fumes at the school gate.

Support will be available to pupils and teachers through the Data Education in Schools Team at Edinburgh University.

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said: “The UK Government’s £260 million support for Data Driven Innovation around Edinburgh is equipping people with the skills and knowledge to make the most of an increasingly data-driven world.

“This fantastic programme gives students the tools they need to learn about data and use it to improve their school environment."

Professor Judy Robertson, chair of digital learning at Edinburgh University, said data skills development was relevant across all curriculum areas, topics and themes.

“Data has been hugely significant in decision-making around Covid, but it influences many areas and having the skills to use data effectively and responsibly is increasingly important.”

With a bombardment of information from smart phones, social media and online selling, there was a need for meaningful analysis, which the project seeks to address, she said. Equipping tomorrow’s workforce so it can meet that need would drive economic growth and aid game-changing research that tackles real-world challenges.

Simon Chapple, head of data technology at Edinburgh University added: “The sensor network will introduce the secure and safe use of connected IoT sensors in the taught curriculum, and play a crucial role in aiding the development of data literacy in schools.”

An official launch took place at Roslin Primary on Wednesday, attended by Midlothian Council deputy leader Jim Muirhead and education director Fiona Robertson.

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