How LED Lighting is Changing the Classroom
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How LED Lighting is Changing the Classroom


By now, most people are familiar with LED lighting. It’s in our homes, and can even be controlled by our smartphones or by voice command to Alexa or Google Home. ‘Enabled’ LEDs have a long life, somewhere around 7-10 years, and are an energy-efficient source of light.

LED’s cool factor—and what many people don’t know—is that LED is digital technology, and can do a lot more than just provide basic illumination. Some LEDs can sense their environment, adjust, collect data and “tune” to different colors and intensities suited to the particular purpose of a space and the people in them.

This ability to better control LED lighting promises to impact our schools much more than our homes.

Tuning light to students' needs

Teachers have been trying to control light for years. To make the learning environment more comfortable for students, teachers will frequently switch off the overheard fluorescents and bring lamps from home to warm the space. We’ve also seen classrooms with half of their fixtures covered with construction paper to help dim the light. Now there’s a better, safer way to adjust the light.

Because of the flexibility of digital LED technology, manufacturers are designing their products to allow teachers in the classroom to change the color temperature and light intensity at different times of day.

This new technology, tunable light, allows a teacher to change how warm or cool the light appears in the room in a manner designed to optimize class performance based on the time of day and what students are doing.

For example, warmer light is desirable when students are performing interactive, cooperative or creative learning. The teacher can change to a warmer color temperature, much like a table lamp in your house.

When a teacher wishes to energize students or increase their need for focus and attention for a test, a cooler temperature that mimics natural daylight is recommended.

Using tunable light in the classroom can help educators tailor the light (between 2700 Kelvin and 6500 Kelvin) for the activity, tempo and temperament of the class, providing a more comfortable learning experience for students. But there’s more to it than that.

The science behind light

It’s important to remember that light does more than help us see. There’s a lot of science behind how light affects our body.

Our human biology is linked to natural light and the sun. Bright light stops the secretion of melatonin in our body which wakes us and increases our alertness. At night, the darkness cues our body to start the secretion of melatonin and prepare us for sleep. Light is the most powerful regulator of the human day-night-rhythm, also referred to as our circadian rhythm.

But now, since we spend 90% of our lives indoors, we suffer from too little light during the daytime, and with our addiction to smartphones, too much light at night can delay our sleep.

Disrupting our circadian rhythms can mean an unproductive next day with a lack of concentration, increased hunger and fatigue.

Tunable light is designed to mimic the sun’s natural light patterns and keep our biological clock on track.

Sounds great, but where's the data?

The importance of lighting on everyday life is well established. Research indicates that natural and artificial light affect people’s health, mood, well-being and alertness (Sleegers, 2013). Exposure to light with different color temperatures can affect the quality of sleep, mood, alertness and perceived self-efficacy of studied subjects.

Philips teamed up with the University of Twente to see the effect of lighting on the learning process in primary schools. The year-long study observed the effects of 166 students under color tuned light. The results indicated that the students exposed to tunable light scored, on average, 18% higher in concentration tests, were more motivated in the longer term and were more appreciative of their learning environment.

The tunable light system in the study was programmed to four settings: Standard, Rest, Energy and Concentration and was shown to affect:

  • Enthusiasm: Students reported feeling more alert in the 'Rest' and 'Energy' settings than the 'Concentration' setting.
  • Cooperative learning: Children solved a group puzzle faster in the 'Rest' setting than in the 'Standard' setting.
  • Communication: In the 'Energy' setting children talked 95% more with each other when solving the puzzles than in the 'Standard' setting.

A small percentage of K-12 schools in the U.S. have made the switch to LED, but as more research confirms the advantages of tunable lighting, LED lighting is an easy way to help improve classroom environments.

Video - Benefits of Tunable White Lighting in a Classroom Learning Environment: A Teacher's View

Davis Elementary school had new LED classroom lighting and classroom lighting controls installed in their school. In this video, one of the teachers explains how she is able to use Acuity Brands Tunable White Lighting settings to increase productivity in the classroom and create a positive learning environment for the students. She also explains how the new classroom lighting can be used to influence behavior in the classroom and adapt the lighting to match the necessary learning environment for certain activities. 

Video - Benefits of Tunable White Lighting in a Classroom Learning Environment: A Principal’s View

In this video, the Principal at Davis Elementary school speaks about her experience on the new LED classroom lighting and classroom lighting controls installed in their school. Hear from the principal how the new lighting has increase productivity in the classroom, created a positive learning environment, and helped to influence behavior in the classroom. The new classroom lighting has helped to shape a single classroom into the ideal learning environment for based on the activity of the students.