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Touch Screen Desks For Next-Gen Schools

Multi-touch desks helped students solve mathematical questions by working together.

There are some projects proposed for the future that can make you roll your eyes, and others that make you say, "Can we have this now, please?" The NumberNet desk belongs in the latter category.

Researchers from Durham University have been testing out the multi-touch, multi-user desk as part of a three-year project with over 400 students. The students range from ages eight to ten and use the desk in a group setting. Using the desk in this way allows the students to solve mathematical questions by working together and collaborating on one large platform rather than on multiple sheets of paper.

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Much like other multi-touch desks on the market, this one has been designed to recognize multiple touches on its desktop using infrared lights. These screens have been built into existing fabric and furniture in the classroom and are linked to a main smart board controlled by a teacher. Because of this control, a teacher can use the screen as a lecture piece as well. Which means no Power Point or whiteboard and no more peeking over screen-covering tall kids. Solutions and input from other students can be shared to other groups by the teacher through the screens.

So far the project has found that the children who collaborated together showed improvement in mathematical flexibility and fluency, compared to those who used paper-based methods. The lead researcher of the project, Liz Burd says that the whole point of the project is to encourage more active student engagement, "where knowledge is obtained by sharing, problem-solving and creating, rather than by passive listening."

If implemented, this method of learning would encourage participation from all students, and not just one smarty-pants. Only mathematics was testing in this project, but researchers say that it could be applied in other areas of learning as well.

Credit: Durham University