Virginmedia: digital news. ‘Star trek-style’ desks for schools.

Virginmedia news item 24th September 2008.

‘Star trek-style’ desks for schools. It’s a classroom, but not as we know it.

Researchers have developed Star Trek-style interactive desks for schools.

The desks, which look and act like large versions of an Apple iPhone, have been created by IT experts at Durham University to improve student participation in classrooms.

“The hardware allows for multiple finger presses on a screen at one time – unlike one computer mouse,” explained Dr Liz Burd, who led the project by the Technology-Enhanced Learning research group (TEL). “With three kids at one unit, you can have thirty pointers to the screen at any time. For the first time you have one computer for many individual users.”

Dr Burd, who is director of active learning in computing at the university, said she hoped every school desk in 10 years would be interactive. “IT in schools is an exciting prospect – our system is very similar to the type of interface shown as a vision of the future in the TV series Star Trek.”

The interactive desk can be both a screen and a keyboard, operating as an individual work space or as a large screen allowing students to co-operate on a task.

A “teachers’ console” will allow the class teacher to set work and monitor what each student is doing.

“It will operate the whole classroom system,” Dr Byrd said. “They can send out to the desks whatever activity they want pupils to work on. A panel on the teacher’s console will show what each of the pupils are doing, so they can offer extra instruction or support where necessary.”

And it could mean the end of books in the classroom. Dr Burd said the new technology would allow teachers to send books to desks for pupils to read, or to complete exercises from.

She said: “It’s definitely a possibility. There are so many electronic books available today, that potentially, if a teacher wants pupils to read out loud, for example, she could just send a copy of the book to the right desk.”

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