The Table That Has Got All the Answers; 'Smart Desks' Change Learning

Article excerpt

Byline: Nicola Weatherall ? 0191 204 3308 ? nicola.weatherall@ncjmedia.co.uk

ASPACE-age classroom developed in the North East could turn future generations into mathematical geniuses.

Researchers from Durham University have designed and created the "classroom of the future" which features fully interactive desks.

The multi-touch, multi-user "smart" desks have been tried and tested during a three-year project involving more than 400 pupils.

The results show that collaborative learning increases both fluency and flexibility in maths tasks, compared with number crunching on traditional paper-based sums.

Lead researcher Professor Liz Burd, from Durham's School of Education, said: "Our aim was to encourage far higher levels of active student engagement, where knowledge is obtained by sharing, problem-solving and creating, rather than by passive listening. "This classroom enables both active engagement and equal access.

"We found our tables encouraged students to collaborate more effectively. We were delighted to observe groups of students enhancing others' understanding of mathematical concepts.

"Such collaboration just did not happen when students used paper-based approaches."

The teacher plays a key role in the classroom and can send tasks to different tables, individuals and groups. The teacher can also send one group's answers to the next group to work on and add to, or to the board for a class discussion.

Professor Steve Higgins, who was involved in the research, added: "Technology like this has enormous potential for teaching, as it can help the teacher manage and orchestrate the learning of individuals and groups of learners to ensure they are both challenged and supported, so that they can learn effectively. …