Touchscreen School Desks to Improve Mathematics Skills Among Students

November 26, 2012, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Here’s something that could considerably increase a kid’s affinity towards mathematics. A study that involved over 4 – pupils, spanning over 3 years, have shown that collaborative learning leads to an increased fluency and flexibility in maths.

The study involved 8-10 year-olds and also showed that giving kids ‘smart’ desks can help them do maths better than on paper. Using touchscreen with multi-touch capabilities helps children find innovative ways to solve problems.

The whole thing does seem like something out of a sci-fi movie, and that’s what the researchers are implying. Having a novel way to deal with mathematics can supposedly help a kid to embrace numbers more.

The study was published in Learning and Instruction, and it detailed about children who used collaborative maths activity in the SynergyNet classroom as having an improved mathematical flexibility and fluency. On the other hand, kids who faced maths in the old way, with a pen and paper, could only show improvement in flexibility.

Professor Liz Burd of School of Education, Durham University, who is also the lead researcher said that their aim was to encourage a higher level of student participation. “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,” he said

The Durham University team used desks and software which they had designed to recognize multiple touches on the desktop by utilizing vision systems that see infrared light. The new ‘desks’ are linked to a main smartboard.

Several students are able to use one desk simultaneously, allowing them to take part in a problem collectively, instead of an individual effort. The teacher also plays an important role, as ever, and can send tasks to different tables.

The teacher can also send the answer of one group to another so that they can work on it or have a class discussion. The teacher will be fed with a live feed of the desks so that they can monitor and help out wherever necessary.

Technology like this has enormous potential for teaching as it can help the teacher to manage and to orchestrate the learning of individuals and groups of learners to ensure they are both challenged and supported so that they can learn effectively,” says Professor Steve Higgins. This could open up a whole new teaching method, preening students and teachers alike.

While there is the difficulty of setting up this feature in every school around the world due to the cost of setting it up and the acquiring the support level for it, the research team notes that in three years time, the cost could come down considerably and there would be major improvements in the technology.

In a few years, a school near you could be running on touchscreen panels.

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