Testing touchscreen tables in classrooms
May 8th, 2013
05:28 PM ET

Testing touchscreen tables in classrooms

By Heather Kelly, CNN

Forget tiny iPads - the classrooms of the future might turn entire tables into interactive touchscreens.

Given that many children can sit rapturously before a glowing touchscreen for hours, such gadgets seem like a natural for the classroom. But as with any new teaching technology, it's important to make sure it actually helps students learn and teachers teach before getting caught up in its "cool" factor.

A recent study by researchers at Newcastle University in the UK took touchscreen tables into the classroom for some hands-on tests and found the technology (and training) still have to improve before they are fully effective. The researchers say theirs is one of the first studies of this type of technology in actual classrooms, instead of lab situations.

The tables were used in real classrooms over the course of six weeks for lessons in geography, English and history.  The five teachers involved in the study prepared the projects based on what the kids were currently learning in class. Each table was used by two to four students at a time, though the table's creators say it can hold up to six students. On the screen were a collaborative writing program and an app called Digital Mysteries, which were designed specifically for large tabletop PCs.

These types of tables are already commercially available and can be seen in the wild in locations like museums. SMART Technologies, for example, makes a table with a 42-inch, 1080p display for $7,749. The prices for these interactive tables will likely come down in the future, but they will still remain a big investment for any school district.

And before schools invest heavily in these kinds of tools, the study's authors say that more in-class research and tweaks to the software should be done.

Read CNN's education blog: Schools of Thought

A few of the issues raised were the same that come up in most group work. Some students would complete tasks faster than others, while others would lose focus and fall behind. Teachers in the study found they couldn't always tell when students were working versus just pretending to work and moving items around the screen.

Suggested improvements to the tools included more detailed progress indicators for the individual students. Researchers also recommend that the apps add more flexibility so that teachers can control, change and pause the lessons. In an old-school twist, researchers also recommended that the programs include an option for exporting kids' progress so they can print it out.

Researchers also emphasized the need for more teacher-friendly features and control over the apps, plus proper training for any educator who plans on integrating these types of tables with their regular classroom curriculum.

"To make the most use of them teachers have to make them part of the classroom activity they have planned – not make it the lesson activity,” said Dr Ahmed Kharrufa in a statement.

In other words, even the most advanced technology won't be able to replace good teachers.

[Via PhysOrg]

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Filed under: Education • Future • Innovation • Internet • Tech • The Next List
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Felipe

    Great article thanks for sharing.

    I have been working on bringing this technology to the mainstream over the past 4 years. This has shown to be an effective method on reinforcing collaboration and social learning. It has been of particular use within the special needs community, kids who have trouble using keyboard and mouse.

    We have been seeing more and more use outside of education for entertainment in lobbies, waiting rooms and play spaces. See the link below.


    April 15, 2014 at 3:57 pm | Reply
  2. home Personal Training

    This to me is a great idea. Kids need to be be taught how to continue our advances with technology and this is just one way of doing it.

    April 12, 2014 at 9:56 am | Reply
  3. Alfiero Santarelli

    Hi, I’ve been catching up with the article and comments. As Daniel (our CEO) noted in the past, tabletops have serious advantages when compared to tablets in terms of collaboration and interaction: so it’s not about technology but rather about methodology.
    Most of the issues pointed out can be, and have been, handled by proper interaction design: the TToole system we already mentioned gives stronger control to the teacher, and she knows precisely who is working and when, and is able to synchronize what the class is looking at in a given moment. We made this extremely non-expensive (in other words: we cost one tenth of the figures mentioned) and ready for the classroom.
    I believe it’s more appropriate to point you to our website http://ttoole.com.

    November 21, 2013 at 11:42 am | Reply
  4. schackler

    Very Himeko Hiriyama. Maybe this way student's parents won't have to waste money on books,notebooks nor any type of bag. Parent's can pay a flat fee that includes their coursework.

    October 16, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  5. truvahorse

    Very interesting article. Thank you.


    August 13, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Reply
  6. Mark S.

    Money for schools is tight, Lets pay teachers more and skip the expensive tech tools for now. These tablets will need repairs, replacement and maintenance regularly.

    July 31, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Reply
    • Chloe

      these are tables, not tablets.

      September 6, 2013 at 8:08 pm | Reply
    • Justin

      As a school administrator and a teacher, I get really tired of hearing teachers complain about pay. Where I live and work, the average income per person is less than $18,000 annually. (midwest). Average teacher income start out is $32,000. Remember this, if you are truly successful, I will never have to pay you a dime to do what you do. Could you make more money with a 4 year degree sure. Would you have 1-2 months off a year- no. would you have every holiday off, no. Remember why your in education. Student first- quit listening to WIIFM.

      April 12, 2014 at 2:42 pm | Reply
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  8. Scott

    More technology. Just what schools need. More technology. We have beaten to death how to do K-5 education. Read aloud to the students. Have the students learn the language and develop a love for reading. And if not a love, then at least a solid understanding of reading and writing. Teach them mathematics–basics. Make sure they understand basic math.

    We don't need technology for this in the classroom. For centuries great minds have made incredible discoveries and these women and men did it with the technology of the ears, eyes, hands plus a printing press, books, paper and writing utensils. oh...chalk and board, too. through in candlelight and oil and electrical light and there you go

    that is all any children needs to learn in terms of technology. today....books, paper, pencil, chalk or white board and chalk/pens and light and the child is good to go.

    alas, i realize technology is there and will continue to be there–but make no mistake. technology is ONLY a tool. it isn't a panacea and it's over use will destroy learning if let unchecked.

    July 29, 2013 at 11:26 pm | Reply
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  11. aja

    this is very interesting
    thank you...

    May 29, 2013 at 5:04 am | Reply
    • aja

      this is very interesting
      thank you...

      May 29, 2013 at 5:07 am | Reply
  12. Marissa

    It is a simple way to do group projects, and can let the teachers know what their students are doing during the lesson.

    May 14, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Reply
  13. Taka Kalienov

    If these are put into public schools then why would we need teachers? My point is that you'll be putting countless people out of a job. Can we even be sure that the kids will stay on whatever school app they're on? Or will they just start playing games when the teacher isn't looking? Where will the schools get the funds to get one of these? There are so many questions but so few solutions.

    May 13, 2013 at 9:13 pm | Reply
  14. winsrey bolt

    the facts still remains that dissadvantage is much,less as for me anything that as much disadvantage and less advantage is useles.pls dont mis-qoute me.

    May 12, 2013 at 5:21 am | Reply
  15. winsrey bolt

    i am realy short of worlds.i really love this improvement.

    May 12, 2013 at 5:06 am | Reply
  16. Taka Kalienov

    Kids in front of a screen during school. Then when school ends they'll get out their smartphones and look at more screens! Education can't happen if we make things easier for kids, it's the mistakes that'll teach them. Technology is already suppressing human interaction and is ultimately making us lazier. If these are allowed in public schools then we're in for one hell of a future.

    May 10, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Reply
    • gregorymunson

      Yet recent studies have shown that kids learn more without teachers... Hummm Makes you wonder who is lacking, the students or the teachers?

      May 10, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Reply
      • Taka Kalienov

        But looking at screens up close at school, then again after school can't be good for your eyes. I just don't want everything to be done by computers, if that were the case, then lots of jobs will be lost. In my opinion, we're advancing too fast and we need to slow down with all this new technology.

        May 11, 2013 at 1:48 am |
      • Alice in PA

        What studies? Almost 100% of cyber schools fail to make AYP. Sitting in front of a screen does not promote learning all by itself. There needs to be interaction. Most kids use their devices for fun and things they want. School is to prepare for the future, something most kids don't really think about because....well, their kids. These table may be good for some things but not for others. Let's not repeat the whiteboard debacle where we assumed a piece of novel equipment would automatically make kids learn more.

        May 11, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  17. Roland

    The SMART Interactive table is actually quite amazing. The things you are paying for include 40 simultaneous touches, over 1,500 ready to use lessons, a toolkit for designing your own- also free, a surface that a full sized adult can stand on, and that you can spill water on........ it is far more than just a "touchscreen."

    May 10, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Reply
  18. Techer

    One major concern regarding the move from peripheral to touch screen learning is the fact that, no matter how cool or interactive touch screen technology may be, is it no where near as productive or proficient as the standardized keyboard and mouse. I believe it is important that make sure that children are still taught how to utilize standardized computer peripherals in an efficient manner, especially given how popular mobile touch screen technology has become.

    May 10, 2013 at 11:59 am | Reply
    • Bob

      Keyboards and mice are dying technology. Give it another 10 years and they will be as out dated as laser disc.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:32 am | Reply
  19. Noah

    Cool bro

    May 10, 2013 at 9:37 am | Reply
  20. Daniel Tomasini

    The Idea to use the table is to improve the sense of participation. In fact, several studies demonstrates how interactive table could be more engaging than a set of tablets. Tablets is a strict personal device, which is not helpfully for a good group participation. We created cooperative learning solution called TToole, designed specifically for tabletop to support cooperative learning events. We are now using it with doctors, I believe developing a children’s variant is not so far. I think the most important aspect for tabletop success is the cost, in fact we strongly propose to use consumer solution as Lenovo Horizon and similar from sony, dell, Samsung, etc. Starting from 2014, tabletop devices for learning will be a reachable reality and less expensive than 4 tablets

    May 10, 2013 at 3:50 am | Reply
  21. brian

    exactly how did the writer of this article miss the fact that Lenovo released a 27" touch table called Horizon for under $2000 in January 2013? We need a new word to describe news that is obsolete before publication. How about 'EPITAG'.

    May 9, 2013 at 10:46 pm | Reply
  22. yomi

    Himeko,not only you. I have the drawings of this same idea too. Lets not forget, that men are thinkers. But i have a better idea thats more sophisticated than been only classroom desk.

    May 9, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  23. Himeko Hiriyama

    I feel like the idea has been stolen from me. I was completely sure that I had invented this idea before anyone else!!! I had even drawn the touch screen home screen in my drawing pad!

    May 9, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Reply
    • Dominic

      Cool story bro stupid chink thinking everything was stolen from them.

      May 10, 2013 at 11:46 am | Reply
  24. dave

    6 Ipads would be less than half that amount thats six computers where that system is most liklely one and could surly be done with one computer in the class room driving several of those larger touch screens... so yes some one getting took for a ride on the cost.

    May 9, 2013 at 4:18 am | Reply
    • Mark

      Not if those Ipad were lost or stolen. Remember we are talking about children here.

      May 9, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Reply
  25. Poltergeist

    What advantage would a giant immobile touch computer have over some kid proof tablets? Sounds like a bill of goods to me.

    May 9, 2013 at 12:19 am | Reply
    • Himeko Hiriyama

      It's a simple idea! If they are made so that the teacher can lock them up from his/her own touchscreen desk, that solves the problem of kids not paying attention. This could also get rid of the idea for binders, since your work could be saved to a computer in a network for the entire school. If you're in a different class, you could just as easily access it by logging on like on a computer. Perhaps you might even be able to access the work you did at school at home from a sky drive, saving time. No more lost homework or dog eaten papers!

      May 9, 2013 at 5:40 pm | Reply

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