26.11.12

Interactive desks boost learning say Durham researchers

Interactive tables hold the key to increasing understanding of maths for primary school pupils, according to researchers at the UK's Durham University. Findings from a three-year project called SynergyNet suggest that multitouch, multi-user desks increase fluency and flexibility in maths. The study, which involved more than 400 pupils mostly aged between eight and ten, also demonstrated benefits of interactive desks over paper.

The findings, published in the journal Learning and Instruction, showed that 45% of students who used collaboration tool, NumberNet increased in the number of unique mathematical expressions they created after using NumberNet, compared to 16% of students in the traditional paper-based activity.

Professor Liz Burd, lead researcher on the project 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 Durham University team designed software and desks that recognise multiple touches on the desktop using vision systems that see infrared light. These desks are networked and linked to a main smartboard.

The teacher can send tasks to different tables to individuals and groups can send one group’s answers on to the next group to work on and add to, or to the board for a class discussion.

A live feed of the desks goes directly to the teacher who can intervene quickly to help an individual while allowing the group work to continue.