For the last three years, a group of lucky 8-10 year olds have been involved in a super-exciting experiment - To see if replacing traditional pencil and paper with hi-tech interactive desks would help improve their math skills! But before we tell you the obvious results of this 'study' let's talk about the more interesting part - The desks.
A collaboration between Britain's Durham University and SynergyNet, one of eight research projects aimed at enhancing classroom learning through technology, it involved 400 students across 12 schools in North East Britain. Called NumberNet, the interactive desks were fitted with software that responded to touch-based commands enabled by vision systems that could detect infrared light. All the desks were then wired to a Smart Board, which allowed the teacher to assign math problems for the students to solve solo or as a group.
What was even cooler was that the educator could interactively assign different problems to different groups and send one group's answer to another, to see if they agreed. Even better, a smart feed provided the educator with instant feedback, which enabled him/her to assist students that were struggling with a concept, while allowing the rest of the group to continue forging ahead. And, if the entire class was struggling? He/she could simply post it on the whiteboard and explain it to them at the same time. Though the study was used exclusively for math, the desks could easily be used to teach other subjects as well.
As for the results which were published recently in the Journal of Learning and Instruction? They revealed what most of you could have predicted by simply looking at the desks - 45% of the test students improved their math skills as opposed to just 16% when the same lessons were taught using traditional methods. Another 'surprise'? The students had fun collaborating with each other and sharing their knowledge!
However, before you toss that pencil and paper do keep in mind that these desks are not about to come to your school anytime soon. That's because like anything new and cool they are currently too expensive to go mainstream and also, take a lot of time to set up. The one thing we are curious about is if the 400 lucky students were able to keep theirs as a reward for taking part in this rather 'grueling' study!