Multi-touch for Kids

I just uploaded a Connect Learning podcast, featuring a conversation with the booth rep for Smart Technologies at the T+L conference in Seattle recently.  She took me on a tour of their Smart Table and I was very excited to see it and too play.  The YouTubes featuring demos of the technology (not to mention Tom Cruise in Minority Report [vid]) have had me itching to get my finger tips down on that surface.


I have to confess just a bit of disappointment, though. To be completely fair, it’s a product that isn’t even out yet, and they are just now starting to develop applications for it.  The ones that I saw quite effectively illustrated how multi-touch works.  However, they were not all that impressive in terms of how children learn collaboratively.  But, again, this is just the bare infancy of the technology.

Causing my heart to beat even faster was the discovery that the hotel I was staying in (Sheraton) featured about a half dozen Microsoft Surface or Milan tables (MS).  The performance was mountains better than the Smart Tech table, and the image quality was much more satisfying. 

From the SynergyNet Gallery

That said, after about ten minutes, I found myself becoming bored with the thing.  Of course, I didn’t really have a task to do, I was just playing — and working the thing would probably make a difference.  But I suspect that we haven’t really discovered the killer app for this technology.

Enter Durham University’s SynergyNet, a project whose aim it is to:

  • To create a radically new technology-rich learning environment that integrates with traditional classroom layouts and collective activities.
  • To design and implement a new form of user interface for educational multi-touch systems.
  • To formulate a new pedagogy that eases transition and movement between teacher-centric and pupilcentric interaction.
  • To analyse pupils’ learning strategies to inform fundamental research by capturing data as pupils use the SynergyNet environment.

One of my Twitter chums, Tom Barrett, has visited the project and is working with the U.K. group to facilitate an open conversation among educators about the potentials of multi-touch interface in education.  He rights about his visit here, and posted me a e-mail where he says,

They have asked me to help coordinate and facilitate the way that the wider educational technology community can make contributions to the project. They are actively encouraging many voices to assist in an open source style; as opposed to profit focused companies that want their multi-touch development to remain behind closed doors. I believe that this approach puts the Durham project in a strong position.

Part of the process of contributing ideas is a Flickr group that will act as a place to add images and screenshots of learning activities that could be enhanced further with multi-touch capabilities. There is also a Ning group (part of Classroom 2.0) for further discussion.

What now needs to happen is that as many teachers as possible are made aware of the opportunity to contribute, as I think this is an unprecendented chance to help shape what future classroom technology could be like.

So let’s imaging the potentials of multiplying the angles upon which we can workable the information.

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3 thoughts on “Multi-touch for Kids”

  1. This technology looks quite impressive! I wonder if it could be implemented in to touch screen cell phones like the krave? Ever since I started working with Motorola I’ve been fascinated with touch screen technology. You can check out the touch screen and other specs online at…I’d be interested to see if this would work for cell phones too.

  2. Multi-touch is the future, and digital natives are going to expect it. Let’s not disapoint the users; they’ll go someplace else. The Activboards in my school district blow me away, and the new software isn’t even out yet.

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