Interactive desk could transform classrooms

Irish researchers have developed a hi-tech interactive school desk which could transform the classroom environment and predict learning difficulties.

Interactive desk could transform classrooms

A team at Cork Institute of Technology’s Nimbus embedded systems research centre have built a prototype system which turns an ordinary school desk into an interactive touch-sensitive interface.

And the team, led by senior software researcher, Stephen Collins, has now been awarded a €296,000 Enterprise Ireland grant to help commercialise their Tip tap tap system.

They hope when it goes in to mass production, it could be available to buy for a significantly lower cost than alternative technologies, making it a viable option for cash-strapped schools.

“We are not trying to replace the iPad or other tablets that some schools have,” Mr Collins said.

“We are trying to enhance traditional learning and teaching, and work with the existing infrastructure schools have.

“Students benefit from natural methods of interaction such as gesture and touch, and using the body to do and learn, will improve their understanding and encourage deeper levels of engaged learning.”

The Nimbus team has developed a way of embedding touch-sensing technologies into new schools desks, or retrofitted like a laminate overlay onto an existing school desk.

The system features static alphanumeric characters but can be customised to also include symbols and images.

There is a small LED display zone to provide visual feedback to the students.

The system can interact with a classroom’s whiteboard so when a teacher sets a task from the whiteboard, students can tackle it using the Tip tap tap while sitting at their desk.

The students’ work is then fed electronically back to the teacher’s computer allowing them to track all students’ progress.

The team also plans to devise software algorithms that will allow the system to identify patterns and predict certain learning difficulties.

Tip tap tap will be unveiled to the public at the Dublin Web Summit, which runs from November 4 to 6.

There are also plans to showcase it at the BT Young Scientist Exhibition.

The Nimbus research team said they will continue to work closely with educational stakeholders and industry technology leaders as the project moves on to the next stage.

The Nimbus Centre is Ireland’s leading centre in embedded systems research — the hidden computers that monitor and control many aspects of our working and living.

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