These are exciting times for interactive learning, and one of the biggest advances in the interactive classroom is only a few years away. The interactive table is the next big thing, and there are researchers and developers out there right now working feverishly to make this new technology a reality. When it does eventually arrive – and that day may be sooner than some pundits in the media think – the technology will revolutionise the way young students participate in their learning interact with others in their learning, and achieve in their subjects. In this article we take a look at the technology of the interactive table, and consider how it might change the educational landscape for good. It is very much a sea change, and we are going to take a look at the reasons why this may be so.
The interactive table works very much like an interactive whiteboard. Interactive whiteboards have been around for quite a while now, and it is hard to find a standard classroom in the country that does not contain one in some shape or form. Interactive whiteboards allows users to touch the screen and manipulate objects etc. by using their hands. This kind of technology is similar to what an interactive table contains.
The real benefit to interactive tables (or ‘digital tabletops’ as some people call them) is the fact that they are tables. In schools, research consistently shows that students work best in groups. Group work needs a table, and one big enough to contain a group. Interactive tables are big enough and therefore, with the interactive elements, already make it a better source of engaging group work than the standard desk. Picture a classroom with students walking from table to table and manipulating content on each screen with their hands, and you have the idea.
With any new technology, especially interactive learning technology, there are always caveats. One main concern about interactive tables is that schools will not necessarily have the budget to buy first interactive tables and then any software and licenses that will allow for their efficient use. While these tables are great for group work, government standards now tie financial support to results, and the high cost (at the moment) of the initial outlay for interactive tables could mean it is out of reach of many schools.
This is a shame. Interactive technology and learning has traditionally helped pupils with special educational needs. If a school is not addressing these needs appropriately and therefore struggling with attainment, then money could be an issue. This could mean the target group that would benefit the most does not receive the new technology and therefore slumps further in their attainment.
This is a slightly moot point for the moment. Until interactive table technology really takes off at least. In the meantime, educators may want to consider how they make their classrooms interactive as regards group work, so they are ready for the tables when they arrive. The potential is incredible, and the technology will be a welcome aspect of the interactive classroom.