back to article Tiny tots trial touchscreen tech

Durham University researchers have received £1.5m in funding for a project that aims to replace classroom desks with interactive tables. SynergyNet A child shows off his maths skills on the interactive 'SynergyNet' table. Image courtesy of Metro The researchers, together with manufacturers and education groups, are …


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  1. andrew mulcock

    old news

    My 5 year olds' state school has interactive white boards in all the class rooms,

    The kids do numeracy and literacy on the boards , just as in the article.

    1.5M to learn how to turn the white board through 90 degrees and use back projection, not a bad project.

    Can I apply for such a grant ?

  2. Hamza


    That will quickly become the most expensive work of collective graffiti in the world...

  3. Owen Williams

    Thin client please

    Thin client please so the kiddies can continue their work at home.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Which physics engine?

    Havok, with it's non-realistic simulation*, or PhysX, which is far more physically accurate? Or something else entirely?

    Don't tell me they expect to teach physics with a physics engine?

    * e.g. max 4 contact points, no real friction model

  5. Avi
    Thumb Down

    Keep the old ones

    They still work after a couple of years of kids writing their names on them with a pair of compasses...

  6. Neil Bauers

    Miss! Miss! Miss!

    ... my desk has crashed. Never mind dear. Just turn it off and turn it back on again.

  7. Aaron

    Spare me

    Another bunch of loonballs with a good idea who want to use school kids as guinea pigs. How are they going to doodle in the margins during a boring lecture, that's what I want to know.

  8. Simon Riley

    @old news

    I imagine a good chunk of the £££ goes on the need for the table to be a lot more crayon/pen/choccy-proof than traditional interactive whiteboards.

  9. James Le Cuirot

    Small world

    I was taught by Liz Burd. Wish we'd had those tables in the lecture halls!

  10. Richard
    Thumb Down

    Gum proof?

    Well, will it be gum proof? Or resistant to scratches from say, compasses? To even think of putting this kind of thing in schools, they are going to have to be tough as nails... oh and cheap.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    Do they have any good academic arguments that justify the use of this expensive kit? Wouldn't it be money better spent to hire more teachers?

    I love tech like this but I also have some experience of "technology in education" projects and they're often no more than fun but pointless activities for talentless post-graduate students looking for something to waste money on.

  12. TeeCee Gold badge

    Some questions for the makers.

    1) Do they still work once "Kilroy was here" has been engraved into the surface with a penknife?

    2) Are they suitable for the destructive testing of conkers?

    3) Do they have a disused inkwell to put snot balls in? If not, do they still work when the underside is caked in dried snot?

    4) Do they make the correct "fdoooooiiiinnngggg" noise when a ruler is held to the surface at one end and then flicked at the other while dragged sharply toward the holder? If not, can you come up with an onomatopoeic representation of the actual noise produced?

    5) Are they robust enough to withstand "Lardy" Simmonds being dropped from a height of around four feet onto the surface?

    6) How long is the power cord? Is this enough to support "desk walkies" races up the classroom?

    7) Do you provide software that will do something useful (e.g. convert the surface into a functioning replica of Mr Data's navigation console from Star Trek Next Gen)?

    8) Can they be written on using indelible markers?

    9) Can they be cleaned after being written on with indelible markers?

    10) Can the flat surface be easily detached from its mountings? If yes, what's the current record for the furthest "frisbee" throw?

  13. Spockter Doc

    Graphite writing sticks

    Surely it's not just about being able to do the sums it's about being able to write in the first place?

  14. Skizz

    What a stupid idea and a waste of money.

    Teachers are very adaptive, they can redesign lessons to fit their pupils, use the current in-thing to gain interest (for example, Harry Potter has 12 gold coins worth a pound each and wants to buy a DVD for 7.49, what will he use to pay for the DVD and how much change will he get). Would the software driving these things be able to adapt in this way? Could the teachers adapt the software? And compared to the graphics of game consoles kids play with these days they will soon bore of the technology. And the cost! How much to install thirty of these things per classroom in a school. Tables! Cheap! Easy to fix. Lasts a long time. Doesn't need electricity.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    ooo please

    o please I work in primary schools all with touch sensitive boards etc etc, most schools can barlely afford for each kid to have a computer to themselves when it comes to *cough* IcT*shudder* . Its the magical 10 years in the future again, by wich time I hope there a lot smaller, wont fit 20-30 of thos in any classroom ive seen.

    Besides there are other things allready on the market that would do this allready, laptops (breakable i know but kids can break anything) and something like the rm tutor system (when it works). Wish i could get 1.5 mil to reinvent something, mines round and gos under things, im calling it a wheel.

    /anon coz well you know

  16. Elmer Phud
    IT Angle

    Education or cash-cow?

    Why the F do we need to make kids manipulate screen coins to work out change? The real world uses these metal thingies that have different sounds, weights and feel to them making identification even easier. Cost a lot less than desk-screens anyway.

    In the meantime, back in the real world, there are problems at school with drivers for robots now that XP SP3 has been installed. Maybe we should try and get things right here and now before ignoring them and waving the latest bit of IT Edu-Porn at those who don't have a clue about IT or Education but hold the purse strings.

  17. Lotaresco

    Another failing IT initiative

    "For example, teachers could ask the kids to split a restaurant bill by using their fingertips to divide up the coins they see on interactive table."

    Wouldn't it be cheaper to use real coins?

    "Teachers could also display one child’s work on all the interactive tables in the classroom."

    Excellent, another excuse for bullying in the playground. Hurrah for clueless "educational" IT manufacturers. This screams of yet another "initiative" created without evidence that it will contribute positively and without any thought about how or if it will be used in the classroom.

    Penguin, because I fancy a choccy bikky with my coffee.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Are you all mad?!?!?

    What's with all these complaints! You are clearly luddites! I'm no computer sighentist, but I know that the further is information techknowledgy. Who cares about maths, English or social skills? In the future compyooters will do all this for us.

    If we teach kids these obsoleet skills then we be left behind in the information age and hacked by Iran till all our compyooters break and we are stranded in the ICE-AGE!!!!1!!!!!!111

  19. Hollerith

    when dinosaurs rule

    I was in a meeting the other day when the laptop being used failed on us and the chap who had snuck in his mobile found out that his charge was almost gone, and we had to do sums.

    So the oldest one in the room (me) took pen and paper and did long division and then some other stuff (rations, etc. basic maths) that left the younger ones round-eyed at my ancient magic.

    That was sort of fun, but mostly people will have a calculator on hand and won't have to worry. If we want a star trek* future, then it has to begin somewhere.

    *which I don't

  20. Will Shaw

    Fundamental design flaw....

    Hmmm, I have a 2yr old and a 3yr old and every time I want to use my touchscreen phone, I inevitably need to scrape off a congealing "faceplate" of snot, jam and dribble, regardless of where I've hidden it previously in yet another futile attempt to prevent such enthusiastic but unwelcome dawbings.

  21. Anonymous Coward


    They never cease to amaze me in what they find interesting. You can spend all the money in the world on the most interesting and exciting tech toys and software going, but they will still manage to spend three hours and find something fascinating about two toy cars and teddy with his arm missing!

    Rather than going overboard with too much tech, given the low standards in education we have in quite a few schools, perhaps a little more time and effort in making sure kids learn the three Rs first? There will be plenty of time for our kids to wipe the floor with us tech-wise, after they get their first blackberry and PC!

  22. Dave

    Love that word!

    From AC above: "sighentist". Presumably because he/she has been called a boffin by the tabloids who have also totally missed the point of whatever has just been announced and printed total bollocks that is so off-topic that one has to wonder whether the journalist was even in the room.

    Yes, been there, done that and had a good laugh at it all. It's a real eye-opener about news media, if the bit I know about is reported wrong, what about the rest of it?

  23. David Pollard

    This should dumb them down well enough

    Yeah, get them into virtual reality early. Teach them reading and writing by the age of seven and keep them occupied with simulations. They'll never notice what they missed.

    Experience of the real world may lead them to think and develop independently: a dangerous tendency that needs to be conditioned out at the earliest possible age.

  24. Andy Dent

    Upper body development

    OK-Cancel said it all, when they saw Minority Report

    I have a (painful) dim memory of working with HP touchscreens back in the mid-80's where the infrared-based screen was quickly rejected in favour of using a conventional mouse due to executives pains in neck.

  25. Mike
    Thumb Down


    A great advancement for world government. No more Hitler or Stalin to threaten mankind into obedience. Just program the children of the world with the views of the current World Government and in two decades the World will be changed to their way of thinking. In America, the government has been rewriting American History to be "Politically Correct." This is done to make the "African American" feel important and part of the founding of America. History shows that this is not the case but who cares about truth: not the American Government. How easy and inexpensive it is to reprogram World History instead of writing new books every two or three years. America learned this from Russia, Germany, China, Iraq and other nations that have sought to control the masses through manipulation of their children in the classroom. What could be a good tool will ultimately be used for evil. I liked the way I was taught in school. In math, we had to show our work without the use of a calculator. In history, we had to seek first source material if possible and credible second and third source if necessary. On this contraption, the calculator and search engine will do the work and not always accurately or honestly. Parents need to get involved with their children's learning and make sure they know the difference between the propaganda and the truth; the reasons behind the formulas and the buttons on the calculator.

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