Washington, Sept 18 : Scientists at Durham University are developing world's first interactive classroom, which may result in a 'Star Trek' style make-over for schools.
With the researchers' efforts students will be able to learn environments using interactive multi-touch desks that look and act like a large version of an Apple iPhone.
Researchers at the Technology-Enhanced Learning Research Group (TEL) at Durham University are designing an interactive classroom solution called 'SynergyNet' which aims at achieving active student engagement and learning by sharing, problem-solving and creating.
The team has collaborated with manufacturers and are now designing software, and desks that recognize multiple touches on the desktop, using vision systems that can see infrared light.
The team observed how students and teachers interact in classes and how Information Communications technology (ICT) could improve collaboration and are developing SynergyNet which will integrate ICT into the fabric of the classroom.
The 'multi-touch' desks will be the central component and the desks will be networked and linked to a main smartboard that will provide new opportunities for teaching and collaboration.
At a time, many students will be able to work together at a desk as the desks allow simultaneous screen contact by multiple users using fingers or pens.
A single work-desk can operate as a set of individual work spaces and/or a large screen allowing students to cooperate on a task. The software will be used to link everything together in a fully interactive classroom system of desks and smartboards.
Teachers will be able to instantly display examples of good work by students on the main smart-board; tasks could also be set for each individual desk. Numeracy tasks could include exercises where pupils have to split a restaurant bill by sliding visual representations of money into a group space.
The scientists wanted to create a 'natural way' for students to use computers in class. The system boosts collaboration between students and teachers, and is a step ahead of teacher-centric learning.
"Our vision is that every desk in school in 10 years time will be interactive. IT in schools is an exciting prospect - our system is very similar to the type of interface shown as a vision of the future in the TV series Star Trek!" said Dr. Liz Burd, Director of Active Learning in Computing at Durham University.
He added: "We can now by-pass the 'move-to-use' whiteboard. The new desk can be both a screen and a keyboard, it can act like a multi-touch whiteboard and several students can use it at once. It offers fantastic scope for more participative teaching and learning.
"The system will also boost equal access in school. In IT, we have found that males have been the dominant actors - interactive classrooms will encourage more females to take part in lessons. It will also enable more disabled students to participate in lessons and allow more personalized learning."
Scientists will first test the system with students of all ages, and then the software will be available to schools for free as open source code.