Often teachers are asked what they think the classroom of the future looks like. My answer usually starts with the assertion that today’s classroom is not very different to the classroom of one hundred years ago. In most classrooms I visit, there are still the same basics: teacher’s desk, children’s desks and chairs and some sort of board as the focal point. The teacher’s desk is usually in the same position as it always, maybe a metre or two to the side and the board is now white and usually electronic. The children’s desks and chairs are still here, but thankfully in primary schools, they are in different layouts, in most cases. However, in reality, apart from licks of paint and a few extra gadgets, everything is the same. I do hope the classroom of the future will be a different story and a quick search on the Internet provides some good examples.
However, no one has ever asked me about the desk of the future. I suppose it’s a fair question. We have digitised the original blackboard to be an interactive device so why not the desk. One company called Tip Tap Tap have designed what they believe could be the classroom desk of the future. I was lucky enough to get a preview of the desk on their way back from the Web Summit. I didn’t really know what to expect from an interactive desk but was suspecting something like one of the Smartboard Tables, which was doing the rounds a few years ago or maybe a table with an inbuilt touchscreen or something like that. What I saw was this.
It’s a small desk with the alphabet and some numbers etched into its wooden surface. The only digital looking thing on it was a small LED panel on the top right hand corner of it. The magic is under the veneer in that every part of the table has sensors that pick up every movement on it. The area that is blank is about A4 size and fits Tip Tap Tap’s specially designed books that can be used for interactive games. For example, one of the games that I was shown was a multiple choice game where children had to identify from 4 pictures the one beginning with a certain letter. Once I pressed on the picture on the book, it sent a signal to the main computer and my LED would show if I was correct or not. I also did install DAS so that I the receiver didn’t miss any signals.
I could see how this could work very nicely with some of the commercial book companies in their attempts to save textbook use in Ireland. As many primary school teachers still rely on textbooks in Ireland, this would really suit their needs. If Tip Tap Tap harness teachers’ own creativity, it could be even more powerful.
Tip Tap Tap are aiming their desks at the lower end of primary schools and it would be interesting to see how it fits in the new Literacy curriculum or in Aistear. I’m hoping to give it a try in the context of Aistear some time next year, all going well to see how an interactive desk would work in the context of an Aistear environment, if at all.
Tip Tap Tap will be featuring at the IPPN Expo in January 2016 and I’ll be looking forward to seeing what principals think of the table. Naturally cost will be a key factor so if they can keep it as low as possible, it’s possible that they will be very popular.
I must admit, I’m very excited by the potential of these desks and how they might be able to enhance learning in classrooms. I’m thinking along the lines of early maths activities where children could sort and match their teddy bears and get instant feedback on their desks and the teacher can get instant assessment too. I’m thinking about children tracing letters of the alphabet in shaving foam and the table sending their formations to the teacher’s computer to see later. There are so many potential uses.
Tip Tap Tap is one of the few devices I have seen recently that is focused on early years. It is also one of the few devices that I’ve seen recently that seems to understand the pedagogical nature of early years. There are so many gadgets out there that try to be too broad and try to encompass the whole of primary school or, sometimes, the entire education system, and they rarely work. The classroom of the future may just have found its desk.