Learning Technology jottings at Goldsmiths

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Posts Tagged ‘group_work

BETT 2009 – Microsoft Surface

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At BETT all the big companies are represented and none more so than Microsoft. For purely personal temperamental reasons I usually make a wide berth around Microsoft products, but a demonstration of Microsoft Surface made me linger. It was quite exciting! At first it seemed like a totally unnecessary piece of equipment. Microsoft Surface is a hardware and software combo that allows students to interact in a group with digital content “in a revolutionary way”. The physical unit is a large touchscreen table top around which students can gather and… play with content by dragging their fingers (all fingers, some fingers, one finger) across the surface. It encourages co-operation and is visually very satisfying. You can move, stretch and minimise objects with your hands, objects placed on the surface “introduce themselves” by displaying information. Very fancy (and no doubt very expensive). Still, the question if this is merely a very expensive technological toy does come to mind. Is this really very different from the way a teacher would have brought in physical photographs and asked students to huddle round and interact with the physical objects? Of course it is slicker – but is that enough of an improvement to justify the expense? Does it have the educational advantages that it promises, or is it merely exciting because it is new? Naturally, windows surface is much more versatile than merely a visual aid to share photography. It can display a variety of images (which will always be in peak condition unlike those on photopaper), and video and audio. The table can authenticate users by placing chips or ID cards on the surface. There is a drawing application and the screen responds to the touch of brushes as well as fingers. Learning programmes can be loaded that encourage students to interact and work
things out in groups. (Again, we should at least ask – is group work dependent on technology or on teacher encouragement?) The demonstrator showed how medical records could be called up and displayed, showing patient information including 3D images of a heart which can be rotated and zoomed into all by a mere drag of a finger. That’s when the thing became really impressive and what seemed like no more than an expensive “toy” came into its (educational) own and where I could imagine it as a useful application in teaching. But apparently, Microsoft is targeting this as a consumer good and this video does a good job explaining why you’d have to be a bit stupid to buy (into) it.

Written by Sonja Grussendorf

January 15, 2009 at 17:17

Posted in BETT

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