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Dr. Liz Burd

Department of Computer Science
Science Laboratories
South Road

Tel: 0191 3341719


     Technology Enhanced Learning:

SynergyNet: Supporting Collaborative Learning in an Immersive Environment

For further information on this project, please click here

For information on all current TEL projects click here



Liz Burd (Durham University)
Julian Elliot (Durham University)
Andrew Hatch (Durham University)
Steve Higgins (Durham University)
Malcolm Munro (Durham University)
Shamus Smith (Durham University)

Project Summary

This proposal puts forward plans to develop a new learning space called 'SynergyNet'. This learning space will be technology rich, where ICT is seamlessly integrated into the fabric of a classroom. The SynergyNet immersive classroom consists of the multi-touch desks and communication software to allow transitions between large screen displays and desks. Multi-touch desks are similar to PDAs or tabletPCs in that they alleviate the need for a mouse or keyboard by allowing the user to interact with a finger or stylus. However, unlike Interactive Whiteboards and tablet technologies, multi-touch surfaces can detect simultaneous contacts by fingers or pens. Therefore, two or more students can operate the desk at the same time. So, feasibly, a single multi-touch desk can operate as a set of individual computerised work spaces and/or a single large screen allowing students to cooperate on a task. Within a SynergyNet classroom everyone will have easy access to the equipment so the dialogue currently generated between small numbers of students gathered around an Interactive Whiteboards can be extended to the whole class thus enabling a student-centric pedagogy. Thus, our proposed classroom will resolve the problems associated with student use of Interactive Whiteboards and offer a more flexible solution to the limited dialogue of Electronic Voting Systems.

Higgins et al (2006, 2007) have shown that overall technology has had a rather disappointing impact on teaching and learning in schools. Our thesis is that too little attention has been paid to teachers as learners within the technology- adoption progress and that provision should be made for this learning-process during the technology's introduction. SynergyNet will facilitate teachers' progress through Beauchamp's (2004) five transitional competency stages by initially enabling teachers to operate the technology using their familiar pedagogy and then by motivating teachers and gradually enabling them to gain confidence in its use, we will facilitate then through Beauchamp's transitional competency stages and towards a more dialogic pedagogy.

SynergyNet has the potential to engage learners throughout the lifecourse. We recognise that it is essential that the communication software and especially the multi-touch user interface take into account user diversity. Our evaluation process will involve staff and students from Primary and Secondary Schools and Higher Education. The initial and detailed evaluation will involve staff and students from Higher Education but, from September 2009, the user community will be broadened to schools.



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