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Digital tables – the next step for New Zealand classrooms

Digital tables – the next step for New Zealand classrooms

Just as parents come to terms with the fact that their kids can use iPads and Smartphones better than them; and that blackboards are now museum items, here comes something even bigger to get their heads round: digital interactive tables. Hang on your schoolbags – the future of educational technology has arrived in New Zealand.

The ActivTable, designed for educational group use with kids aged four to eleven, is essentially a giant, robust, tablet or iPad on steroids (and legs). It has an interactive touch screen table with a 46-inch HD LCD display that allows up to six users to interact at one time.

It's only in a handful of schools, one of them being tiny 55 pupil Tangiteroria School in Northland. Principal Braden Eades is delighted "It's very exciting to be the first school in the country to use this technology. This, along with our existing Information and Communication Technologies, is really enhancing the learning journey that our staff and students are on."

An example of this learning in action is a game where an assortment of virtual food is stacked around the edge of the board and there are a number of empty plates with labels in the middle. Students have to drag and drop the food into the right plate ie dairy, meat, fruit or veggies. At the end of the session the Activtable can even tell the teacher how much every student participated – a discreet diagnostic tool which can be used to see where help is required.

Mary Pedersen, the teacher who has this exciting piece of technology in her classroom at Tangiteroria, is enjoying the ride so far. "It's bright, colourful, instant and fun – perfect for young learners. We find them spending time outside class on it too. We love it for writing collaborative stories and you can save work and pick up again where you left off. This is great for young attention spans. Synonym dominoes is a another popular activity.”

And her little digital natives are learning more than just how to employ new technology. In fact, in contrast to many other electronic devices, this one encourages a lot of interpersonal communication. "It's great for teaching a lot of non-digital behaviours as it will not work unless children co-operate, take turns and learn to work together. These are all crucial life skills."

Murray Thoms of Activboard New Zealand says "The ActivTable is the ideal small group interactive tool for schools and special needs education. Every school we have taken it to, the students can't wait to use this really cool collaborative tool that encourages participation and collective engagement. It's very exciting to be part of this next step in educational technology.”


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