Writing's on the wall and floor

5th May 2006 at 01:00
Imagine you can pass round a small device that allows students to type a question, others to type their answers and the question and answers to appear on a big interactive board for all to see.

Imagine a class where students are busy cooking, or doing science experiments, for example, and they type on their desk the procedures they are following and the results obtained. The results appear on their computers at the far end of the room, away from the cooking, and are saved and shared.

Imagine you can be anywhere in the class, switch on the device and type advice in collaboration with a student working on a problem. You dim the lights, switch the keyboard on, it lights up on the desk and the students then take turns to type on the desk.

Imagine you could do all this without worrying about damage to the keys, or about crumbs or liquid getting into the keyboard.

The device that can do all this is a virtual keyboard. It allows students to work alone, in pairs, small teams or the whole class, typing in their work from anywhere in the room with characters appearing on the screen of their choice. It is easy to set up, share and store and will even work outside the classroom.

With money from my Gatsby Teacher Fellowship I bought one recently.

Slightly bigger than a standard board pen, the virtual keyboard combines infrared and laser technology to spray a full-size QWERTY keyboard onto any flat surface. It is illuminated, has no physical keys, comes in a protective case and uses Bluetooth technology to communicate with other computers or smartphones. It can be made as big or small as you want.

Flat surfaces we have used it on include desks, exercise books, A4 colour card, posters of the students' choice, the wall and the floor. Costing about Pounds 130, weighing just 80g and being 90x34x24mm, it's small but has huge potential and students just love it.

Alan Slater, Gatsby Teacher Fellow, Gosford Hill School, Oxford Road, Kidlington

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