Off-the-wall ideas for a brave new world of global connections

Touchscreens as big as walls will link classrooms all over the world in just 10 years, says software giant

Richard Vaughan

Giant touchscreens "the size of a wall" will connect classrooms all over the world enabling pupils to interact via real-time translation within the decade, according to Microsoft.

The new technology is the natural successor to the interactive whiteboard and will give teachers access to unlimited resources at their fingertips, the software giant said.

Speaking ahead of the world's largest learning technology forum, BETT 2010, which starts on Wednesday, Microsoft claimed it is working towards a vision of an interactive classroom via touch technology that will link schools together all around the world.

Ray Fleming, Microsoft's UK education marketing manager, said: "We are currently looking at using huge touchscreens the size of the classroom wall that will allow real-time interaction between two classrooms anywhere in the world.

"So you could have a school in England interacting with a school in India, using the touch wall to write and have real-time translation working."

Mr Fleming added: "The technology already exists. For instance, we will be showcasing our touch screen monitors that are similar in price to a conventional LCD monitor. We think it will be possible in about 10 years' time.

"With real-time translation we can open up more access to learning any time, anywhere. The role of the teacher and of the school will change."

According to Microsoft, the limitation with interactive whiteboards is that they are predominantly used for display rather than interactivity purposes despite the name.

The introduction of touchscreens will enable pupils to interact with the technology. The company is already working on a product called Microsoft Surface, a touchscreen computer the size of a coffee table that can identify any device that is placed on it and begin downloading information that is stored on it.

Mr Fleming said: "If you place a child in front of it the first thing they would do is start to play with it. But from there you can begin to plan the child's interactivity with it and they can start to learn from it.

"The technology will also allow a teacher to assess the activity of each individual student and keep tabs on each student's contribution and what levels they are working to."

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Richard Vaughan

Richard has been writing about politics, policy and technology in education for nearly five years after joining TES in 2008. He joined TES from the building press having been a reporter and then later news editor at the Architects’ Journal. Before then he studied at Cardiff University’s school of journalism. Richard can be found tweeting at @richardvaughan1

Find me on Twitter @RichardVaughan1

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