Aug 24, 2009

MICROSOFT: ARE YOU LISTENING? Cool Cat Teacher (Vicki Davis) Tests Out Microsoft's Multi-touch Surface Table

When Microsoft unveiled the Surface in 2007, I was disappointed that there were no immediate plans to market it for use in education. At the time, there were no immediate plans to release the Surface for research and development by university students. I had just completed a course in human-computer interaction, and with my background as a school psychologist, I KNEW this sort of technology would work well in education.

My head was brimming with ideas for this innovative technology for use with the students I work with every day.

The following video shows a demonstration of Microsoft's multi-touch, multi-user Surface table at the 2009 NECC conference, and also provides insightful comments from Vicki Davis, author of the very popular Cool Cat Teacher blog. Vicki discusses the value of surface/tabletop computing in education and shares her views about the need for user involvement in the educational software development process. She also gives great advice about how Microsoft or other developers of tabletop computing systems should proceed.

I agree with Vicky's comments, 100%, as my regular blog readers know!


In the above video, it is apparent that the musical instrument applications do not provide a good touch response on the Surface. Vicki suggests that touch responsiveness is key, and that all Surface applications should be held to the high standard of Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch. Vicky goes on to say that Microsoft should support easy development of applications, and ensure that applications are very user-friendly and easy for school folks to install. If you work in a K-12 setting, you know what I am talking about ; )

Vicky is preaching to the choir when she stresses that Microsoft R&D (and others) should involve users in ongoing development, in a meaningful way, by using REAL people, REAL teachers, people who work with students. If you have ever battled with a "lame" educational application, you know why this is so very important!

Vicky's enthusiasm for the use of tabletop/surface computing in education can not be ignored. She absolutely knows what she is talking about, and she is the instructional technology voice for a multitude of educators around the world.

Here is Vicky's plea:

"I wish Microsoft would listen to these 3 things from a teacher in a classroom (me). I know Microsoft has bigger things to do than watch this video, but, I can dream, can't I?"

(I've paraphrased the following quotes.)

1. Understand the amazing potential for Surface devices in education. Look at three to five years out. You are looking at the future.

(This technology can engage students who have ADHD, etc.)

2. Harness the power of your users! Pull in your users. There are so many people in education would give their thoughts for free!

3. Create virtual and online ways for Microsoft to interact with teachers.

"If Microsoft decides to invest in this, and I do hope that somebody watching this video will understand the importance of integrating the world around us into the learning experiences and the learning environment, as part as how we remake and re-do education."

My sentiments exactly!

A few thoughts:

So where are we now?

Smart Technologies has come out with the SMARTTable, but it was designed for younger students. At this point, there are very few options, especially affordable options, for educators of students in the upper grades to use this technology.

Some members of the NUI-group are involved in creating educational applications for table-top systems, but they are few in number.

A few companies are using this technology for education, but the applications are mostly limited to interactive museum exhibitions.

From my research on this topic, there are very few developers that have the interest or the inclination to create educational applications for table-top computing.

My hope is that this will change soon! Join me in this conversation.
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