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Press release


  • 22 February 2006

‘Tablet’ gives parents a pupil’s-eye view of classroom


Childs play: Learning a new lesson on the Homework interactive tablet

Child's play: Learning a new lesson on the Homework interactive tablet

A high-tech learning tool developed by University of Sussex researchers is giving parents a pupil's-eye view of what their children get up to in class - all from the comfort of home.

Researchers from the Human Centred Technology Group at the University of Sussex, together with TV production company Open Mind and Channel 4's educational arm, 4Learning, have developed the Homework Project - a pioneering electronic teaching and learning system.

The aim was to combine educational technology, TV production and Artificial Intelligence to enhance learning in and outside of the classroom. The system comprises an interactive "whiteboard" (electronic screen) and individual portable screens or "tablets" (rather like fold-away laptops) for each pupil.

The prototype has so far been tested by six- and seven-year-old pupils, their teachers and parents. Earlier workshops at Westdene School, Brighton and Patcham House Special School, Brighton, helped developers to refine the prototype. Little Horsted Primary School in Uckfield, East Sussex, has just completed the latest trial.

The teacher uses a whiteboard - a kind of giant touch-screen PC - for class lessons, while pupils can work on their own using the tablets. The teacher can then monitor every child, even sending messages offering help or fresh instructions. All this information is stored on the tablet, which the children can take home to show their parents.

The tablet, which is run off batteries or the mains, can be viewed by the parents without the need for the internet. There's no need to plug it into a TV or computer either. By clicking on an interactive picture screen, parents can view:

  • Activities that the child has completed at school that day and previously, along with lesson plans, photos, film, music, worksheets and fun items, sent direct to each tablet;
  • homework activities set by the teacher;
  • tips for parents about the class and homework activities;
  • fun activities that relate to learning, but are not specific pieces of homework;
  • a messaging system that allows messages to be sent/received to/from the teacher.

Feedback so far has been very positive, says Professor Rose Luckin, who heads the University of Sussex research team. Professor Luckin says: "The interactive tablets are meant to enhance conventional learning - not to replace pen and paper. Parents are also able to share more actively in their child's learning."

She adds: "Additional funding will be needed now to develop the prototype into a commercial product that could be rolled out to schools across the country."

Notes for editors

The Homework Project has been funded so far by the Department of Trade and Industry, the Economic and Social Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, in association with the collaborative research programme PACCIT (People @ The Centre of Communication And Information Technologies).

For more information on the Homework Project, please visit http://ideas.fcs.sussex.ac.uk/projects/Homework/

For more information about Informatics at the University of Sussex, see www.sussex.ac.uk/informatics

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune or Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678888 or email M.T.clune@sussex.ac.uk or J.A.Bealing@sussex.ac.uk

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