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  • 8 February 2008

Sussex shares in £1m grant to put IT learning to the test


The home page for the ShareIT web site

Learning together: The ShareIT project looks at IT tools that aid collaboration

A new £1 million research project at the University of Sussex will be looking to see how new technology in the classroom can help children to learn together effectively - and if it can be adapted further to benefit pupils with autism.

The ShareIT project is a three-year joint research venture between the University of Sussex and The Open University. It is funded by a £1 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Senior Lecturer Dr Nicola Yuill, a developmental psychologist, will head up the Sussex side of the project, assessing the effectiveness of "shareable" technologies such as electronic whiteboards and touch surfaces in the school classroom.

These tools are used to aid collaborative learning in small groups, with participants working on the same piece of work simultaneously, but the researchers will be looking to test just how effective they are. Dr Yuill says: "Much time is spent on collaborative work in the classroom, and research shows that children's understanding benefits from group discussion and working together.

"It is assumed these sort of technologies are effective tools, but little research has been carried out to support this".

Dr Yuill's team will also be working closely with a local unit for children with autistic spectrum conditions to see if further development of shareable technology, in the shape of games incorporating touch surfaces, can encourage children with socially debilitating conditions such as autism to interact more.

The team at The Open University, led by Professor Yvonne Rogers, will be looking at how effective shareable technologies are for adults and in business, and whether they can be developed further in this area too.

The aim of both teams is to produce guidelines for designers, educators and policy makers that will show which shareable technologies are actually beneficial and how they could be developed further to help different types of learner.

Dr Yuill says: "We hope to give people a framework to explain what design features of shareable interfaces promote collaboration. Guidelines will also be developed for designers, educators and policy makers to help them choose from the new assortment of shareable technologies, based on empirical evidence, rather than hearsay or 'Wow' factors."

The project also involves development of new interfaces, and some of the early prototypes will be on show at the Brighton Science Festival on 23 February 2008.

Notes for editors

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK Government's leading funding agency for research and training in engineering and the physical sciences See: EPSRC

The ShareIT project will feature a web site. See www.shareitproject.org

Brighton Science Festival, 23 February - 2 March 2008. See: www.brightonscience.com/07home.php

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune or Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888 or email press@sussex.ac.uk

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