18 Jul 2013
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Students get hands on with technology

By Rebecca Wood

Pupils at Whataroa School, a small school on the South Island’s West Coast, had a taste of the future recently when they trialled a new multi- touch display.

Dubbed the 'giant iPad' by students, the 40 inch multi-touch display runs three operating systems simultaneously - Android, Mac and Windows, along with an Apple TV to display additional computers and iPads wirelessly – and is believed to be the only one in NZ.

The school has spent the past five weeks trialling the multi-touch interactive display, and teacher Athena Kent is enthusiastic about the possibilities the technology presents.

"Being successful in using technology in education, it’s important to focus on engagement, creativity, and inquiry-based learning. Having access to three platforms on a large interactive multi-touch display means we're not limited in software and applications, and gives us a huge range of interactive activities to support learning in all areas of the curriculum, and the students love it."

Whataroa School principal Jenny Bainbridge is equally excited by the possibility the technology brings and its ability to engage students.

"The exciting part of technology is we're able to keep students engaged in learning regardless of their learning styles."

While interactive displays have been around for a number of years, what makes this particular system unique is its ability to run the Android operating system on a separate large multi-touch screen.

“Typically you connect the multi-touch display to whatever computer you have available - usually a Mac or a PC” explains Eric Martini, West Coast ICT Facilitator and technology consultant, who has been working with the school throughout the trial. “We’ve taken this a step further by adding Android to give us three operating systems running simultaneously and we can switch between them from the front console.

“Working closely with Athena we've been able to iron out some of the early "kinks" and now the system is running smoothly and is proving robust.”

According to the supplier of the multi-touch display there are two schools in the US trying the same thing with the three platforms.

"We missed being ‘world-first’ by a few weeks! But he's pretty confident Whataroa School is the first in the Southern Hemisphere to have this system running - so that's a consolation,” says Martini.

“Being isolated geographically usually means we have to wait for anything new to arrive, but being one of the first schools in the world to try some new technology has created a real buzz among students. It just shows how technology can break those barriers and anything is possible, no matter where you live.” says Kent.

The multi-touch display can take up to 6 people and is Wi-Fi capable across all platforms.

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