In primary school, kids need to learn many basics, such as writing single letters, words or complete sentences. With increasing class size, it can be challenging for the teacher to help every kid separately without leaving others behind.
SmartDesk is a writing pad that supports children in those tasks individually, while also preserving the look-and-feel of real handwriting.
Instead of writing on the SmartDesk directly, it is placed underneath a sheet of paper. It recognizes writing on the paper, and thus can give instant feedback about typeface and spelling by projecting through the paper. Mistakes are marked locally, and if a child is stuck, the correct answer is given to trace it. New Elements can also be introduced by showing animations of e.g. a letter’s path which can then be traced by the children.
When the input fulfills the specified requirements, the children will be rewarded with a star. Collecting stars as a gamification element further motivates the children, and may relieve the teacher from correcting the children’s notebooks.
The teacher can also monitor the input of every SmartDesk in the room, which enables him/her to track each child’s progress and help specific children that need further support.
A major benefit of this approach is that, while the use of a digital medium enhances the learning process of individuals, the haptics of traditional handwriting are preserved.
The SmartDesk offers numerous possibilities. This showcase covers handwriting skills; other use cases might be a more interactive and visual approach to math and geometry lessons, animated elements, and more.
A next step might consist of building a functional prototype for usability studies. Additionally, concrete use cases of the SmartDesk need to be elaborated.
To supply all classrooms with SmartDesks once successful, financial support will be needed, either from the kultus ministry or from private investors.
The idea of the SmartDesk based on two insights. Firstly primary school teachers are only able to help one pupil simultaneously during individual practice, secondly pupils need something tangible for learning.
At the one hand first grader Toni needs some help to write the letter “A” correctly. At the other hand there are plenty other pupils needing support too. The solution to this issue is our new invention called SmartDesk. It’s a digital helper which combines traditional handwriting skills with modern technology. It improves the orthography of each individual child. The SmartDesk is placed under a sheet of paper and either displays the outline of a word or letter or marks mistakes. Furthermore it includes a reward system, so that every pupil receive a star for each correctly written word. This gamification enhances the motivation significantly.
Another important feature of SmartDesk is the live feed, which monitores the handwriting of each pupil. The benefit of it is, that every child can be supported individually by his teacher if needed.
By using SmartDeks, the class successfully learned the letters of the alphabet.
On Tuesday, 13 March we visited the primary school Dorfen-Nord. We were able to interview three teachers and observe one English and two Math lessons, gaining insights into their use of Smartboards and (analogue) educational games.
Through interviews, but also observations and a comprehensive tour around the school, we could experience how analogue and digital games and media is being used at school.
On Wednesday, 14 March we were able to visit another two primary schools.
At Winthirplatz, we were allowed to attend two German lessons about Easter bunnies, in which both Smartboards and the document camera came to use. Afterwards, the teacher answered our questions about everyday life at school, educational games and their points of view about digital media and their use in grades 1 up to 4.
At Garching-Ost, another teacher demonstrated during a German lesson how she teaches cue words via interactive slides on the Active Board (which is another form of Smartboards). Her fourth-graders coped well with using the Active Board, seemingly motivated by using it. Subsequently, two teachers explained to us how they use digital media during their lessons.
In summary, we were surprised to see how extensively digital media (such as the Smartboard) is being used in teachers’ everyday life, even at primary schools. We were able to observe that the use of Smartboards has a great impact on both the interaction between teachers and their students and the motivation of the latter.