This summer my family took a little road trip to Atlanta where we got to play in a dark room filled with digital interactive areas! (Videos are posted on my Tools for School TR FB page.)
This was a playground brought to us by Team Lab and The Mall of Georgia.
It was a super cool experience and well worth our money and the drive! There were large rolling balls you could produce an orchestra piece with, a town and an aquarium wall where we illustrated pictures (seen behind us in the picture below ), scanned them in and watched them become animated on the wall scenes!
Not to mention you could touch things on the wall and interact with it. But there were also interactive tables and the teacher in me couldn't help researching these a bit and wondering if this is next step for schools.
Now, let's think for a minute. I know you remember the green chalkboards, then when I was in later elementary school, we began to get a few "high-tech" marker boards! Wow! Amazing! ha! What about the dinosaur computer in the library that played Oregon Trail? Then keyboarding became a priority and before I graduated with my teaching degree, everyone and their momma (well some mommas) had not just a desktop, but a laptop. The schools I student taught in had computers in the classrooms and during my teaching career, interactive white boards and elmos. What do we all use now? Some schools require students to have ipads! That's a lot of change in a short time.
So what about these interactive tables? Are they next big thing to invade our classrooms? Are they welcomed? Are the NECESSARY? What are the pros and cons? What does this mean for homeschool children? Good questions to ask.
What Can we DO with an Interactive Table? These would be the PROS.
Obviously, we want children to interact with each other and work collaboratively. We already try to achieve this in classrooms by sitting kids at tables instead of desks, giving group projects and even playing community sports can help us achieve this.
We want children to embrace technological advances as the world they will live and help to create will be full of technology! We want them to be thinkers and inventors and understand these tools.
In addition, this is similar to a big ipad where you an touch, drag and manipulate things without the use of a keyboard. Wouldn't that save you some work? Imagine if a kindergarten teacher didn't have to spend all the time cutting manipulatives out!
On this site, you can view a teacher and some early childhood students using a table to complete Eric Carle's Very Hungry Caterpillar story.
"Debbie Aronson Ziering, Director of Early Childhood Education noted,“Children (and their parents) today expect technology to be part of their lives, and the students approach this educational tool with a natural curiosity and eagerness to incorporate it in to their activities.""
Cons and Reservations
My first thought that people may consider here is that this is yet another "screen time" problem. We've all heard the deal about screen time and as a mom, and a homeschool educator, I can control that, of course. However, if my children need to use and understand technology to thrive, it becomes a catch twenty-two. A major consideration is how regular exposure to a screen could negatively affect behavior.
I know that I get irritated starring at a computer for even an hour. (This blog post, in fact might be shorter than planned). haha! So, does an interactive table count for screen time?
According to this online medical dictionary, Screen Time is -"The amount of time a person spends in front of a “screen”, including TV, computers and videogames. Increased screen time in children is associated with narrowing of retinal arteriolar calibre, which may be asurrogate marker for future risk of cardiovascular disease. Physical activity, in contrast, is associated with a wider meanretinal arteriolar calibre." -Segen's Medical Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. Although it doesn't say so, I'd say, "YES!" based on my recent experience.
One thing I experienced in the interactive lab we visited was that my children (and myself) tired quickly. It was super neat, yet very over-stimulating. Not only were my eyes very tired by all the digital light I was constantly viewing, but even just after 1 hour of being in there, we were spent. There wasn't that much physical movement either. It was fun manipulating the little things on the table, but I could see how as a classroom teacher, I would think, "Okay, is it using the table really necessary?" Just like using a smart board in my classroom became a glorified projector screen, I would think the smart table would turn out the same. Maybe you are more actively using smart boards than I was.
I think classrooms SHOULD integrate the latest technology as much as money allows, but not as much as time allows! Learning comes with diligent focus and concentration on the work that is learning: pondering, memorizing, researching, trying again, reciting, applying, testing it out, hypothesizing, summarizing and problem solving! We can USE an interactive table as a tool for one of these during the day, but it isn't necessary, in my opinion, to do every learning experience on a computer, ipad, interactive white board or table for that matter.
There's reward in the use of good old fashion books for reading, not a screen. Let's use a fresh white piece of paper to sketch out ideas and write an exciting story! Don't you love the smell of freshly sharpened pencils? Why, it's my all time favorite August scent! Just like most good things in life, I've learned, all in moderation.
What experiences have you had with these interactive tables at this point? Do you have some in your school? Has your school talked about getting them? This was my very first experience. Let's hear from you!