Archive for the 'Philips' Category

Sep 27 2008

The Philips Entertaible in our School

Published by under Philips,Uncategorized

Last Wednesday evening I attended my first TeachMeet event held in the Forth Room at the SECC. Typically I was first out of the hat to do a seven minute talk and kick the evening off – I was very nervous and my careful plans seemed to evaporate as I walked up to the stage. This post is what I would have liked to have said – but I think people got the general idea. It is the story of how a simple email led to a series of events that saw a prototype multi-touch interactive device used in our school.

In 2006 I was exploring the possibility of a second interactive device in our reception classes. I wanted to look at the alternatives to IWBs and came across a whole heap of plasma displays etc. I also happened to stumble upon a few articles from Philips about a research product called the Entertaible. The device was shown as having electronic board gaming at it’s heart but i saw much more than that – I saw it in a classroom with children working together on it.

4 working at the same time

“ The intuitive nature of Entertaible means multiple users can interact with digital data and programs in a simple yet physical, ‘hands-on’ manner. ” Gerard Hollemans, Philips Research

The original Philips press release seems to have been removed from their site but at the foot of it was an email address for the team in charge. I sent them a message basically asking if they had considered the use of the device in the classroom and that I had some ideas for it. Now when you throw a little stone like that at a big organisation like Philips you do not expect it to make a dent or even a mark. But sure enough they replied and we arranged to have, what turned out to be, a series of telephone conversations about the prospects of the device in education. I was staggered really and amazed at how open they were to my ideas.

After being in touch for a short while, Gerard and Maurice from the Philips team invited me to Eindhoven to see the interactive device in action. I asked my headteacher who was hugely supportive of the idea and incredibly in the summer of 2006 I visited the research labs of Philips on their High Tech Campus in Eindhoven. In the meeting I was shown the table and the amazing functionality it had. The Entertaible is a project from the Philips Incubator, the name given to their research department – where new ideas are brought into this world.

After exploring the device first hand I talked with the team about the use of the IWB in our school and the potential that a multi-touch device could have in the classroom. It was wonderful to see the birth place to these sorts of technologies and great credit must go to my headteacher who didn’t even flinch when I asked about the trip and even covered the costs of travel so I could go. It could so easily have been the end of the story – a few emails and phone calls and that’s all – but through his vision it was only the start.

The visit only heightened my interest and curiosity in terms of what the device could do in a classroom. We stayed in touch for a few months afterwards but it wasn’t until November/December 2006 that I got to use the device again in London at a workshop for the Philips team as they explored various markets. I attended the education day and represented the primary sector – it was great to talk about some of my ideas for the table whilst sat at it and meet with further members of the Philips research team.

My headteacher had always said that if you do not speculate sometimes nothing will happen – he was so correct as in late 2006 we were asked if we would like to host the first worldwide school trial of the Philips Entertaible. If you do not knock on the door nobody will ever open it.

Gerard from Philips then asked me to help develop a series of applications that could be produced in the short time he had. I spent a day with a colleague from school who is an AST Reception teacher, in putting the planning together for a range of applications. It was fantastic to be in at the deep end, rethinking traditional activities in light of the collaborative and multi-touch capacity of the device. We had decided that the table would be best trialled in the early years and plans were set out to have it in one of our reception classes for a week.

In February 2007 the only table in the world of its sort arrived at school along with members of the Philips team – the applications were finally in the hands of the most important people, the children. Throughout the course of the week children in the reception class used the device as part of their normal day. In my opinion the table seemed well suited to the classroom environment and the children natural went to it with curiosity and intrigue. The reception teacher and her class had a great week exploring the new technology and worked on counting, position and letter shape activities.

The letter shape activity allowed 4 children to work on the screen at the same time, each on their own quarter. They would touch the screen to activate it and a large letter would be shown with a glowing circle indicating where to begin tracing its shape. When it detects an object or fingertip on that point the glowing circle begins tracing the shape of the letter. If the children are able to accurately trace and follow the guide it will complete the letter and a round of applause will sound from the speakers. However if they stray from the path shown then the whole letter will flash and the glowing circle will return to begin again. You can see it in action in these two videos.

If you are having trouble seeing the videos from Flickr you can see the full set of images and film here.

Children from every class in the school came and used the table throughout the week. The table had variable height so we raised it for the older children and they stood around it when they were working together. The week’s trial was a wonderful experience for all the children and teachers involved.

It was more than a year ago that we had the device in school and about two years from when I first discovered the device online and yet truly open multi-touch technology is yet to be seen in classrooms on any major scale. I know it will not be long and from this experience I realise how much time it takes to develop such a product. Durham University have also been working on the interactive desk idea and since my first contact with Philips Microsoft have developed the Surface, so momentum is growing.

I feel privileged that we had the opportunity to play our part, to represent education in the way that we did, putting new technology in the hands of our learners and hopefully help foster a new age of classroom based interactive devices.

All it took was one email, one knock on the door – I hope it encourages you to do the same.

10 responses so far

Jan 20 2007

Has the IWB past it’s sell by date?

Published by under IWB,Philips,SMARTboards

So as I currently write this I am installing the new SMARTBoard software and I have just reviewed the current state of the product that was displayed at BETT. The Interactive whiteboard has hardly changed since I dusted off a boxed one in a corridor way back when I was training.

I do remember setting that board up in the Year 3 class I was working in and thinking that it was truly the most impressive resource I had used – I have since been in 2 different schools and been charged with the implementation of many IWBs. So I bought into the idea. There are many schools in the UK and I am sure across the world that have not had IWBs installed. It seems to me to be a slow process of integrating a decent technology.

So what’s next? I think that sometimes schools wait too long to have technology delivered to them – to wait for the next bandwagon to come along. I don’t think that the IWB can be taken much further than it already has. Software has changed, yes. What devices we can attach has changed, yes. But what about the interactive technology we use. That is pretty static. No doubt that over time things have been manufactured to a greater standard, with more reliability etc. But when you watch Jeff Han demonstrate at TED Talks a new interactivity, perhaps we should be investing our efforts there.

Recently I wrote about my experiences with Philips here and then here, but it was early days with my blog and I assumed that it slipped under the radar of many of my readers. I hope that you might take the time to read it and comment.

So from my experiences with Philips and watching Jeff Han I believe that perhaps we are looking at the wrong model of car. Indulge me in this analogy for a moment.

So the IWB is an old 2002 model car, and every year there has been a growth in sales – way back then the model had all of the latest features and was “cutting edge”; now the same model has had a paint job, a few bolt on extras like a new exhaust and ways to plug in your mp3 player – but the car itself has not changed. Trichromy, first test.
They are still selling but they haven’t really changed. As drivers our gaze has been fixed by these glorious new additions and the fact that so many other drivers were buying them. Governments even waded in to buy the cars in bulk and then distribute them to new drivers. Of course there are excellent drivers out there – no question, but has the actual car we are driving changed in 5 years? So whilst all this is going on in a factory in Holland or in the US somebody has questioned the design and created the next evolutionary step…

I suppose the question is: how long will it take us to wrench our gaze away from one technology and open our eyes to the possibilities that are emerging elsewhere?

5 responses so far

Dec 06 2006

A long day but a great one.

Published by under IWB,Philips

I feel very fortunate. It is a very rare opportunity to see an emergent technology that could have a huge impact on future teaching and learning.

On Monday I travelled to London to meet up with the Philips Entertaible team who I had met back in July of this year over in Eindhoven, Holland. It was great to see Maurice and Gerard again and to meet two more members of the Philips team. I was invited to take part in this workshop on education and help to draw out the possibilities of the Entertaible in my profession.

Facilitated by the company “What If?” we tried to get to grips with the possibilities. I must admit it was a great day! It was extremely different to the usual day I have and was quite intense – but being involved with such a raw technology at the very beginning of it’s life is inspiring.

It is very difficult to explain the technology other than what I said before.

From a teaching point of view though – imagine a simple counting or sorting activity on a normal table using counters and other physical resources.Then imagine the same learning activity produced on a IWB using digital versions of the counters or shapes plus the added multimedia benefits.

Now take those two ideas and combine them.

Not one nor the other but the best of both. Physical resources placed on a flat digital display that reacts to their location and presence!! The potential is staggeringly huge!
I left at 6:00am and got home at 10:45pm so it was a very long day but one that was a privilege to be involved with.

2 responses so far