SMART Table in my Classroom – Days 2-5: Teething Problems

Unfortunately we have had big problems with the first SMART Table unit we have used. Beyond waiting for keys the Table itself was faulty straight from the box.

Since the beginning of this week I have managed to get some groups of children around the Table involved with some of the activities. It has been good to speak to some of them and get their responses about using it. The children were very excited about using it and had lots of fun working together in some of the applications. Some of their first responses were:

  • How much is it?
  • Wow – cool, well it looks cool, I don’t know if it actually is cool yet.
  • Where is it going to go?
  • That thing makes an awful big racket! (The fans are very noisy)
  • Headteacher: “Did you enjoy using the SMART Table?” Boy in my class: “It’s OK but it just kept crashing!”

It would be unfair to read too much into the children’s reaction to the Table at the moment as we have had a faulty unit, it has not been behaving as it should. But interesting nonetheless.

The major issue we have had is that as soon as I switched it on, the Table was registering two phantom touches in the centre of the table. This caused the menu windows to be almost inoperable and if I was able to get to an application, it disrupted the movement of objects within that activity. As you can imagine causing huge frustration.

SMART Table Phantom Touches from Tom Barrett on Vimeo.

From the (rough) film you can see the blotches or blobs that appear even when not touching the table, they clearly shouldn’t be there. Safari is selected and you can see a small blob on the selection that won’t go away – that is the phantom touch.

Steljes/SMART reacted to our problems really quickly and, even though it is clearly in their interest to give me a working device, they have worked quickly to rectify it. I was visited yesterday by James Loder, Louise Perrier and a SMART Technician called Steve. They looked at the two mirrors inside, the projector and eventually narrowed the problem to the USB camera that was tracking the touches. Cleaning it did not solve the problems and it was decided that it needed further investigation.

James and Louise said they have a brand new Table in the office, that they have tried and that works perfectly – and that we could have that. So we boxed back up the SMART Table and I am waiting for it to be collected and the other to arrive on Friday morning.

From SMART Table

I was a little surprised and disappointed to find out that the Table was not a conference unit and was in fact brand new, completely fresh from Canada. The quality of the finish of the projected image and flawed touch capability was amazing considering it was new – I was under the impression it had been in the UK and taken a bit of a hammering at BETT or other trade shows. 

A couple of things that I have learned already:

  • There is a long way to go in terms of the toolkit and software development
  • The table is very robust.
  • There is a place in the primary classroom for this type of technology, it feels natural to have this style of technology in my classroom.
  • My instincts tell me their is a future in this style of work for kids.
  • Multi-touch and the behind the scenes technology that is needed to operate it, can be very temperamental.
  • Children take to the medium very easily and naturally.
  • They can be networked.
  • 3rd party software can run on them but you would lose the 40 touch capability.
  • For 9 and 10 year olds (upper junior) the optimum number for using the Table is 4. Any more and it gets a little congested, limiting the screen real estate that you can use. This is crucial, you might be able to get 6 Year 5s around it but they will not get significant enough access to the surface and so the learning activity.

Despite these teething problems I am still eager to get started properly with SMART Table in the classroom, and as it is long term project we can afford a few days ironing out the bumps. When we have a working unit we will have children working in groups on it every morning as part of the range of morning activities and I will be further exploring the use of the Table Activity Toolkit (full write up soon) that allows you to customise your own resources. 

One thought on “SMART Table in my Classroom – Days 2-5: Teething Problems

  1. Tom,

    Thanks for posting the update – i am following the progress of this acquisition with great interest. Look forward to seeing further developments in the integration of this tool into your curriculum in the future. Hang in there 🙂