By George Cole
This year’s BETT Show was a touching experience in more ways than one. A number of exhibitors were showing devices that used a touch interface. Touch-technology isn’t new and touch-screens for children with special educational needs have been around for years. But the advent of products like the Apple iPhone has propelled touch technology into the mainstream.
One of this year’s themes was multi-touch technology, which is ideal for collaborative work. Microsoft’s Surface and Smart Technologies’ Smart Table are multi-touch computers that look like coffee tables. Small groups of students can sit around them and work together on a task or project at the same time, touching different parts of the computer’s touch-screen surface to input information or solve problems.
However, Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system has multi-touch capability (see video below) and number of PC manufacturers, including Dell, Acer, Samsung and HP, have launched low-cost (in some cases, sub-£300) multi-touch monitors as a result. Using Windows 7, users can make gestures, for example to zoom into an image or rotate a map. At BETT 2010, Ray Fleming, Microsoft’s education marketing manager, demonstrated Windows 7 multi-touch technology using a Dell multi-touch monitor (Samsung too had an impressive £300 monitor on display). Ray Fleming says: “Multi-touch used to be an expensive option for education, but now it’s within the reach of most schools.”