Saturday, 30 May 2009

A visit to RM's Real Centre

The REAL Centre has been created to promote discussion and debate about how technology and furniture can support learning and as a space for experimentation for teachers, with or without their students and product developers. We are planning to do some Oxfordshire meetings here in the future, watch the Harnessing Technology newsletter to find out more!

The whole area is split into five learning zones, each equipped with tools and furniture to demonstrate versatility and total integration of ICT with learning and teaching.

1 - Communication Zone

The focus of this space is on developing communication skills with students of differing abilities including PMLD and sensory work. The whole area is built around the most up to date touch screens and height adjustable plasma screens (driven by infrared to match existing wheelchair technology), and had light beams, voice and modern switch activation. The idea is that instead of having a sensory room as we have in many of our special schools now, the whole building becomes an immersive, learning playground. It has height adjustable tables that can be placed in a horseshoe configuration with 45 degree tables that enables staff to engage directly with four students, so aiding concentration. It has multi-sensory seating allowing for positioning and integrated sensory activities. It has technologies that encourage students to communicate using the full range of senses we played with a computer driven totally by eye movements. This computer made social contact through e-mail so easy!

2 - Creative and Media

This area shows and example of how a classroom space can be re-organised for practical and creative activities. It has individual tables and chairs that can easily be cleared and stacked by students to create space for other activities. Six of us sat at a hexagonal arrangement of individual tables, we all had plenty of room but still actually took up very little space. The table and chair units can be moved to sit over the electrical boxes in the floor, so that power and cabling needed are already in the floor and the table unit is simple plugged in. This area includes a green screen video creating area with the pop-up background and cover providing as much or little exposure as required on the video clip. The green screen lens will fit any camera so it is quite versatile. We watched how a group of children had created an Amazon news report and placed themselves against a tropical backdrop showing the river and animals. The video and stop motion animation can be used across the curriculum to develop a creative and motivational approach to learning. There was also a music keyboard and headphones to create soundtracks for videos and podcasts, unfortunately this was Apple and Garage Band, most of our schools currently do not have access to Apple computers, it is a pity that nothing OC was added to the area. There was also an opportunity to create podcasts here.

3- Open Learning Area

This area demonstrates an open and flexible space that can be reconfigured to cater for a range of different activities to support project based and collaborative learning. There is a table where groups of students can work collaboratively on the same activity; this can be moved to anywhere there is an electrical box built into the floor. It has the most amazing new type of interactive board, built on an old but much improved technology – an e-beam! The board is a table with integrated ultra short throw projector, it can be raised or lowered by a simple winding mechanism, it also can be used as a vertical platform as well as flat table. The e-beam, fitted at one corner enables complete interactivity, the small laptop shelf remains in place at the same orientation so that the laptop can be left in place and connected while the board is changed to a table and visa versa. We could have stayed for hours studying Google maps – a whole group of us around the table looking at and discussing geographical images!
This area also had a mobile presentation and seating area with step seats used to create a pleasing support forum style debate, discussion and interaction horseshoe shaped arrangement. The back of the steps includes an internal resource storage which could have built in laptop charging facility. Once again it uses the project table as an interactive / projection screen and has the capability for using voting pads built in.
In the middle of the area is a Video diary room. This air conditioned pod can be as large or small as required featuring digital and video camera and audio. It is air conditioned and sound proofed, is constructed of clear panels as well as brightly coloured panels, it enables one to ones or group work. Pupils could do a quiet or noisy activity without interrupting the whole class. Teachers could do pupils briefings without having to worry about child protection issues they are very visible the whole time.

4 – The Da Vinci Studio

This area is a hub for practical, exploratory and creative activities that enables students to develop their expertise with hands on learning and problem solving. It is made up of a demonstration area that incorporates an interactive whiteboard and visualiser which can display objects in real time. The Teacher wall is very good, it is a standard IWB on the wall with cupboards built underneath, these have built in laptop charging facilities. To the left of the IWB there is a partition screen that one can pull out to form a partition wall but in this case it is also a projection screen. This areas has project tables for practical work that can easily re-configured, a range of LEGO® Education resources to support practical and problem solving learning incorporating machines, mechanisms and robotics and science resources including data loggers and microscopes listening activities that can be separate pod that incorporates data and audio activities or informal meetings video, mp3 recording devices.

5. Independent working area

This area gave ideas for equipment for students to work on their own or in groups. It had an oval sofa seating unit with integrated power. The orbital desks enable pupils to work alone or pull them up together for group working. The seats swivel so from anywhere in the room pupils can look at the teacher. As soon as the pupils sits at the desk the chair locks into place.

To find out more or arrange a visit contact RM :

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