Swing-proof chairs, tablet computers and green screen technology all feature in the classroom of the future

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ONCE upon a time there were ink wells, blackboards and endless amounts of chalk. But city classrooms of the future will boast the most complex of technological gadgetry – including swing-proof chairs.

Resembling a laid-back coffee shop more than a traditional school room, pupils at Tynecastle High were yesterday given a first taste of how lessons could be.

Educational technology specialists have set up a futuristic classroom in the school, inviting teachers from across the country to come to have a browse.

Angela Bell, Tynecastle’s deputy headteacher, said: “Sometimes kids feel thwarted that they have all this technology in their pockets on their phones and sometimes staff are telling them to put it away. If we can get WiFi in cafes, why can’t we have it in school?

“We can’t stem the tide of progress and we don’t want to because it’s really exciting. I like the idea that this technology makes no bones about the fun part of learning, because education should be fun. A happy class is a good move forward.”

As well as brightly-coloured swing-proof chairs, first-year science pupils were able to try out the latest technological innovations, ranging from green screens and smart tables, to tablet computers and iPhones.

Paul Smyth, educational development manager with RM Education, which has created the exhibition, said: “It’s about showing how the furniture and IT kit works together to provide a learning and teaching environment.

“We have more informal areas and flexible furniture that can be used in different ways. We have chairs which rock gently to stop pupils swinging on them and falling off.

“The furniture is used in contrast to a traditional classroom setting of rows of desks and chairs. The approach they’re taking in some schools is almost a coffee shop approach and pupils respond well to that. This is about re-imagining education and showing that technology can be an integral part of learning,”

The company will pitch to head-teachers from each Edinburgh school until November 22, while heads from across Scotland will also visit Tynecastle over the next two weeks.

Yesterday’s guinea pigs – the first- year science class – were very taken with the set-up, relaxing on “fat boys” – oversized bean bags – while giving instructions to a programmed robot and “appearing” on the X Factor and in Hogwarts School via green screen technology. Some were able to put together comic books on a high-tech VER table.

Their teacher, Rebecca McLennan, said: “The kids have iPhones and know how to work all this technology, so we as teachers have to keep up.

“This technology stimulates the kids. It gets them out of their seats and gets them involved in active learning rather than them sitting down and being taught things in the traditional sense.”

Pupil Mathew McLauchlin, 12, was most impressed by a robot that danced and performed back flips, as well as the colourful chairs which students cannot swing on – and therefore fall off.

He said: “I would love to have these chairs. They’re really cool because you can rock them and you wouldn’t get into trouble because they stop you swinging on them.”

Neil Skipper, senior educational consultant with RM Education, said the green screen technology – which costs around £3500 – can be used in any subject to bring learning to life.

He said: “It’s great for languages as you can have pupils standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, for example, talking in French about where they are and what they can see. It certainly brings it to life for them.”