Lord Winston raised concerns over the number of children not having access to science facilities when he addressed the annual Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference on Thursday.
However, a new three-dimensional project that looks set to revolutionise the classroom and how children learn may provide the answer to Winston's fears.
Researchers have been testing a new teaching tool: presenting content via three-dimensional projectors. DLP Products initiated the independent study alongside Professor Anne Bamford, director of the international research agency. Bamford visited 15 schools across seven European countries to test the technology.
The project, which involved 740 students and 47 teachers, was conducted between December 2010 and May this year. Students were tested before and after lessons, with one control group learning with 2D methods and the other receiving the same teaching but with extra 3D content.
The pupils, aged 10 to 13, were also tested on their ability to recall the information taught in the lessons four weeks later and their levels of engagement during the teaching sessions were recorded by the researchers.
Bamford relayed the success of the project at a conference last week.
"Across all of the schools, 3D shortened the time it took for students to learn concepts, increased their attention spans and resulted in overall deeper thinking from the students", she said.
"The findings indicate that 3D projection should be considered now and into the future when looking for ways to improve students learning and engagement."
Eric de Jong, one of the teachers who experimented with the technology, said his students asked more questions and were more attentive.
"With the technology, more things are possible," he said. "I could show the children how blood flows through the heart, rather than just telling them."
Some of the more impressive results included:
- On average, 86 per cent of pupils improved from the pre-test to the post-test in the 3D classes compared to 52 per cent who improved in the 2D classes
- Individuals improved test scores by an average of 17 per cent in the 3D classes, compared to an eight per cent improvement in the 2D classes between pre-test and post-test
- A total of 92 per cent of students on average were attentive during 3D lessons, while only 46 per cent were actively paying attention during non-3D lessons
But it wasn't just the pupils who responded well to the new technology.
"Many of the pupils said their teacher was 'nicer' ", added Bamford. "According to the students, the teachers became more excited about what they were teaching."
Bamford sought to allay fears 3D would dominate the classroom and impinge on interaction between pupils.
"The students don't want it all the time. It was something they wanted to dip in and out of. I certainly would not want it to replace traditional learning.
"The children have been inspired by the technology. They are suggesting new ways of learning in 3D. One Italian class asked if they could create a programme for learning English. It's remarkable."
Although concerns were raised over schools becoming too reliant on the technology, Kathyrn Macaulay, the deputy head of the Abbey School, Reading, insisted the new learning technique would not affect the role of the teacher. The school was one of the schools participating in the study and Macaulay said she was "blown away" by the impact of the new method.
"Everything is still down to the person standing at the front of the room. The technology does not detract from the teachers' role or skills and it cannot be a substitute for poor quality teaching."
Bamford added she would not want it to replace practical laboratory experiments and it should be used alongside current teaching methods.
After the conference, The Huffington Post spoke to one school governor who welcomed the new technology but expressed a fear it would widen the gap between wealthy and struggling schools.
"There's no doubt it's a fantastic development which obviously aids children's learning enormously. But how many schools will actually be able to afford this? I just think it will heighten the difference between wealthy, private schools and the under-funded state sector."
Schools who are considering using the technology will need 3D glasses and software, a projector, a computer and a graphics card. The equipment doesn't come cheap although most projectors are capable of displaying the 3D projections. The company website describes exactly how the projections work and details purchase information.
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