SynergyNet for Early Years is a project built using SynergyNet 3, a multi-touch framework developed as part of the SynergyNet project. The objective of this project is to adapt the SynergyNet software platform to support use by early years students.
SynergyNet 3 is the newest branch of the SynergyNet framework which utilises JME3 along side additional libraries such as the Google web kit and hazelcast. This allows anything built using the framework to take advantage of a range of advanced networking features. As part of the SynergyNet for Early Years Students framework several useful features were produced (demonstrated in the video below).
The video below demonstrates the following features of the framework:
- Simplified personal menus for students
These menus are simple icons which show images familiar to the students so they can easily identify which is their menu. By tapping the icon the student is given a number of options represented by simple icons. There are a range of default options that the framework offers but individual applications can add or take away to/from these choices. The menus can be moved or oriented by students easily allowing for them to be moved out of the way of an activity when not in use. Also since the students are in charge of their placement the menus are more likely to remain within a student’s reach which is important for early years students on larger interactive surfaces.
- The ability to capture and store multiple sounds from a microphone
This allows students to easily capture their thoughts and opinions. It also allows students to quickly create media they are familiar with. Familiar media is considered important in this framework as early years students can quickly identify an object represented by the system.
- Personal content galleries which students can import media into
This is another feature which utilises media that students are likely to be familiar with such as photos or audio recordings from the classroom. Students can import these different media into their gallery then use them at a later date as part of a future class room activity.
- The ability to capture screenshots of work at any time
As students will be performing parts of classroom activities using the framework there needs to be a simple way of capturing the work done, both for the students and the teachers. A screenshot of the software environment can be at any stage and then stored by students or teachers as a record of the work done. Students can also use the screenshots to share with each other to allow simple comparisons of their work.
- Feedback system
This allows students and teachers to attach their thoughts and ratings in a number of different forms to media in the software environment which is then stored. The framework current has a number of simple feedback types such as a basic traffic light rating, a smiley face and a Yes/No rating. There is also an audio feedback type which allows students to attach recordings to objects to represent their views. New feedback types can be simply added to the system in the future.
- The ability to import media from newly added removable media
With classrooms having more and more digital devices for recording images, video and audio it is important for any classroom system where media is involved to be capable of utilising these recordings. Any new media found on the system while the framework is running, such as CDs or USB sticks, will be detected by SynergyNet for Early Years. Any detected media will then be searched for any compatible media which will then be imported into the system as multi-touch manipulable objects.
The video also demonstrates an example application which can utilise some of the features developed in this project.
SynergyNet for Early Years is not intended to replace or provide an alternative to current classroom activities but to augment tasks carried out in learning environments by both early years students and teachers.