Moving on from SynergyNet

After more than four years the SynergyNet project has come to an end. We’ve learned a huge amount about how learners use multi-touch tables, and about building a multi-touch enabled classroom – thank you to all those who participated in our studies!

We will continue to publish work from this study over the coming months – and will continue to update the publications page.

The work will continue in a number of directions:

To get in touch – see the about us page for updated contact information; for media use of images from this website, please contact Emma Mercier.

Friday, July 26th, 2013 announcements

SynergyNet at CSCL

Dr Emma Mercier will be in Madison in June, presenting research comparing interactions on multi-touch tables and paper:

Mercier, E., Higgins, S., & Vourloumi, G. (2012) Idea Development in Multi-touch and Paper-based Collaborative Problem Solving. In N. Rummel, M. Kapur, M. Nathan, & S, Puntambekar, S. (Eds.) To See the World and a Grain of Sand: Learning across Levels of Space, Time, and Scale: CSCL 2013 Conference Proceedings Volume 2, p 313-314.

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 announcements

SynergyNet at AERA

Dr Emma Mercier will be at AERA in San Francisco at the end of April presenting some of our recent work:

Mercier, E. & Higgins, S. (2013, May) Time And Space: Analyzing Multiple Levels of Collaborative Learning Across Time.

Groves, H., Higgins, S. & Mercier, E. (2013, May) Developing Adaptive Expertise through Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning.

Monday, April 15th, 2013 announcements

New Publication

The SynergyNet team’s newest publication focuses on computer science aspects of the project:

Richardson, T., Burd, L. & Smith, S. (2013) Guidelines for supporting real-time multi-touch applications. Journal of Software: Practice and Experience. DOI: 10.1002/spe.2183


Multi-touch driven user interfaces are becoming increasingly prevalent because of their intuitiveness and because of the reduction in the associated hardware costs. In recognition of this trend, multi-touch software frameworks (MSFs) have begun to emerge. These frameworks abstract the low level issues of multi-touch software development and deployment. MSFs therefore enable software developers who are unfamiliar with the complexities of multi-touch software development to implement and deploy multi-touch applications more easily. However, some multi-touch applications have real-time system requirements, and at present, no MSFs provide support for the development and deployment of such real-time multi-touch applications. The implication of this is that software developers are unable to take advantage of MSFs and, therefore, are forced to handle the complexities of multi-touch and real-time systems development and deployment for themselves in an ad hoc manner. The primary consequence of this is that the multi-touch and/or real-time aspects of the application may not function correctly. In this paper, guidelines are presented for applying real-time system concepts to support the development and deployment of real-time multi-touch applications using MSFs. This serves to increase the probability that the application will meet its timing requirements while also reducing the complexity of the development and deployment process associated with multi-touch applications.

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 announcements, software, technology

New Publication

SynergyNet’s most recent publication – which was covered extensively in November’s media coverage – describes how within and between group collaboration, facilitated by the multi-touch classroom, can support mathematical flexibility.

Mercier, E.M. & Higgins, S. (2013) Collaborative Learning with Multi-Touch Technology: Developing Adaptive Expertise. Learning and Instruction, 25, 13-23. DOI: 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2012.10.004


Developing fluency and flexibility in mathematics is a key goal of upper primary schooling, however, while fluency can be developed with practice, designing activities that support the development of flexibility is more difficult. Drawing on concepts of adaptive expertise, we developed a task for a multi-touch classroom, NumberNet, that aimed to support both fluency and flexibility. Results from a quasi-experimental study of 86 students (44 using NumberNet, 42 using a paper-based comparison activity) indicated that all students increased in fluency after completing these activities, while students who used NumberNet also increased in flexibility. Video analysis of the NumberNet groups indicate that the opportunity to collaborate, and learn from other groups’ expressions, may have supported this increase in flexibility. The final phase of the task suggests future possibilities for engaging students in mathematical discourse to further support the development of mathematical adaptive expertise.

Sunday, December 30th, 2012 announcements

SynergyNet at ICCE

Dr Emma Mercier will be at the International Conference on Computers in Education in Singapore presenting a review of the project’s work:

Mercier, E., Higgins, S. & Burd, E. (2012) Tabletops in the Classroom: Reflections on a multi-year project.

Friday, November 23rd, 2012 announcements

SynergyNet at the Royal Society

As part of the recent TEL event on the 6th of November, SynergyNet was showcased at the Royal Society in London. The showcase ran for several hours and allowed 100s of attendees at the event to have a go at using the SynergyNet system.  The display made use of two Samsung SUR40 tables, a SMART 800 series board (kindly rented to us), a Samsung Slate tablet, an iPad and a Microsoft Kinect.  As part of the showcase attendees had a chance to try out our NumberNet application, flick photos of our work between the tables and see our SynergyView annotation software in action displaying footage from our lab.  Updates containing footage, images and outcomes from the event will soon appear on the TEL website.

SynergyNet is also discussed in the new TEL film: Inventing the Future of Learning.

SynergyNet at the Royal Society

Friday, November 9th, 2012 announcements

SynergyNet at ITS

Dr Emma Mercier will be at the ACM Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces in Cambridge Nov 11th to 14th presenting a review of the work we’ve been doing in the last few years:

Mercier, E., Higgins, S., Burd, E. & McNaughton, J. (2012)  ITS in the Classroom: Perspectives on Using a Multi-touch Classroom. To Appear in the Proceedings of the ACM Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces Conference.

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012 announcements

SynergyNet RA shortlisted for World Technology Award

Research Associate at Durham University shortlisted for prestigious World Technology Award

- Visionary work in focusing on the challenges of Classrooms of the Future

By Robert Hayes-McCoy

New York, NY – 17th October 2012, the World Technology Network announced today that Dr Emma Mercier, Research Associate at Durham University, has been nominated as a finalist for the prestigious World Technology Award in the Educational Category.

The WTA Awards are presented to recognise those individuals and organisation that have made a visionary contribution to Science and Technology. They are presented by the World Technology Network in association with TIME, Fortune, CNN, Technology Review and Science/AAAS.

The 2012 Awards ceremony takes place at the TIME & Life Building at the close of the 2-day World Technology Summit on Tuesday, October 23 2012.

A Research Associate in the SynergyNet Project at Durham University, which is funded jointly by the UK’s Economic and Social Science Research Council and the Engineering and Physics Research Council, Dr Mercier’s project relates to an investigation into the use of Multi-touch tables in classrooms.

Dr Mercier has spent many years researching the design of classroom environments, considering how technology can be used to augment, support extend or alter the interactions between groups of students, and between students and teacher, in such a way as to change how learning occurs.

She describes her current work at Durham University as very much focusing on the interaction between the 4-T’s: teachers, teams, tasks and technology.

Emerging technologies have the potential to become part of complex ecologies in classrooms, incorporating the technology that students use at home with those that are available to them in schools.

Through experimentation with emerging technologies, Mercier’s aim is on building an understanding of how best to design for the interaction of students, teachers and technology which will facilitate the development of classrooms that will engage children in lessons that prepare them for the future.

Speaking to this reporter she explains that in a world of fast changing and evolving technologies, ever increasing access to education using smarter, faster and new ways of connecting, interacting and communicating between just about every different group in society, it’s not unusual to walk into a classroom today and find that nothing has changed.

So many of today’s students are still learning the same content, in the same ways and using the same tools as they always have. What technology that is available generally remains in the computer labs and it used to replicate traditional learning activities and experiences rather than spearheading change in the educational process.

But technology itself can never bring about change, it’s the way that we interact with it that Dr Mercier is investigating with a view to creating new ways to teach and meet the requirements of the classrooms of the future.

“I am pleased that my research work has reached the final stages of the 2012 World Technology Awards process” says Mercier, “and I’ll be delighted if it wins a World Technology Award.

It’s a project that I am deeply committed to and it is wonderful to see that it has captured the attention and acclaim of such an esteemed organisation as the World Technology Network.’

Thursday, October 18th, 2012 announcements

SynergyNet at ICLS

Dr Emma Mercier will be at the International Conference of the Learning Sciences in Sydney in July, presenting on our recent work:

Mercier, E., McNaughton, J., Higgins, S. & Burd, E. (2012) Orchestrating Learning in the Multi-touch Classroom: Developing Appropriate Tools. In M. Evans (chair) Interactive Surfaces and Spaces: A Learning Sciences Agenda. van Aalst, J., Thompson, K., Jacobson, M. J., & Reimann, P. (Eds.) The Future of Learning: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS 2012) – Volume 2, Short Papers, Symposia, and Abstracts.

Mercier, E., Higgins, S., Burd, E. & Joyce-Gibbons, A. (2012) Multi-Touch Technology to Support Multiple Levels of Collaborative Learning in the Classroom. In van Aalst, J., Thompson, K., Jacobson, M. J., & Reimann, P. (Eds.) The Future of Learning: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS 2012) – Volume 2, Short Papers, Symposia, and Abstracts.

Sunday, July 1st, 2012 announcements