Disruptive Technologies – What’s Now and Next for Education at EduTech Australia 2017

Just a few minutes ago, I finished speaking at the EduTech Conference in Sydney about the impact of disruptive technologies on education. Months ago, I’d agreed to talk in a phone call with a colleague, and because I was overseas travelling at the time, they had provided the conference organisers with a synopsis that was fairly brief and seemed to cover every emerging technology you could imagine:

Disruptive Technologies – What’s Now and Next for Education at EduTech Australia 2017

“With the advent of powerful cloud computing and changing environments, how will emerging and future technologies impact on school based IT, teaching, learning and even buildings and learning spaces? In this session, Ray Fleming, Microsoft Education Industry lead, will explore the technology you have now, and what’s likely to transform the education sector in the coming years – including prescriptive analytics; mixed reality technologies like Hololens; Internet of Things; Azure cognitive services and much more”

So this week, as I prepared I found myself with two hours of content for a 30 minute session. So the audience and I have just been on a speed journey across a whole host of different technological disruptions heading our way in education. I don’t yet know what it felt like in the audience, but on stage the 30 minutes passed in a flash as we went through the Disruptive ABC – Augmented Reality, Business Intelligence and Cognitive Services

I promised to share links here to the different technologies and references I made, and the videos that show some of the technologies we couldn’t see in real life.

Augmented Reality

imageI started with Microsoft’s Hololens, a unique device that puts the wearer into an immersive world of blended physical and holographic reality. It’s kind of difficult to explain what it feels like to wear a Hololens, but once you’ve had one on for 15 minutes, you suddenly realise what the fuss is all about. And as I didn’t have 100+ Hololens headsets around, we had to survive with three excellent videos, that you can also find on YouTube:

Transforming Medical Education with Microsoft Hololens


Holoportation from Microsoft Research


The dawn of the age of holograms – Alex Kipman at TED


Business Intelligence

We couldn’t spend much time on this topic, but briefly looked at the power of being able to create data stories through asking questions of your data. I’m a big fan of Power BI, and you can see what I’ve done with Queensland Education’s Open Data set in this video

Power BI Education – Queensland Open Data for education

We also quickly looked at an example of using machine learning to predict the future – using the example of Tacoma Public Schools in the US, who have improved their graduation rates for 55% to 78%, and are using machine learning services to try and close the gap further. You can read the full Tacoma Public Schools case study here.

I also showed the first three seconds of the Year 11 students at Seymour College in South Australia, using machine learning in the curriculum to predict cancer (and I’m guessing some of you are here to watch the rest!).

Azure Machine Learning in Highschool

Cognitive Services

The last section of our ABC romped quickly through using artificial intelligence to tell you how old you look (https://How-Old.net), building a simple Q&A chatbot in https://qnamaker.ai/ (a task recently completed by the Year 6 students at Wahroonga Public School!).


To round off the session, we looked at the amazing potential for automatic translation that’s made possible by rapid advances in cognitive services. The first example is a video from two years ago, when Skype Translator was first previewed:

Skype Translator preview opens the classroom to the world

Then we looked at how that turns up in ways that could profoundly impact education in Australia, like the new PowerPoint Translator tool, which automatically adds subtitles to your PowerPoint slides as you speak, and offers students the chance to view them live on their own phone or laptop, in any one of 60 languages. Imagine this being used in university lectures, where you may have 500 students in a lecture, speaking 20 or 30 home languages.

Microsoft Build 2017 Keynote Power Point Translator Feature Highlights


Bringing it all together

I finished with the video of the Seeing AI project from the UK, which brings together many of these disruptive technologies and applies them to the difficult challenge of helping blind and visually impaired people get a better sense of what is around them.

Saqib is a core Microsoft developer living in London, who lost the use of his eyes at age 7. He found inspiration in computing and is helping build Seeing AI, a research project that helps people who are visually impaired or blind to better understand who and what is around them. The project is built using intelligence APIs from Microsoft Cognitive Services (www.microsoft.com/cognitive).

Microsoft Cognitive Services: Introducing the Seeing AI project