Episode 6: IT IQ Series – Three digital platforms to enhance your classroom

Summary: Teachers can use online assessments, artificial intelligence and augmented reality to take existing lessons to the next level–but they shouldn’t forget the basics of classroom management when doing so. 

Digital technology can help teachers do many new things–but also transform the very basics of classroom learning. When done wisely, the results speak for themselves: Bentley Park College in Queenslandfor example, saw graduation rates increase from 55% to 100% as they embedded new technologies in their lessons and school infrastructure. Here are three digital platforms which have already begun to take everyday lessons to the next level: 

  1. Online assessments 

Are the days of paper-and-pen tests numbered? More and more exams are moving to the screen for faster, more accurate assessment. Take the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) test, for example, which will transition from paper to online tests from May 2018.  

The same principles can apply to any class test, not just nationwide ones. The Take a Test app run on Windows 10, for example, allows teachers to create a simple quiz on Microsoft Forms and share the link on OneNote. “Students take the test in a secure lock-down environment with no access to other sites and apps, while functions like cut and paste and screen printing are automatically disabled,” explains Jesse Cardy, a Microsoft Solutions Specialist for the education industry 

“Most importantly, online test platforms give you the same rigour of testing but with far less hassle. Teachers can be confident that students can focus on the tests in a kiosk mode that is free of distractions, while also having results automatically captured and tabulated in the back end. In other words, you spend far less time on marking.” That, in turn, allows for shorter and more frequent tests–which in turn help teachers pinpoint issues and give students the help they need before they fall behind. 

 2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) 

Many Australian schools already have some form of basic AI in place, often to automate day-to-day processes. But what about using it to bring life to STEM classes? When paired with robotics or programming, AI not only adds an extra challenge for students, but also lets teachers demystify how it works. Year 6 students at Ravenswood School, for example, learnt the principles of AI by using it to program a robot that plays lawn bowls, an exercise that not only encouraged curiosity in the field but showed them just how simple it was to learn.  

The cognitive function of AI, which allows for features like emotion, facial and speech recognition, also helps educators in another area of learning: distance education. Functions like speech-to-text can caption and translate online lectures with much less time or effort than humans can. Voice recognition, when paired with virtual assistants like Cortana on Windows 10, can also support students by answering basic questions or referring them to the right educators. 

“AI’s abilities might sound like science fiction sometimes, but they have practical applications at every level of education,” says Cardy. “The most important thing to remember is that your AI platforms all need the right data to operate effectively. Using AIs that fit seamlessly with your OS or other learning platforms will make a big difference to how well they function in the classroom, no matter where you embed them in your approach to teaching.” 

 3. Augmented Reality (AR)  

Augmented reality has perhaps the greatest potential to change everyday teaching as we know it. Unlike virtual reality, AR uses computer-generated images that are superimposed onto physical objects. By adding animation, narration, and other data to ordinary classroom items like textbooks, AR can bring almost any subject–from ancient history to marine biology–to life. At the same time, it can help students to visualise concepts in weightier theoretical subjects–like advanced maths or physics–and understand them more comprehensively.  

AR creates a truly immersive environment that can make learning more engaging, fun, and effective,” says Cardy. Some subjects, like 3D geometry, really don’t come across easily in a 2D environment like a textbook. But when you can visualise these objects using AR, students can not only see but also manipulate them. That turns an abstract, complex lesson into one that’s far more hands-on and easy to digest for students, without sacrificing academic rigour.”  

While it may seem like a pipe dream for many schools, AR isn’t as inaccessible as it used to be. Windows 10 for Education, for example, now includes Microsoft’s Mixed Reality platform as a basic inclusion, adding AR capabilities to a range of other apps like Minecraft and Steam that play a growing role in today’s classrooms. 

Even if you don’t yet have the capabilities to design your own AR experiences, you can tap on a range of apps to quickly introduce it to everyday learning, particularly in STEM-related subjects,” Cardy says. “Make sure your AR platform can access a range of apps and development capabilities, and your use of it can grow as your students and your school’s abilities mature.” 

Watch Jesse Cardy talk about why Windows 10 for Education can enhance learning in Australian schools on our YouTube channel. 

Find out more about Windows 10 for Education, including detailed resources on how to configure the most secure version for your school here. 

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