Episode 7: IT IQ Series – Mobile devices are transforming classrooms. Here’s how to use them for good.

Summary: The right device strategy can help educators utilise devices to their full potential to enrich learning, while equipping students with digital skills of the future.

Can digital devices help educators craft future-ready learning experiences? With over 75% of future jobs requiring proficiency in STEM skills and digital literacy, how can Australian educators today use the latest digital tools and devices to bolster lesson outcomes and equip students for a hyper-connected future?

“Classroom devices are not unlike every other teaching tool available to an educator: they empower students to explore lesson concepts in a richer, more engaging environment,” explains Ryan McIvor, a Solution Specialist at Microsoft. “Many educators have discovered that strategic use of devices at the right time can introduce new ways of expressing a lesson, while fostering skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving and creativity amongst students.”

But what about the challenge of digital distraction? Placing connected devices in front of students may be a boon to their learning, but the tactic can easily misfire if educators aren’t careful. The key lies in having the right device strategy for your classroom.

“Think of your device strategy the same way you would a lesson plan. Educators can decide when to use a device, set usage objectives and plan student activities around the device. It’s a great way for educators to remain confident as they shift between front-of-class to group work, while maximising the effectiveness of a student’s screen time and minimising device abuse,” McIvor explains. 

A holistic device strategy is also key to improving the digital literacy of students. Competitive skills and capabilities can be nurtured over time with the right device-centric activities and proper supervision of educators.

“It makes practical sense that the digital device should sit right next to the textbook, or worksheet, when it comes to must-have tools in the classroom,” McIvor stresses. “But the device is a means to an end. The personal touch of an educator remains an important component to any effective lesson.”

Preparing Students for Tomorrow

Devices give teachers access to a wealth of teaching and learning resources online, which significantly cuts down lesson prep time. That allows for a two-pronged approach to learning: handling theory-heavy subjects using STEM-based apps for greater engagement, while encouraging practical learning using techniques like gamification.

“When it comes to devices, there are so many ways an educator can introduce a layer of digital engagement that ignites the spark of interest in a student’s eyes. It could even be done through changing the way a student interacts with a device,” says McIvor. “For instance, our Microsoft teacher ambassador teams have worked with Australian schools to incorporate touch- and stylus-enabled devices, such as the Microsoft Surface, for ‘pen and paper’ interaction with existing education material. That, in turn, opened up opportunities for unique hybrid forms of interaction, like digital inking and 3D rendering, that combine analogue skill-sets with digital capabilities.”

The long-term effectiveness of a device strategy lies in its ability to seamlessly blend verbal instruction with practical classroom application. “During an ordinary classroom scenario, an educator may spend some time explaining the theoretical points behind the human anatomy through a drawing or a physical model,” McIvor elaborates. “They can then instruct their students to access a STEM or 3D application on their Surface, and render a drawing of the human anatomy into a fully interactive graphical object.

“Students can manipulate this 3D object with the Surface’s touch or stylus, while receiving input from their educator. As students become fully absorbed with this way of learning–through tools that they’ll one day apply in their workplaces–educators can afford to spend more time monitoring and adjusting their teaching pace to suit the needs of individual students or groups.”

As technology evolves, touch devices like the Surface and niche advancements such as Virtual Reality could one day be commonplace in future homes and offices. Educators should do what they can to prepare students for that brave new world.

“Device strategies need to evolve in tandem with the times, so that students can remain digitally competitive in their future education or careers. By working with parents, IT managers and school staff, educators can ensure that they continue to be the bridge that supports holistic learning while ensuring students aren’t left behind,” says McIvor. “Everyone has a role in ensuring that Australia’s future generations remain part of the digital future.”


Watch Ryan McIvor discuss about 1st and 3rd party devices and their role in the Australian school ecosystem on our YouTube channel.

Learn more about the Microsoft Surface and how your school can get started with our Surface Education Resellers. Unsure which device is right for your class? Check out Microsoft the Right Device or join our Microsoft Innovator Community and ask around! 


Our mission at Microsoft is to equip and empower educators to shape and assure the success of every student. Any teacher can join our effort with free Office 365 Education, find affordable Windows devices and connect with others on the Educator Community for free training and classroom resources. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for our latest updates.