Emerging education technologies are transforming 21st century classrooms in something akin to Back to the Future. The introduction of artificial intelligence (AI), virtual and augmented reality as learning tools is a world away from inkwells and chalkboards, and will only continue to evolve as technology is embraced by teachers and students.
Artificial intelligence, very real potential
For years, artificial intelligence developers have promised that AI will revolutionise the way we live and learn. AI refers to the ability of a computer system to “think,” initially through programs and algorithms then “learning” without being explicitly programmed. The potential for these knowledge-based programs is not lost on educators.
Davar Ardalan saw a gap in what AI currently offers, and her software IVOW is her “vow to train the next generation of AI to be culturally conscious”. To do this, if a student has an assignment on a cultural tradition in Latin America they may ask Siri for search results. Instead of Siri describing a Google search result, IVOW would share a story told by someone raised in that culture.
Leap (literally) into books with virtual reality
Research has shown that students will spend more time interacting with multisensory simulations. 3D printers are now being used in schools across Australia, but even they are stepping down from their podium to make room for virtual and augmented reality. In 2016, Brenden Davidson, a teacher at St Mary’s Cathedral College, NSW, began to explore VR and AR in the classroom.
Davidson says that AR and VR are beneficial in all learning areas and describes how companies are even beginning to augment textbooks. “You can scan the page and a 3D solar system will appear and you can rotate and move that around,” he tells The Sydney Morning Herald. “It can help students digest complex concepts at a higher rate, we look at things in a 3D perspective so it’s more natural and easier to understand than 2D things.”
Deep data dives uncover student potential
Collecting good data on students is an important part of the teaching and learning cycle. Katrina Reynen, Vice President Schools at Pearson Australia, explains: “One of the frustrations for teachers is teaching to an entire class, and having no real insight into who is picking it up, at what pace and what base the students are starting from. Quality digital programs are always assessing, and that gives teachers the insight.” These digital programs have the potential to provide teachers with regular, quick and insightful information about the progress of individual students’ learning.
Keep it fun with gamification
One of the features of games is their ability to remember the ability level of a player and up the ante accordingly. Enter gamification in schools that tailor to individual students. “Developments in educational software include the move to multi-level gamification – where students pass assessment benchmarks before they go to a new level – and artificial intelligence (AI) improvements in the programs to ensure that the software is more adaptive to the student,” says Reynen.
While not exactly gamification, this idea of students passing “assessment benchmarks” has been utilised in NAPLAN Online for the first time in 2019. Using a tailored design, the test adapts to the student’s performance level and increases or decreases the difficulty of the questions based on the student’s response. This encourages students to stay engaged with the test.
Old tech, new tricks
Touch screens with styluses are allowing students to interact more with learning materials as well as encouraging natural instruction in the classroom. Instead of sitting back and watching the teacher solve a problem on the smartboard, students can connect their devices to the board and demonstrate a solution for the class.
Many schools are digitising their libraries and textbooks, transforming an analogue learning style into a dynamic approach as students can highlight, note-take and bookmark books and passages from their device and have access to books that may not be available in their schools.
It might seem strange to call YouTube a legacy technology in the classroom, but such is the pace of development. Maths teacher Eddie Woo was awarded Australia’s Local Hero award in the 2018 Australia Day honours for his YouTube channel, which engages students in maths.
Technology in the classroom has enormous potential for both teachers and students and will continue to evolve. How will you make it work best for your classrooms?