September 2, 2017

Weekly Wins: Digital Goes To School

WRITTEN BY: Ivana Atlija

With school just around the corner, we’re bringing you a Weekly Wins chalk full of digital trends for the back-to-school season.

As the world of digital evolves, it continues to permeate our daily lives and that includes the educational space. Many companies have recognized the potential of using digital tools in schools for providing immersive, hands-on learning that keeps students fully engaged. Educators have also embraced digital applications in their classrooms in order to stay up to date with technological advancements and use innovative teaching tools to provide their pupils with the very best learning experience.

This week we take a look at some clever uses of digital in the classroom; Google Expeditions for virtual field trips, VR for storytelling, AR for interactive Phys Ed, AI for student attentiveness and the best apps for teachers and students.

"Explore 3D versions of Antarctica and Machu Picchu"

1. An Upgrade On Field Trips

Earlier this year, Google introduced Expeditions, a way for educators to “bring their lessons to life” with “field trips to virtually anywhere.” The software allows teachers to bring their students on virtual field trips, offering an immersive and engaging educational experience.

Students can either be guided along by their teacher in control of the virtual tour, or students can be assigned to explore on their own as homework with Self-Guided Expeditions. Expeditions can be used with your own devices, or you can purchase a kit that comes with a tablet and phones, VR goggles, a router, chargers and a storage case.

Google’s Expeditions allows students to visit and explore places through virtual reality that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to see. With Google Cardboard – an inexpensive cardboard cutout set of VR goggles – students can move through an experience and explore 3D versions of Antarctica and Machu Picchu, Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and even the International Space Station and the surface of Mars.

"How can we expect them to describe a scene if they’ve never experienced it?"

2. Virtual Reality Inspiration

Using virtual reality in the classroom is helping prepare students for a future dominated by technology. Class VR, a technology program “designed to help raise engagement & increase knowledge retention for students of all ages,” acknowledges this and helps set schools up with standalone VR headsets, central headset management, curriculum aligned content, installation, training and more.

One school in the UK has made use of their partnership with Class VR by using virtual reality to help their students find creative inspiration for storytelling. Students are often expected to write stories, but how can we expect them to describe a scene if they’ve never experienced it?

That’s where VR comes in. By exposing students to unique experiences via virtual reality, they were able to use more descriptive, emotive language and adventurous vocabulary. Overall, this has improved their engagement and enjoyment, ultimately increasing students’ storytelling skills and inspiring them to write more.

"Way cooler than normal dodgeball"

3. The Future of Phys Ed

Augmented Reality is also being used in the educational space. While companies like Google and Augment are bringing AR to classrooms, by SAGA is bringing AR to the gymnasium. Lü is an interactive gym experience software that uses 3D cameras to detect physical impacts on the walls and floors while a projector system displays interactive game screens on those same surfaces.

What results is a bunch of children who feel like they’re inside of a video game, which is way cooler than normal dodgeball. There are currently 7 games available, but SAGA is working on many more.

4. AI For Student Attentiveness 

A few months ago, we explored one of the ways artificial intelligence is being utilized in schools in The Weekly Wins, and we’re bringing it back. Nestor is an AI software that uses students’ webcams to monitor their attentiveness. Using machine learning algorithms, Nestor examines students’ eye movements and facial expressions to determine whether they’re focused on the lesson or not.

The software can be used by educators to discover which part of their lectures are not as interesting or to track their students during online modules. This example of AI in education hopes to improve the capabilities of e-learning, develop lectures to be more interesting, and help distracted students to focus.

"Office Lens... converts the image into an editable, shareable text"

5. Apps All Around 

The last thing we’re taking a look at is educational apps for students and teachers. There are tons of apps for educational purposes that can be used in classrooms, lecture halls or for personal uses like homework and studying. Since there’s hundreds of learning related apps out there, so we’re going to look at a few of our favourites:

  • Kahoot is an app that turns lessons into a game to motivate students to get involved. Teachers can pre-set questions and students can join in on the fun by selecting answers to play along.
  • Office Lens is a great app from Microsoft that lets you take a picture of documents, whiteboards, blackboards, textbooks, magazines, receipts, and much more then converts the image into an editable, shareable text. The best part is photos can be taken from an angle, say, if you’re seated on the far side of the room, and the app will straighten it and clean up glare and shadows, too.
  • Google Classroom is an all in one application that allows teachers to distribute and grade assignments, organize class materials on Google Drive and reach students easily with announcements and discussions. It’s essentially a platform for a class to exist online where both teachers and students can interact with one another and access course materials at any time, from anywhere.

It’s no surprise that the plain ol’ pen and paper alone isn’t enough to hold the attention of students anymore. Things like VR, AR, AI, apps and other digital trends, however, may just be the answer to increasing efficiency for teachers, improving results and encouraging participation from students. In our ever changing world of digital, these are the kind of innovative methods we can expect to see more of in the educational sphere.