Written by: Vidya
This year’s EduTECH Asia Conference was my second ever. I had immensely enjoyed 2019’s conference and was keenly looking forward to this one. Due to COVID-19, we received news that the conference would be conducted online and I was very curious to know if they would be able to deliver the content just as impactfully. Not only did the 2 masterclasses and other sessions I attended during the main conference days not disappoint, but they were also enlightening and riveting. Albeit, the absence of an SEN track did leave me somewhat dejected.
The vision of a future where students are self-directed learners remains an ideal if there aren’t resources available to educational institutions.
This was precisely what was addressed by Mr. Chris Pang. In his masterclass on ‘SMART Interactive Classroom Technology for Higher Education’, he emphasised technology as assistive for lifelong learning past secondary school. Technology should be integrated into the classroom not to replace textbooks but to encourage students to become self-directed learners. To facilitate this process, classrooms should become Smart interactive classrooms. This is essentially a smart learning environment where technology is consciously, deliberately, and strategically used to positively impact learners’ outcomes and learning experiences. Smart learning is the coexistence of technology, environment, and pedagogy, which is intended to make the learning process easy, effective and engaging.
Some essentials in a physical classroom adopting smart interactive learning are:
Interactive display – Projectors, interactive whiteboard & LED touchscreens
E-Lesson Plan Creation – Curriculum planners & Lesson plan Builders
Remote Access – Home-based/office-based learning anytime & anywhere
Sharing & saving – Save and record lessons and group discussions
While it is imperative to introduce new technology to facilitate learning, it is equally important to be mindful about which technology is needed for it to be effective. Mr Pang suggests using the following method to help discern which technology is needed pertaining to the learning outcome.
State a domain
State a learning outcome
Enables front-of-class teaching and learning interactions for ???
State a Technology
State a reason why
As with any venture towards a new frontier, hindrances present themselves that make it a trudge. Notwithstanding the more obvious factors like cost, technical expertise to handle integration, and bandwidth, Mr. Pang also highlighted additional factors. Instructor resistance, pedagogical expertise, and learners’ hardware equity challenges also have to be addressed to realise this Smart learning environment.
While it is ideal to have a Smart interactive classroom, it is conceivable that not all educational institutions can make this a reality. A seemingly less demanding foray in this direction is to utilise apps that work on our existing devices.
Presenters of the second masterclass, ‘Advanced EdTech Tools’, Dr. Micah Shippee and Jesse Lubinsky highlighted the latest apps which harness Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). They introduced some AR/VR apps and demonstrated how these could be used to design thought-provoking and inspirational learning experiences. In a nutshell, AR apps add to the physical space we are in whereas, VR apps give us the experience of being in another environment.
Creativity and team building are encouraged via AR apps such as Draw Your Game, Catchy Words, and QuiverVision. They allow for a varied form of self-expression during the learning process involving kinaesthetic movements and artistic expression. VR apps on the other hand are predominantly visual, offering an immersive experience. Some examples are Google Expeditions and YouTube 360. Dr. Shippee and Mr. Lubinsky elaborated how critical thinking and problem-solving skills can be nurtured via activities, such as descriptive/expository writing and, discussing cause and effect, conducted based on students’ experiences after using these apps.
Both masterclasses had their own merits. However, as an educator, I look for the feasibility of application in my classroom. Of all the suggestions, AR and VR apps are more practical for me to employ, as they are within my locus of control. They are especially beneficial for me as I get the first-person purview of their efficacy. I will definitely be using Catchy Words and YouTube 360 with my students as a start.