When Google’s ‘Bard AI’ chatbot became available for use in Australia on 11 May, it demonstrated how the ‘next big thing’ in generative AI can be quickly eclipsed by an even bigger thing – and the rate this is happening in 2023 is dizzying to say the least.
One only need look to Bard AI, ChatGPT, Unreal Engine, Midjourney and ElevenLabs to get an idea of the mind-bending ways AI is evolving, and the implications these technologies have for the jobs that nearly 10,000 Australian schools are trying to prepare their students for.
However, AI is also proving itself a reliable assistant for schools as the driving force behind rapid improvements in personalised learning, feedback and automated tasks, helping teachers better track student progress while reducing red tape.
At the forefront of this are forward-thinking education service providers who are pulling out all the stops to ensure the technology schools are using remains relevant and fit for purpose.
Natalie Mactier, chief executive officer at Vivi, said many schools have outgrown technology that was bought years ago that’s not able to scale or no longer suits the specific needs of educators.
“Consumer technology that wasn’t designed for a learning environment can often address a short-term need but becomes redundant if it can’t flex and evolve as the school’s needs develop,” Mactier told The Educator.
“More schools are opting for software purchases where constant updates and new feature releases future proof their technology investment.”
Mactier said more educators are beginning to leverage technology to create flexible and dynamic learning spaces.
“To encourage greater personal interaction, the priority is to make teachers mobile with no desk anchoring them to the front of the room; and to drive collaboration among students, classrooms now have pods not rows of desks with adjacent breakout spaces or small group work environments. Education technology should enable a school to turn any space into a learning space.”
Evolving with the times
One important trend in edtech has been towards classroom technology that enhances collaboration, control, and creativity.
Since launching in 2016, Vivi has been helping more than 250,000 teachers in more than 1,000 schools achieve this by allowing them to wirelessly display written material, images or videos to students who can then annotate the content with their own notes using their own devices.
Mactier said she sees wireless screen sharing and digital signage “starting to take centre stage” as a powerful communication tool that is evolving in several ways.
“Firstly, wireless screen sharing and digital signage is dynamic content that includes live news feeds, real time data visualisation, interactive polls that update in real time, up to the minute class schedules and notices to target messages down to a classroom level or whole school view,” she said.
“This technology also provides enhanced interactivity that allows students to actively engage with the content being displayed.”
Mactier also noted AI integrations that deliver personalised learning experiences where content is customised based on analytics that recommend specific student learning styles.
“Integration of collaborative tools allow teachers and students to work together on shared projects, to annotate content and provide real time feedback,” she said.
“These solutions also enable accessibility and inclusivity – features like close captioning and language translation to support diverse learning needs.”
Helping schools cut red tape
While technology can be a great enabler, navigating and managing it can often prove to be a time-consuming exercise for educators.
Mactier said Vivi is addressing this common challenge by continuing to provide solutions that help teachers and leaders focus on their core job and reduce unnecessary low-value tasks.
“We know that educators value efficiency, ease of adoption, and ease of use. We continuously gather user feedback and in one of our most recent research projects with teachers, we discovered that there is a desire to be able to multi-task while the class is watching a video,” she said.
“This can be a problem when the teacher is sharing their screen to be able to play that video. Just one example of an upcoming feature release in direct response to that is a new media experience called ‘Play Content’. This will allow the teacher to plan and deliver mixed media content in the lesson without having to share their screen.”