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Leveraging technology to improve learning

The rise of digital technology has led to huge developments in how both academic and vocational courses are delivered, with educators at all levels looking at how they can embrace the digital age to captivate minds, engage students and enhance learning. According to a recent article in Forbes, by 2025 the majority of the global workforce will be millennials, or so-called Generation Y. This generation, born in the 80s and 90s are ‘born digital’ and require different approaches to learning and working.

At Reading College we are constantly looking at how we can leverage new technology to improve the teaching and learning experience and engage students.

Having developed the use of browser-based applications, such as Google + and Google Communities, we are now experimenting with wearable technology such as Google Glass.

Here’s how it’s working:

  • Plumbing – Google Glass is helping to deliver practical plumbing sessions where the teacher is wearing the technology to lead demonstrations. The teacher uses Google Glass to record the lesson while giving students a first-person perspective of the activity. Afterwards the lesson is uploaded to You Tube for workshop-based students and distance learners to review. Teachers have also been wearing the glass to record the lesson and live streaming it, meaning that students can follow it while it is recorded, wherever they are. This is also helping staff review how the lesson went from a leaners perspective, so that staff can review and reflect on how it went. Among other benefits, Google Glass gives larger groups better access to close-up work, for example pipe cutting. In a more traditional setting students have to crowd around the teacher in order to see and those at the back are at risk of missing out.
  • Hospitality – the technology is being used in our training restaurant, The Kitchen. Each week a student is nominated to be head chef for the evening. Part of that role is to wear the device and record everything they do. That recording is uploaded to You Tube and they are also asked to write about their experiences. It is also being used as a way of helping staff review how there lesson went from a leaners perspective, with learners wearing the glass to record the lesson, so that staff can review and reflect on how it went using Google Glass. This helps both with their understanding of the technology as well as their communication and literacy skills as they tell the story in a way that others can learn from.
  • Science – projects where students often struggle, for example involving complex measurements and technicalities, are being made simpler thanks to Google Glass. By using the device the tutor can record the project from a first-person perspective, hands-free in real time, rather than recording with an iPad or a camera. This enables better engagement as the teacher can respond to questions as they arise. The glass is also used by the students, who can record practical experiments in real time and can reflect on what they did, and then these recordings can be shared with future students as away of show good practice whilst working in the labs.
  • Classroom management – the last area where we are using Google Glass is in classroom management. Here we are trialling it in a way that tutors can record a disruptive event and play it back so that the student can see how their behaviour is impacting the class as a whole. It is often more powerful if the students can actually see what’s happening, resulting in a better learning experience for all.

I believe that more institutions should engage with new technologies. Our foray into Google Glass shows that learning environments can be greatly enhanced with the right use of technology. Our projects have proven so successful that all the departments now want access to Google Glass and more projects have been put forward.

Our next move will be to trial other wearable devices, such as watches, to explore their benefits for teaching and learning.

Cheryl Pennington is assistant principal of Reading College, part of Activate Learning

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