With the rise of digital classrooms and hybrid learning environments, teachers are increasingly on the lookout for new ways to engage students remotely.
A study by Microsoft and YouGov recently found that 71% of K-12 educators consider technology to be helpful in improving their instruction and expand their teaching capacity.
To help build on the vast resources it already offers schools, Microsoft has unveiled “immersive education solutions” to inspire educators in reimagining learning experiences as they get into the thick of 2021.
The new tools and updates are designed to support the 5 key areas educators require to create a holistic learning environment and move education forward: student centricity, skills focus, social learning, safety, security and scalability.
The suite includes Reading Progress, to enhance students reading skills remotely, and Microsoft Teams enhancements that integrate video and audio recordings in assignments to enable teachers to share personalised instructions when assigning online tasks.
Other updates include the availability of Minecraft: Education Edition outside the classroom and the launch of Reflect, a Microsoft Teams app that provides teachers with capabilities that support their students’ well-being virtually.
Travis Smith, K12 Education Industry Lead at Microsoft Australia, said that while Australia may have avoided the worst of pandemic-related school closures, remote learning prompted “a mass reset” in how educators, students, and parents approach learning to consider more flexible, blended educational models.
“A combination of classroom and home environments have always been critical to securing successful learning outcomes,” Smith told The Educator.
“What the magic of technology has offered are new tools for teachers to create engaging, personalised, and inclusive content that ensure strong student engagement in a secure digital classroom environment”.
Smith said technology has also allowed educators around the globe to connect, share best practice, and support one another during a time of immense change.
“The new education tools Microsoft has introduced are designed to support educators in their journey towards building a holistic approach to learning focused on student centricity, skills development, social and emotional learning, and wellbeing,” he said.
He said Reading Progress is one example of how technology “can both arm teachers with actionable insights while engaging students” – including second language learners and those with dyslexia – in a safe way, allowing them to practice reading and improve fluency on their own time.
“I am excited to see the creativity and imagination of educators, students, and parents bring these tools to life”.
Larry Nelson, Regional General Manager, Education, Microsoft Asia, said at the beginning of the pandemic technology often served as “a much-needed lifeline” between students, teachers, and parents enabling remote and hybrid learning.
“As time moved forward many educators transformed their teaching, their pedagogy, their professional development, and more, with technology often being a critical component enabling that change,” Nelson said.
“Innovation will continue to transform learning experiences and stands to help prepare students for their futures – we are honoured to partner with educators and schools across Asia in our mission to help every student on the planet achieve more”.
Emmanuel College, based in Queensland, has worked in close partnership with Microsoft, its industry experts, and its technologies like Microsoft Teams and Office 365, to create engaging, immersive, and connected learning environments for its students.
Mark Savery, Head of eLearning at Emmanuel College, said the resources helped get the school through the toughest parts of 2020.
“To say the past 14 months have been tough for students, parents, and fellow educators, would be an understatement,” Savery said, adding the College is already seeing the potential in Microsoft’s latest tools, including Reading Progress, and cannot wait to see it in action.
“Encouragingly, these challenges have been met with incredible innovations in the way we teach, help students navigate feelings of stress and anxiety, and connect with our peers”.