Classrooms 2.0: Digital tech is changing the way we teach and learn

At Deakin University in Melbourne, VR experts worked with the School of Nursing and Midwifery to develop a life-sized model of a pregnant woman that combines VR tech with expert nursing knowledge to replicate a birth.

Bye-bye blackboards! Teaching has never been so tech-reliant, and it’s seriously game-changing in next-gen classrooms

The important role of technology in education really hit home, literally, when remote learning suddenly became the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic – but it’s a whole lot more than just learning from the kitchen table.

Games, apps and video are helping to increase student engagement in topics, while technology is also making education inclusive for people with disabilities, for example speech-to-text software can assist students with vision impairments.

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Labour of learning

Virtual Reality (VR) technology is playing teacher, too. At Deakin University in Melbourne, VR experts worked with the School of Nursing and Midwifery to develop ‘Verity’ (originally named ‘Trinity’) – a life-sized model of a pregnant woman that combines VR tech with expert nursing knowledge and haptic technology (feedback, like buzzing, that imitates the sense of touch) to replicate a birth without having to practice on a real woman in labour.

“The VR midwifery simulator enables us to train the next generation of midwives and medical professionals in a revolutionary way,” says Ben Horan, a VR expert from the School of Engineering at Deakin University. “From medicine to occupational health and safety, and education, people will be learning in virtual worlds,” says Ben.

Professor AI

Technology can also personalise teaching – that is, tailor education so it better suits our individual needs and abilities. Of course, teachers already aim to do this for their students, but modern tech can help them take it to the next level!

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For example, ‘Amy’ is a virtual maths tutor developed in New Zealand in 2016. Amy is an app that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to deliver personalised maths lessons to students, with the technology already being trialled by teachers and students across New Zealand.

According to Amy’s co-creator, Raphael Nolan, technology like this is unlikely to take the jobs of teachers any time soon. Instead, the teachers of the future better get used to working alongside AI.

“Humans have a lot of qualities that are important for a teacher. I see a shift in the role of teachers to what they want to do and give away their other tasks to AI to help them. And I see a nice symbiotic relationship between the two,” Raphael says.

Tech + education study

Tech + education jobs

  • App developer: AU$54K–$106K / NZ$48K–$82K
  • Software engineer: AU$56K–$111K / NZ$51K–$97K
  • User Experience (UX) designer: AU$51K–$108K / NZ$46K–$111K*

*Source: salaries according to payscale.com

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Tech 2020.

Gemma Chilton

Author: Gemma Chilton

Gemma has a degree in journalism from the University of Technology, Sydney and spent a semester studying environmental journalism in Denmark. She has been writing about science and engineering for over a decade.

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