Technology 4 min read

The 3 Best EdTech Takeaways from MIT's Festival of Learning

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Andrey_Popov /

MIT recently held the Festival of Learning, a two-day festival devoted to the latest in EdTech.

2017 is shaping up to be a good year for the field of educational technology, or EdTech, as it’s called.

MIT's Festival of Learning debuted the latest advancements in EdTechClick To Tweet

Earlier this month, MIT held the first Festival of Learning, a showcase of new ideas in how to combine technology and education for a brighter future. The festival had some exciting new technologies and ideas. If we’re lucky, the next one will be open to the public. Still, MIT News has some shareworthy highlights.

The 3 most new and Interesting from MIT’s Festival of Learning:

1. The Light Board

Math teachers are going to love this one.

Imagine that you are facing a classroom of students and you can show them mathematic equations by painting the air in front of you with light.

Sounds fun. With light board tech, you can draw on a luminescent window without turning your back to the class. The class instantly becomes more interactive.

2. Digital Notation

The best way to learn music is through practice, but because notation can seem like another language to beginners, the higher points are truly hard to grasp. With Michael Scott Cuthbert‘s digital music notation tools, however, you might be able to catch up with an expert. These tools allow you to practice a real performance as it projects notes that you sing onto a projector screen overhead.

Tools like these are perfect for teaching pitch and notation as they enable those who have to ‘do’ something to effectively learn new information and skills.

3. Guided Discovery

When I was a kid, I would have gone nuts for a class like Emanuel Sachs‘ approach to basic mechanical concepts.

Sachs’ class uses what he calls “guided discovery“, where he lets his students use simple physical objects, rubber bars, and beams to observe physical laws. It takes the best part of toys and mechanical engineering and allows you to see physical representations of complex concepts.

The Mysterious Hackathon

Here’s something I wish I knew more about: According to MIT News, there was a sort of lock-in between the two days of the Festival of Learning where teams of students addressed some real challenges for modern-day educators.

They called it the “Hackathon.” There was mention of a browser add-on that could create multiple-choice, drop-down questions fed with information from a web page, and a user interface that could help students do research. Not many details were released, but it could potentially be gold for educators looking to explore pedagogical concepts.

Speaking as an educator, we’re kind of at ground zero for the integration of technology into the classroom.

In the early 2000s, there was an internet-connected computer in every class. Now that I’m on the other side of the teacher’s desk, each student is given a tablet or netbook that allows them to connect to a wealth of digital resources for learning.

Teachers are under increasing pressure to integrate classrooms into our Internet of Things, and it is my opinion that daily lectures and book work will soon be out of the picture.

As our technological teaching tools expand, we will need to stay abreast of each advancement. It’s a way for us to learn while our society learns as a whole.

What Big Data can do for Teachers

I saved the best part for last.

I have a projection for the future: the way we handle Big Data will heavily influence the Edtech sector.

The Festival of Learning opened with a presentation from Salya Nitta, the global head of cognitive science and education at IBM Research. Featured in the presentation was none other than Watson, IBM’s flagship AI platform. According to IBM, Watson has the potential to power interactive language learning software, and I’d bet that this is just a start for what an AI like Watson can do in the classroom.

Education runs on feedback, and with AI that can crunch large amounts of data, life could become far easier for teachers that see hundreds of students a day.

Entire classrooms could be set up so that online evaluations would allow an AI to suggest where each student needs to improve, enabling the teacher to target their teaching to greater effect, rather than wasting energy on diagnosing every student’s proficiencies.

All in all, the Festival of Learning debuted some interesting ideas and technologies. With any luck, we will learn more soon. Until we do, we’ll be keeping our eye on anything coming from the world of Edtech.

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William is an English teacher, a card carrying nerd, And he may run for president in 2020. #truefact #voteforedgy

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