From multi-touch interactive whiteboards to device agnostic digital learning platforms, TCEA 2016 has it all. While much of the technologies showcased on the expo floor are new and improved versions of the previous year’s products, there are plenty of brand new, highly innovative products that have the potential to truly change and improve the way students learn.
One of the most interesting and engaging technologies being showcased this year are virtual reality headsets. By simply opening an app on a smartphone, placing the smartphone into the headset, and securing the headset on a user’s head, virtual reality headsets enable students to become immersed in a truly virtual 3D reality.
I tried out both Nearpod‘s virtual reality field trips and Samsung’s Gear VR virtual reality headset and was amazed at how immersive the technology actually was. Nearpod sent me to the heart of Times Square on a cloudy day. As I turned my head, the display naturally expanded to show more street signs and buildings as if I was actually standing in Times Square. Gear VR sent me underwater and had me swimming with sharks in the deep sea. These virtual reality experiences truly feel realistic, and have the potential to greatly expand learning.
Virtual field trips are already a popular tool being used in thousands of classrooms, but many of these virtual trips are in 2D, at best. With virtual reality headsets, students can actually feel present and immersed in the environment in which they are learning about.
Along with this impressive 3D technology, the expo floor also showcased highly innovative teaching tools and software that may have seemed less impressive to the eye but were certainly intriguing to the mind.
Microsoft showcased its Learning Tools for OneNote, a free add-in for OneNote aimed to help students improve their reading and writing skills, no matter how skilled or challenged they are in the subject. The tool allows students to adjust the spacing of the reading material and enables them to highlight grammatical focuses such as verbs and nouns. An audio feature also enunciates the sounds of words for students as well, helping them to learn proper pronunciation.
What’s more is the software can also take any reading material such as a hard cover book or printed worksheet and integrate that into a digital version in OneNote. Users simply have to take a picture of the material they wish to focus on with the OneNote app, and the software digitizes that material and allows students to use the Learning Tools features with that material just as they would with an online reading piece.
Virtual reality headsets and Microsoft’s Learning Tools for OneNote are just two examples of the hundreds of new advanced technologies being showcased at TCEA 2016. Stayed tuned for more news on the event, the technology, and what you need to know to ensure these innovations can make a difference in your school.
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