Technologies that support learning

If we open any book that’s thirty years old and written for teachers, it’s very probable that we’d find a blackboard, chalk and an overhead projector under the “Technology” heading. All of these things are technologies, but we all know they wouldn’t really be very interesting for learning. In this text, we’d like to briefly describe each technology that powers certain tools that are used for learning. We’re not going to go into great detail or complexity, but we will try to give you the basic idea.  

Big data – at present one of the most important pillars of all technological changes and processes. Data is what allows machines to learn, look for new patterns, and solve problems. Big data is data that can’t be processed by traditional methods, and we have to look for “tricks” to work with it – either because the data is too large, poorly structured or we need it in real time.  

Probably any system that works with artificial intelligence and adaptive learning has to work in some way with big data. At the same time, it is an extremely interesting business commodity – truly big data (i.e. much bigger than others have) is owned only by Google (Alphabet), Facebook, Amazon and maybe also Apple.  

Artificial intelligence – “a computer only computes what a person puts into it and doesn’t understand things” or “programming is a systematic record of a process that should solve a certain problem, just like directions for cooking pasta”. These two sentences succinctly illustrate how “classic” algorithms work, but not how AI and machine learning work. This stems from the thought that we can let a relatively general structure (AI) categorize individual information (i.e. divide it into heaps according to certain symbols – e.g. “a plum is what is blue, and a cherry is what is red”) over big data (i.e. data that we have in truly large amounts). A good mastery of this process is what we call artificial intelligence. At present, artificial neural networks are used most often, and are very strong in things like recognizing context and selecting a suitable problem-solving technique accordingly. So, for example, Grammarly can tell you that your text sounds formal or optimistic and suggest relevant stylistic changes.  

Want to give artificial intelligence a whirl? If you’re at least slightly into programming, we highly recommend TensorFlow from Google or Microsoft Azure. You’ll find many interesting and pre-set functions in it that you can adapt to your project.  

Natural language computer processing – this is an extremely old discipline, which strives for computers (mobile phones, etc.) to talk with a person in a human language, be it via text or spoken words. At present, voice assistants are very popular (try Siri or Google Assistant); you can also try the WolframAlpha search engine. For example, Radim Palouš assumed that learning is always dialogical, so using these tools while learning makes sense. Presenter Coach is also very interesting, as it can give you feedback on your presentation in English if you’re using PowerPoint.  

Ukázka z aplikace Presenter Coach na Microsoft PowerPoint. Zdroj: Microsoft - Rehearse your slide show with Presenter Coach

For example, chatbots are also a nice example of how you can speak to your computer. At present, you’ll find them mainly on Facebook on various e-shops, but they are gradually also entering into education. They can either work by “clicking through” questions and the system will answer accordingly, or the chatbot will find out what you want using AI and text recognition and give you the correct answer.  

Virtual reality is a broad and extremely interesting topic. Do you know how teachers prepare for their class work in Pilsen, for example? Before they go out into the field, they test everything in VR, where they can be confronted with a number of challenging problems. There are whole scores of educational programs that allow you to look inside the human brain, take a trip through the bloodstream, or travel through foreign places or even the galaxy. In terms of technology, it‘s up to you whether you choose a common mobile phone with cardboard glasses or something more complex.  

In any case, if you’re learning something that’s difficult to imagine, you should definitely consider VR. Just be careful – if you suffer from motion sickness, search for simulations and models that won’t make your head spin.  

Augmented reality is a specific form of VR and uses technology to insert virtual elements into the real world. For example, try entering the search query “panda” into Google on your mobile phone, click on “display in 3D” and “view in your space”. Once you’ve done this, you’ll see a bear sitting on your desk, and you can look at it from all sides as it chews on a piece of bamboo. There are many other augmented reality tools – all you have to do is search for them. Augmented reality doesn’t model a whole new world, but places digital objects into it that can be used for learning.  

You are running an old browser version. We recommend updating your browser to its latest version.

More info