What can the Microsoft HoloLens offer education?

James Cain

With a background in the dark side (journalism), James Cain joined Innovate My School as editor in January 2014. Since then, he has worked with educators far and wide to source great content for the teaching community. James is a film and music fanatic, also enjoying books, games and a good pair of Doc Martens. From the Chester-based offices of IMS, James is able to collaborate with / annoy enthusiastic teachers who are keen to share advice, resources and stories with their peers.

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Since being introduced to the world in January, the Microsoft HoloLens has been picking up both steam and hype, with the tech giant recently announcing that it will also be used for gaming with the Xbox One. But what can this device offer the classroom? We ask two teachers for their thoughts.

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We asked Gillingham School’s Mike Tidd and Kings Monkton Private School’s Adam Speight for their thoughts on the Microsoft HoloLens.

Mike Tidd - Geography teacher, Dorset

‘The digital world blending in the real world’ is what Microsoft is proudly stating to the world. This to some could be a scary thought, but to me it’s a revelation! This is what teaching and every classroom has been waiting for, and it has the potential to be as revolutionary as the wheel! This might be a tad of an ambitious statement, but just imagine the possibilities…

"With Microsoft HoloLens, we could have virtual fieldtrips. We could literally walk amongst the glacial moraine."

As a Geography teacher, it has always been difficult to explain to students what different environments such as glacial, desert or rainforests are like from only using clips and photographs. Unfortunately, it is impossible to visit via field trips all of the wonders that Earth has to offer in 50 minutes, or even within a two-year course. The cost would be crazy to start off with, let alone the risk assessments! I think my local authority would have a heart attack at the sheer idea! But with Microsoft HoloLens, we could have virtual field trips. We could literally walk amongst the glacial moraine, investigate how the wind shapes a desert landscape or meet & talk to a tribe in the Amazon Rainforest. Actually touching and looking around different environments would make geography come to life to our students. We would actually be there!

Imagine taking a class of Year 11’s into the heart of the Japanese Tsunami, abseiling down the edge of the volcanic Mount St. Helens, walking around Christchurch as the earthquake shakes and destroys the city or skiing in front of an avalanche in the Alps.

Teachers are always looking at new ways to develop and improve their teaching, especially in Geography. Microsoft HoloLens has the potential to be a magical and brilliant tool within the classroom. The possibilities are endless with amazing outcomes. Students demand the highest technology available and the very best teaching. HoloLens would enhance any classroom and raise the bar within education. We want the best for our schools and this is the best technology available. Change is good and HoloLens is change in the right direction for the classroom. My teaching hero David Bowie (yes, that Bowie!) has always embraced change. Bowie has devoted his whole career to changing his music, style and outlook. He would not question the opportunities Microsoft HoloLens would offer if he was a teacher. He would demand it in his classroom for his students. So, like Bowie, I want it! I want it now!

Adam Speight - Computer Science teacher, Cardiff

From a Computer Science perspective I am extremely eager to get my hands on Microsoft’s HoloLens, and this is because I personally believe this new technology is going to be a big game changer in terms of the way in which we use and interact with technology. This is because these HoloLens devices will allow situations to be visualised and hence learning will be brought to life. Within my subject this will be extremely useful, as often students struggle with the theory side of things not because they don’t understand something but because often they can’t visualise what is going on within a particular situation. These lens will allow them to experience what is going on as holograms can offer them a visual and kinesthetic learning experience.

Aside from bringing situations to life, the HoloLens also offers a great opportunity for collaborative learning to take place within the classroom. Collaborative learning is one of the biggest skills which employers and academia are currently telling me they want to see from learners within my subject. HoloLens can help to develop these skills, as students could be working on a particular problem -eg writing some code - and all of sudden they could use their HoloLens in order to bring in other students and professionals from outside the classroom who could talk through the work with them. This is a really exciting prospect, as it would allow learners to experience learning within an environment which isn’t too dissimilar from the real world whereby everyone is involved within the development of a new product.

However, although these lens look revolutionary, I do have some concerns as to how far they can go within education. In our sector, lots of new technology comes and goes in a short space of time, and a lot of it fails as organisations don’t understand the needs of education whereby teaching and learning has to be enhanced in order for a product to be successful. Therefore, if Microsoft want these HoloLens to well and truly succeed within education, they are going to need to take some lessons from the Raspberry Pi Foundation as to how they can get schools on board. This means Microsoft should work with schools and get them to take the lead with this product by giving subjects such as mine access to the source code so that teachers and students can work together in order to create virtual reality situations, which benefit not just other subjects, but also the general public. If Microsoft can put schools at the forefront of this new technology, I truly believe they can become a big player within education once again.

What do you think about the HoloLens? Let us know in the comments.

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