BETT 2020: Microsoft is helping teachers train without having to travel

Schools in the UK have been given access to free digital tools that improve teacher training and help students learn.

Ahead of the BETT conference in London next week, Microsoft has unveiled new features in Office 365, which is widely used by teachers to support their work in the classroom. Teachers can now be trained from anywhere in the world via the internet thanks to a PowerPoint update. Schools can present slides live and give viewers a QR code so they can follow along on their personal device in more than 60 languages.

The tool eliminates the need for a group of teachers to travel to the same place for training, and lets each individual choose to have the session delivered in a language they understand.

Feedback surveys are then made available to participants, while an email will be sent to the presenter that identifies how effective the presentation was and offering insights to improve future training sessions.

According to new research from Microsoft – entitled Staff of 2030: Future Ready Teaching (see below) – just 38 per cent of teachers believe their current training has equipped them to use digital technology for instruction. To make it easier for them to create and share content, training videos can now be made using the Microsoft Stream app. The company’s video streaming program works with Flipgrid’s camera, allowing teachers to personalise and share education content in seconds. Stream will soon let teachers and students record and share screenshots, applications and camera feeds, offering new ways to create learning and training materials.

Another upcoming feature will see Stream enhance specific voices by removing background noise from videos recorded in classrooms; while automatic captions and searchable transcripts now support eight languages so learners can find information quickly.

In order to ensure that students are on track with their learning, Class Insights in Microsoft Teams gives teachers more data on individual performance and activity. That can be used alongside Private Channels, which lets educators collaborate in safe and focused environments, and summarised and shared with the student and their parents or guardians.

Chris Rothwell, Director of Education at Microsoft UK, said: “In order for children to reach their full potential, they need teachers who are working at their full potential. Technology can help them achieve that. By helping teachers learn via the internet, wherever they are, they will not only gain key digital skills they can pass to their students but they will also be handed one of the most valuable things a teacher today can possess – time. Those hours that are not spent travelling to training days can be used to plan lessons, catch up on marking or prepare for the following school day. That will directly benefit the young people in their classrooms.

“I work with schools across the UK and see first-hand that teachers love their jobs. These new tools from Microsoft will enable them to continue to share their passion for learning with the next generation.”

Microsoft also announced new Office 365 features for students that support them in the classroom.

A picture showing how you can use captions inside OneNote

Live Captions are now available in OneNote as part of a private preview (above). As a teacher speaks, a transcript of the words will appear in OneNote on students’ screens, helping those who need to spend more time on a section of the lesson or refer back to what was said at a later date. It is also designed to benefit those who may be hard of hearing.

Users can take notes as OneNote is transcribing, while connecting the tool to Microsoft Translator will turn the words into a variety of languages on the student’s screen. The captions can be paused, parts of the text can be highlighted and the entire transcription can saved as a page in OneNote.

Microsoft said it was “closing the broadband gap” by unveiling two new, affordable devices aimed at students who struggle to access the internet on their current devices. In the US, the Federal Communications Commission estimates that 70 per cent of teachers assign homework that requires broadband access, yet broadband is not available to nearly 25 million people, 19 million of whom live in rural areas. Even among those who do have a connection, Microsoft data shows that nearly 163 million Americans are not using the internet at broadband speeds.

The JP.IK Turn T101 and the Wise N1212S are Windows PCs that feature the newest Qualcomm chipset, have twice the battery life and boast “25 per cent better performance than competing platforms”.

Microsoft will be the main headline sponsor of BETT – the first edtech show of the year – which will bring together more than 800 leading companies and over 34,000 visitors to the ExCeL in London.

Yesterday, the company released its new, secure Microsoft Edge web browser. It features built-in tools that allow students to change text size, read text aloud and ink on PDFs right in the browser. Microsoft Edge lets students and teachers working on shared computers sign into one or more profiles for quick access to their favourites, history and more.