Funding for classroom technologies suggested by teachers


Teachers came up with innovative ideas, like virtual reality to teach kids how to cycle in traffic and a chatbot that helps pupils plan for exams

Meeting a demand

Six projects that promise to bring new technologies to Flemish classrooms were unveiled this week at KU Leuven’s Kulak Campus in Kortrijk. They are the result of a competition that invited teachers to suggest solutions to specific classroom challenges.

The projects fit within a broader research programme into educational technology called Smart Education, which brings together digital research centre imec and the universities of Leuven, Brussels and Ghent. “The selected projects are all responses to needs in the classroom and have been developed by the schools themselves,” said Rudy Lauwereins of imec. “This way we guarantee that they really meet an existing demand.”

The projects are being developed with funding from the government of Flanders and cover different topics across all educational levels. For the youngest learners there is Smart Symbols, a system that uses a smart bracelet to track how long toddlers in kindergarten spend on a variety of class activities. This allows teachers to monitor their interests, learning and social behaviour.

‘The eye of science’

At primary school level there is VRkeer, a virtual reality tool that teaches cycling safety in traffic (pictured above). Usually pupils learn on the street, which is both risky for them and challenging for teachers. This alternative uses virtual reality glasses and joysticks to provide experience of different traffic situations in a challenging but safe way.

Then there is Sensei, a chatbot that will help students with their study and exam planning, particularly in the tricky transition from primary to secondary school. As well as coaching pupils, the system will report their progress back to teachers.

For secondary school pupils there is SCI-I – “the eye of science” – which combines five augmented reality applications for teaching chemistry and physics via smartphones. Their visual approach to explaining abstract scientific concepts will be particularly useful in city schools where language skills may be a barrier.

Another project, Kiks, will develop a series of lessons in which pupils learn about climate change and how to deal with artificial intelligence. These will revolve around programming a computer to automatically count stomata, the channels through which plants breathe.

Finally, VRhoogte will use virtual reality to teach secondary students on vocational training paths how to work safely in high places, such on high-voltage pylons or wind turbines.

Attending the event, education minister Hilde Crevits expressed her enthusiasm for the quality of the projects. “For me, this once again demonstrates the creativity and engagement in our schools,” she said. She also opened a call for the next round of the competition.

Photo courtesy KU Leuven Kulak