Thanks to the latest Microsoft updates, creating an innovative learning environment has now gotten easier.
Earlier this month on its education blog, Microsoft unveiled a number of new products and services to assist educators in creating more personalized experiences and immersive lessons. From additional Learning Tools for OneNote to a new way to use Minecraft: Education Edition, these new developments stem directly from the needs of Microsoft’s most important consumers.
“[The updates] reflect a lot of the things that we’re hearing directly from students and educators about not only how they’re using technology in the classroom, but things they are looking to do,” says Anthony Salcito, Microsoft’s vice president for worldwide education.
Office 365 Updates Drive Personalized Learning
Personalized learning was the major thread connecting Office 365 updates. Microsoft’s Learning Tools for OneNote already create accessibility by supporting students with disabilities and learning differences. Starting in February, the new dictation tool will allow students to write without having to type, according to the blog.
To provide more flexibility, PowerPoint will let teachers record their lessons, including slides, interactive ink and narration. These lessons can then be published on Microsoft Teams and accessed by students anywhere, anytime.
Microsoft also announced that the Immersive Reader tool — which reads aloud to students — and Teams now support translation to more languages than ever before.
All in all, Salcito says these updates leverage Microsoft’s technology to make every student at ease in the classroom.
“Technology has the tremendous capability of reaching us individually. It helps a teacher get inside every student’s progression,” he says. “We want to release the talent and power in every student in every classroom.”
Minecraft and Mixed Reality Open Up the Classroom
Creating immersive learning experiences was another focus of Microsoft’s announcement, with the blog revealing a new chemistry update to Minecraft: Education Edition. The update, which also will launch in February, will help teachers introduce chemistry topics that students can explore in a hands-on way that’s safe and repeatable.
For example, students can see what elements make up a grass block or use helium to make pigs fly, a Minecraft blog reports.
“Concepts like state of matter, structure of atoms and chemical reactions become accessible in Minecraft through the immersive world and these brand-new tools,” says Minecraft Education Director Neal Manegold in the blog.
In addition to updating the popular game-based learning platform, Microsoft also announced partnerships with Pearson and WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project to create new mixed, augmented and virtual reality offerings.
The partnerships will include new curriculum that lets students explore our planet and beyond. Salcito believes the demand for more immersive educational experiences will continue, not only because of how much they excite students, but also for the invaluable insights they provide.
“When you can inspire a student with an immersive experience, it deepens their knowledge,” says Salcito. “It’s great for exposing a very deep, digital world to a student to better see concepts.”