Ever since the pandemic halted in-person operations in various industries across the globe, the world has had to adapt to virtual work and education. Even after several months of this new norm, however, students and teachers alike continue to struggle with the new learning format. The majority of students are having trouble engaging with their lessons, likely due to the stress that the pandemic has put many of us under.
One thing that’s been helping educators and students during this difficult period is technology. Whether new or otherwise, we’ve listed down the technologies that were designed to help students develop skills, learn new information, and stay engaged. We’ve also included assistive technologies designed to help students with learning disabilities.
Neuroscience technology: Halo Sport
Halo Neuroscience provides a program that claims to be able to give athletes and musicians mental warm-ups to assist them in developing their skills. The Halo program consists of three components: Halo Sport, a headset; Primers, which are foam spikes on the Halo Sport headset that deliver small electric pulses to the brain to speed up the development of muscle memory.
The Halo program is based on neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to learn through the formation of new connections. It’s more known for its use among professional athletes, but it can also be used by musicians and music students. The Halo program is backed by several studies that report positive results regarding its role in the improvement of performance and endurance.
The possible applications for this in music education are certainly worth noting. Further research can be done exploring how it can help music educators such as piano and guitar instructors find the best way to teach their students, as well as track their progress when they practice.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)
Once touted as being suitable only for entertainment, augmented reality and virtual reality are now saving graces in education and healthcare. AR and VR are helping medical students refine their skills and knowledge by simulating medical procedures while students remain in their homes. AR and VR have been aiding medical training in neurosurgery and dentistry.
Before the pandemic, AR and VR had already been emerging as helpful tools in education. The pandemic and the rise of online learning have accelerated the use of these technologies as educators scramble for ways to keep their students engaged through the use of immersive experiences. Luckily, the technologies are growing more and more accessible. An app called EyeJack enables teachers to embed AR into their PowerPoint presentations. The best part is that doing this doesn’t require any technical dexterity – the interface is user-friendly for first-timers.
Sip-and-puff systems. To ensure that no students are left behind, there are also assistive technologies designed for students with special needs and developmental disorders. Sip-and-puff systems are for students with mobility disorders such as paralysis and fine motor skill deficiencies.
Ginger. Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities, with up to 17% of the population having some form of it. Ginger Software is a digital writing tool equipped with grammar-, punctuation-, and spell-checker tools, a proofreader, and text-to-speech (TTS) to help students with dyslexia. Suited to speakers of English as a Second Language as well as native English speakers, Ginger Software can also help students refine their English-speaking skills.
Sphero. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is another common developmental disorder. It is often marked by deficiencies in communication and social and behavioral challenges. As such, children with autism often feel immensely uncomfortable around other humans. Sphero, the company known for its Star Wars-themed smartphone-powered droids, has developed a line of robot toys for kids of all educational levels. These products help children with ASD overcome their social and communicative difficulties in classroom settings, giving them more confidence in their skills and capabilities.
Australia’s Aspect Hunter School, a school for children with ASD, incorporated Sphero robots into their learning program in 2016. The faculty have observed that apart from engaging the students in their classes, the robots also help students express themselves more and communicate more confidently.
Talking calculators. Students with visual impairment or dyscalculia – a disability that keeps them from grasping concepts related to numbers – benefit from using a talking calculator. The technology that’s involved is fairly simple and isn’t new by any means, but makes a remarkable difference in the lives of the students who require it. Talking calculators function similarly to TTS aids in that they have speech synthesizers. The calculator vocalizes each key that is pressed and each answer that is calculated. The speech synthesizers give the user the option to toggle between an array of languages and male and female voices. Most talking calculators also come with a headset for private listening.
The time that we’re living in is a difficult one for students and educators. It’s important to be informed about technologies that can help both of these parties. The proper technology can help students absorb more new information, hone their skills, and stay engaged. It can also help students with learning disabilities have more confidence in their skills and be more comfortable in classroom settings.