EdUHK’s Future Classroom Project Demonstrates the Benefits of Hi-Tech Learning
In recent years, traditional blackboard teaching has been gradually replaced by electronic whiteboards, projectors and other technologies. The rapid proliferation of mobile devices such as tablets, smartphones and eReaders has created a solid foundation for future classroom development to enhance collaborative learning. According to Professor Lee Chi Kin, John, Vice President (Academic) and Provost Chair Professor of Curriculum and Instruction of The Education University of Hong Kong, it is important for EdUHK, an advocate of education transformation and the key stakeholder of local teacher training, to actively collaborate with local kindergartens, primary and secondary schools to create the new and innovative future classroom.
Professor Lee shared the challenges during the preparation of their Future Classroom project. Given the limited spaces in schools, their learning and teaching design plan must be cost-effective, making the best use of new technology together with the schools’ current hardware solutions. Drawing on experiences from around the world, their team also acknowledged the importance of the structure, space and resources when designing a future classroom.
The Future Classrooms Project is expected to further enrich the learning environment and experiences on campus, connect students with the ever-evolving world and enable them to gain global perspectives in one stop.
Matching Technology to Individual Needs
Boasting more than 10,000 square feet inside EdUHK’s Mong Man Wai Library, the 8 Future Classrooms are designed for a wide range of educational purposes and school levels, e.g. STEM, virtual reality applications, creative arts, special educational needs, etc. Each classroom is equipped with facilities matching its theme. For example, the ‘Special Education Room’ features extra wide video projection for students’ visual stimulation. Most of the classrooms can be separated by writable projection walls, so teachers are free to design activities as they deem fit, using any corner as learning space without constraints.
Ir Dr John Hui, MHKCS, Chief Information Officer, The Education University of Hong Kong and Mr Wong Chiu Lung, Dennis, Project and Facility Manager, added that the projector walls and colorful classroom design can enrich both the educational environment and student learning experience. Also, the flexible classroom design allows teachers and students to freely arrange the moveable desks and chairs for different teaching scenarios, and to become more engaged in lesson with the help of easy-to-use educational technology. As a result, students’ learning motivation and efficiency can be enhanced.
Strengthening Pre-service Teacher Training
Information technology skill is now a must for teachers. To prepare teachers-to-be to meet the future challenges, EdUHK offers a series of new technology-related courses for student teachers of different disciplines to become familiar with new EdTech. For example, virtual reality (VR) has been applied in humanities courses for participants to explore the Hong Kong pop culture in the 1970s, including 3D nostalgic jukeboxes, old newspapers, etc., so that students can have enriched experiential learning experiences.
VR teaching resources can also be applied to a wide range of subjects, including abstract concepts in Liberal Arts and History, to enhance learning effectiveness.
Faculty of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences also applied VR and augmented reality (AR) in art creation (Visual Arts), virtual field trip (Geography), observation of human anatomy (Science), etc. Having experienced them firsthand, student teachers can then incorporate such use of technologies when designing their own learning activities for primary / secondary students during practicum or even actual teaching in future. The School of Education and Human Development has also applied eLearning in all its courses, using artificial intelligence (AI) models to assist prospective teachers to apply the theories they learnt in their lesson plans, design lessons with the latest eLearning tools, support students to achieve learning outcomes, and encourage self-directed learning.
Collaboration for the Future of Education
Professor Lee believes that today’s teaching model should no longer be confined to the classroom or by prescribed textbooks. The current traditional classroom space requires a major breakthrough, with innovative and technological elements added to cater students’ needs and offer an excellent learning environment. What should local primary and secondary schools start with to build their own future classrooms with limited resources?
For a start, he suggests that schools set up 1 or 2 special room(s) on campus. This way, teachers across disciplines can make good use of the space, technologies and equipment, while students have the chance engage in new, happy learning experiences. He thinks a successful future classroom should be incorporated with the following: blended learning, which combines the constructivist learning theories with traditional education model, i.e. let students learn by doing and promote experiential learning without relying solely on teacher’s direct instruction; and a wide variety of evaluation methods. Such transformations can only be accomplished through the collaboration of teaching teams. It is also important to have a right mix of expertise in the team, which allows teachers and IT-related teaching staff to understand the challenges of teaching and try to solve problems with technology together.
The future classroom concept might lead to a key transformation in education, changing the way we learn and teach forever. Professor Lee’s team thinks it is not a good idea for schools to just blindly pursue high-end technology when planning for their own future classrooms. Instead, the design should start from users’ point of view: existing technologies and tools can well serve one’s learning needs when put to good use. They hope EdUHK’s Future Classrooms can cooperate with local schools, and come up with more innovative learning experiences, thus bringing infinite imagination and possibilities into learning.
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