Exploring the application of Ai-Media’s technology in Education.

Tomorrow evening Nesta Impact Investments launch our investment in Ai-Media UK to explore supporting young people with autism and learning difficulties. We’ve been working with Ai-Media for some time exploring the many potential applications of their technology in Education.

For the last six months a partnership of the University of Melbourne, Ai-Media and innovation charity Nesta have been exploring the potential of real time captioning and transcription for the professional development of teachers and the learning of their students in schools across England. This work has been funded by the Education Endowment Foundation, a charity set up with a £125m grant from the UK government to fund and evaluate promising educational interventions to address the needs of disadvantaged children.

Real time captioning and transcription has been used for some time in education to provide access to learning for deaf students and those with hearing impairment. During a school trial in Australia, Ai-Media and The University of Melbourne noticed that as well as helping with access for these students, the teachers and other students in the class were also using the transcripts to review the lessons for revision and professional reflection on practice.

In ‘The Visible Classroom’ project we have been trialling Ai-Media’s technology coupled with the educational expertise of the University of Melbourne. Thirty five primary teachers have been running real time captions in their class, with children able to read their words as they speak and review explanations during the lessons by looking back at the transcripts. This gives the children a ‘second go’ at the learning, catching up on what they have missed or misunderstood. They also have the opportunity to rate the learning in each lesson through a feedback survey at the end of every lesson, giving their teacher data on how effective they think the lessons have been.

Once the lesson has finished, teachers can access the transcript of their entire lesson and reflect on the elements that went well. This makes visible to them how their planning and intentions actually translate into action in the complex environment of the classroom.

Throughout the project we have been developing the feedback teachers can get from these transcripts, with researchers at the University of Melbourne analysing the transcripts and providing a dashboard of data on aspects of their teaching such as the balance of teacher and pupil talk, the types of questions they are asking and how often they draw links between learning and the real world in their explanations.

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In our initial training days some of the teachers were sceptical about how useful captions would be for the seven to eleven year olds in their classes unless they experienced difficulties with their hearing. Many of them have been pleasantly surprised to see that pupils been spontaneously looking back through the transcripts to check their understanding of tasks.This has been a collaborative pilot project and the teachers have been feeding back on their use of the technology throughout, helping us to develop it and maximise the impact of this technique for supporting both teachers and their pupils with their learning.

The teachers have also reported they have been able to see into their lesson with different eyes by looking back through the transcripts and analytics.

I have had my own teaching and training sessions transcribed throughout the project, and felt the immediate awareness that this can bring. I noticed that I tend to over explain the instructions to tasks, taking the focus away from the content I am teaching and instead focusing on the practical instructions. Since focusing on this I have managed to make my instructions much more succinct and precise, allowing the learners to focus more on the content of the learning rather than just understanding what I tell them to do.

The pilot has been independently evaluated by Natcen Social Research and their report will be published later in the year, informing the ‘EEF Toolkit’ of research evidence into educational interventions.

We await their results on the impact that this process has had on learning and professional development. However, it has been clear from my conversations with teachers and my own experience that this opportunity to take a second look into what happens in lessons and explore the key features of your teaching could be a powerful tool for developing learning in schools.


By Oliver Quinlan - Project Manager, Digital Education, Nesta