As we prepare for ISTE, digitization continues to be a hot topic. The relevance of my “teaching superhero” ideology will be plain to see across the packed exhibition floor and countless sessions in San Antonio. At Cisco, we are eager to inspire a new era for pedagogy, helping teachers adopt the latest digital technologies to further teaching excellence, reach new levels of success, and influence course design. Digital resources, collaboration tools, artificial intelligence, and mixed reality provide teachers with those superhero powers that keep them at the heart of education.

In every superhero story, there is a major villain or a gang of villains hell bent on bringing chaos to the universe. As we become teaching superheroes, it’s no different, we will face many villains!

Professional development is one of our main villains. This is because digital technology, like video collaboration, is treated as an “add-on” vs. an integral part of instruction. And, learning to use and fine tune techniques with these technologies is squeezed in to a short time period between semesters and in most cases, while teaching. This hampers change and weakens support by leaders and other stakeholders.

Of course, every superhero story needs a villain to test our resolve. In this case, professional development is so key to how teachers evolve their use of digital technologies, and it effects all elements of teaching, as a Boss Villain, professional development fits the bill perfectly. The professional development needed as we enter this new era of teaching will need extra patience from the stakeholders. They must also provide the funding support needed to enable adoption. When school executives are supportive and allow fine tuning, there is a positive impact as it drives a longer-term retention in teaching staff which ultimately maximizes student success. Professional development as a worthy adversary which can be defeated but this villain is daunting and needs to be addressed.

Simply waiting for technology to mature, or hoping you won’t have to use it, is not going to cut it. Ironically, the ability to adopt to new technologies is not a problem for students — they love it.

Quote on professional development

Enabling teachers to gain super powers with technology will help them to soar in meeting and exceeding educational standards, which will drive up student success. In fact, many teachers are already using their super powers in secret, and it’s time we help them to really take advantage of these tools.

Point in question is the evolution of collaboration and video in the classroom. Video and collaboration are the best superpower starting places for teachers. A gateway to virtual reality (VR), mixed reality, and augmented reality (AR) futures, many teachers are already well-versed in the rudiments and have had the necessary professional development to use these tools.

The amount of VR/AR-based edtech is growing so fast, from zSpace’s shared augmented experience and interactive stylus to Vizitech’s augmented content- delivering mind-blowing realism. Many schools are just dabbling with these tools, and the future of mixed reality solutions from Google, Facebook, and Microsoft will  accelerate it. These advances are becoming commonplace in the classroom and will help fuel teaching super powers to a new level. Imagine a teacher using glasses that recognize students in class and display digital information live in the physical space that only the teacher can see. As a teacher talks to students, he/she is always positively focused on personalizing the engagement. That is definitely a super power!

As the VR/AR space heats up, the use of video and collaboration as synchronous and asynchronous tools for teaching will adapt to link to the VR/AR super power so that distance and remote learning will be able to reach a new dimension. The ability to create a persistent conversation with context and valuable information between all students at any time is a power most teachers would love. The engagement levels of students leave a lasting impression that can shape the gradient of proficiency ahead of traditional teaching.

In some cases, the combination of hyper realistic video collaboration with some augmented information means that virtual field trips using the High Definition Telepresence takes a classroom to places that previously were not ever possible. In one school district, they have analysis that shows that this technique (superpower) has not just seen an uptick in student grades, but also a dramatic increase in teacher retention.

As newer technologies become cost effective and mainstream, a teacher’s use of today’s video technology means they are already professionally ready to utilize mixed reality. Consider it a gateway to future teaching super powers.

A good example of how the future is already appearing in classrooms around the country, Cisco’s collaboration team demonstrated the support of integrations such as Unity3D engines across its Cisco Spark platform at Enterprise Connect in March. This means all those VR and AR futures can be integrated and projected live in full HD to wherever a teacher might need it. This video ends with a live technology demo during the keynote at Enterprise Connect in March 2017.

So, as our team heads off to ISTE 2017, we expect to see a lot of discussion around the importance of digital competency for teachers to evolve the curriculum and the digitization of the school/classroom environment. Our heroes are coming together to defeat villains, such as professional development, supported by all vendors and partners. So, in the near future, teaching is winning against the villains of disruption, and students everywhere are about to begin benefiting from the era of digital pedagogy.

ISTE Booth 1540

During the same week, our Education team will also be heading to Cisco Live 2017 to interact with education customers across sessions, innovation showcases, and in workshops. Ironically, the theme for Cisco Live 2017, is superheroes! So this is not only a chance to demo live examples of teaching super powers, but an opportunity to get a heads-up on the impact to of technology for leaders of schools and universities across the world.

Next time, what did we learn from the interaction with all those educators, and how they see the digitization of education coming along in their organizations.

Up, up and away!


Neal Tilley

Cisco Education Advisor