Put away e-devices in class? No way!

Gamification and 3D printers are among high-tech teaching tools polys are using

Temasek Polytechnic first tried out “gamification” two years ago and hopes to implement it in all classrooms by the year end.
Temasek Polytechnic first tried out “gamification” two years ago and hopes to implement it in all classrooms by the year end. PHOTO: TEMASEK POLYTECHNIC
Food science and technology student Danielle Wong says Singapore Polytechnic’s new 3D printer “makes food fun”.
Food science and technology student Danielle Wong says Singapore Polytechnic’s new 3D printer “makes food fun”. PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLYTECHNIC
Republic Polytechnic classrooms use the self-rotating Swivl robot to record presentations. PHOTO: REPUBLIC POLYTECHNIC

In some game design and development classrooms at Temasek Polytechnic, students are "wizards" and teachers are "game masters".

When students answer questions in class or consume e-learning material, they can use their "powers" to unlock rewards - such as a five-minute tea break or a one-on-one session with their teacher. Their avatars and the number of points they earn in class are tallied on an online leaderboard.

This is part of a new teaching method which the school calls "gamification" - the use of gaming elements in non-game scenarios.

Said the diploma's course manager Jonathan Pillai, 40: "We realised that today's teenagers are very exposed to digital culture, and they want lessons to be engaging."

The aim, Mr Pillai added, is to get students to be more actively engaged in their own learning, rather than passively consuming content.

Gamification was first tried out at Temasek Polytechnic in its Diploma in Game Design and Development classrooms two years ago and enjoyed a positive response.

After a year of research funded by the Ministry of Education (MOE), gamification will be officially re-launched in April and the school hopes to implement it in all classrooms by the end of this year.

It is not the only polytechnic experimenting with high-tech ways of engaging students.

At Republic Polytechnic, a Swivl robot, used to help take video recordings of lecturers and student presenters in classrooms, has been turning heads. It received the Silver Innergy Award from MOE in 2015.

The robot - which has a round rotating base capable of propping up a tablet device - swivels so the tablet faces and takes video recordings of the person who is speaking.

The robot, introduced two years ago, is often mounted on a tripod for a better view. People can also use remote-control-like markers to get the Swivl robot to orient the tablet towards them.

The video recordings are uploaded onto an online portal that students can access after class.

Diploma in Sports Coaching student Spencer See Toh, 18, said the robot has helped him improve his presentation skills.

He said: "With the video camera (recording me), I felt quite nervous at first. As time went by, I found I could spot my mistakes, and knew what to improve on."

When revising for exams, he was able to re-watch key points that he might have missed in class, he said.

Over at Nanyang Polytechnic, more diploma courses have been incorporating virtual reality technology into their curriculum.

Its engineering students, for instance, can use a 3D immersive virtual reality software to simulate airport operations such as maintenance checks on aircraft.

From April, Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of InfoComm Technology classrooms in the new Smart Learning Spaces @ NP will boast facial recognition sensors to track students' attendance. Interactive whiteboards will also allow lecture notes to be transferred directly to students' tablets.

Singapore Polytechnic's Food Innovation and Resource Centre has a new 3D printer, to which students can add puree, powder or batter. The machine squeezes the food out, layer by layer, to form custom shapes.

Food science and technology student Danielle Wong, 18, said: "It allows us to customise each nutrient, to formulate different food and recipes for each target consumer."

Ms Wong, who has used the machine to "print" soya pulp cookie batter into various shapes, said: "It makes food fun. The possibilities are endless."

What's new at polytechnics

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2017, with the headline Put away e-devices in class? No way!. Subscribe