July 31, 2020

Tech-savvy kids take on Mixiply



Jim Taylor has just finished co-presenting at the STEM education summit and Serious Play Conference with Marianne Malmstron, Digital Technologies teacher at Newlands Intermediate School. For the past three years, he’s been using his incredible knowledge to help kids around the 11-13 age group learn about technology; in particular, Mixed Reality. This learning has been taking place through an app called Mixiply.

Mixiply is an app designed for kids to get to know the basics of coding and how to create 3D models using Mixed Reality. Designed by Theta's Innovation Lab, it's currently being used and developed as part of a collaborative project with Newlands Intermediate and a group of ‘MiniDevs’, it allows kids to be creative and experimental with technology. It’s great for a whole range of scenarios – whether it’s a teacher looking for content for the digital curriculum, or someone looking for a way to keep the kids occupied during holidays. It’s free to download and really easy to get started with.

We caught up with Jim after his most recent presentations to see what kids get from learning with Mixiply, his belief in creative and experience-based learning, plus what lies ahead for Digi-Tech in schools.

How did Mixiply begin?

It was actually part of a hackathon. I got talking to Marianne Malmstron who had an idea that involved virtual reality and enabled students to create their own content and focus on learning as a result. Our hackathon team ended up winning, and so our collaboration started from there. The MiniDevs team (a group of students who wanted to get involved in this area) started up, and Mixiply was born.

Mixiply is all about learning through creativity. What does that mean?

It’s about not being afraid to start from scratch and learning as you go through experimentation. Kids can create all different kinds of content, trying out new things along the way and learning what works and what doesn’t work. They have an opportunity to bring their ideas and imaginations to life.

They demonstrate a real understanding of the potential for technology for enabling new ways of learning. One idea was to have the app read a page from a book and bring up related topics and content in AR - bringing the page to life! With advances in on-device AI to enable fast OCR and natural language understanding, I don’t doubt this vision of the future will be realised.

What reaction or behaviour have you noticed in the kids who get involved with tech like Mixiply?

I definitely see more engagement and confidence, particularly for quieter reserved pupils. They’re encouraged when they produce something that impresses their classmates and gets shown around, it gives them a lot of reassurance. The kids are always so enthusiastic about getting stuck in and making something. There’s also the experimentation side of things – we need a generation of kids who are inspired by this tech and not afraid to experiment. AR isn’t hugely widespread at the moment, but then neither were computers at one point. The more that kids can understand and test this kind of technology, the better.

How would a school get started with something like this?

A lot of this kind of tech has come a long way, and more and more people see the benefits that this sort of thing has for our younger generation. Mixiply is free and ready to use. I’d say to have a look and see what you think, and hopefully, you might find a place for it as part of a project, an art class, in digi-tech - it can be used in lots of different settings. There’s also some help with code fundamentals which makes it easy to grasp how it all works.

What’s the goal with Mixiply?

We want it to be fun, to nurture creativity and to encourage kids to learn by experimentation. Who knows what they might end up creating!

What do you think the future looks like for learning tech in schools?

The digital technologies areas of the curriculum have given schools a remit and time allocation to help kids learn digital skills. If Mixiply is a useful tool to enable this to happen, that’s awesome. I’m all for being able to support this sort of learning. We’ve had some epic wins along the way with some of the content that the kids are producing, and I can’t wait to see where they go with it.

If you want to know more about how to use it in the classroom, drop us an email [email protected].

Mixiply in 'Game Changers'  School Journal Level 4 May 2020
Mixiply in 'Game Changers' School Journal Level 4 May 2020

Earlier this year, we were excited to hear that Mixiply was featured in an article in the School Journal – a widely distributed publication throughout schools in New Zealand.Mixiply in 'Game Changers'  School Journal Level 4 May 2020

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