Classrooms around the world contain students with very diverse abilities and needs, and research shows that this diversity has increased in recent years. For example, as of 2018 in the United States there were more than 5 million English as a second language (ESL) learners, accounting for approximately 10.2% of the total student population.1 According to some estimates, that percentage could rise to 25% by 2025.2 Additionally, approximately 15% of all people in the U.S. have a disability3, and as of the 2020-21 school year, more than 7.2 million students received special education services.4 This highlights the importance of designing learning tools that can help students, teachers, and parents learn, understand, and communicate in ways that match their preferences and abilities. 

Microsoft Education is committed to doing our part to help schools achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal #4, to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,”5 and one way we do that is by developing tools to reduce barriers to success for all learners. 

The latest in our series of Accelerate Learning kits, “Real-Time Translation in Live Presentations,” explores how artificial intelligence (AI) translation tools can be used to provide equitable learning for ESL speakers, or anyone with hearing or language processing difficulties. The translation feature available when activating “Live Presentations” in the PowerPoint web app is just one of many built-in features in Microsoft 365 for education that can benefit users of all different experience levels and abilities. 

We’ve written about several other features including:

PowerPoint Live beyond the classroom

One use for Real-Time Translation is to support ESL students as they become more skilled with English. This is a great example of Microsoft’s commitment to AI for Good — read on for more ways it can be used. 

As a stand-alone feature, PowerPoint Live Presentations can bring your stories to life and  help everyone follow along and understand. Consider a parent-teacher night or an in-person school curriculum event. The presenter can generate a public Live Presentations link, and when attendees open this link with their own devices, they’ll be able to see the presentation captioned in the language of their choice, or view a transcript. They’ll also be able to navigate back to previous slides they may have missed. With these features, everyone can see, understand, and revisit any section of the presentation they’d like. Distractions, poor acoustics or being far away from the speaker won’t prevent them from listening and participating. The audience can also provide feedback to the speaker at the close of the presentation with an automatic survey feature. 

If you have Microsoft Teams available, you can go one step further with PowerPoint Live in Teams. As a teacher or presenter, you get a unique view that lets you control your presentation while staying engaged with your audience. You’ll be able to see their cameras, raised hands, reactions, and chat conversations. Using the cameo feature, you can insert a live camera view of yourself directly into your slides, bringing your content to life.

Presenter view with PowerPoint Live in Teams 

Your students will be able to personalize their viewing experience with captions, high-contrast slides, and slides translated into their native language, without affecting anyone else.   

Audience/Student view with PowerPoint Live in Teams

How does PowerPoint Live compare to the competition?

The Accelerate Learning whitepaper highlights how presentation software like Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides both offer ways to enable translation, and compares the process of setting up and using each tool from the perspective of the presenter and the audience. Both the Microsoft and Google versions allow users to select from many different language options and see live audio translated in real-time, but there are some key differences. For example, PowerPoint Live Presentations provides built-in translation with just a few clicks, but Google Slides does not. 

Using Microsoft PowerPoint, teachers or other presenters can open and activate Live Presentations, which generates a QR code for students to scan with a device and choose their preferred language for translation. 

When the presenter activates Live Presentations in PowerPoint, students can scan the QR code and choose their preferred language.

Accessing translation on Google Slides requires students to open both a presentation window and a translation window, and arrange them side-by-side to see the presentation and translation concurrently. The need to manage multiple windows or install a third-party add-on makes the process harder to manage, which could require additional IT support and involvement, and could pose student privacy risks.

Creating a learning environment for students of all backgrounds

Providing a simple, easy-to-use translation solution like Live Presentations in Microsoft PowerPoint or PowerPoint Live in Microsoft Teams helps remove barriers to learning and enables students of all linguistic backgrounds and comprehension abilities to understand and participate in lessons in real-time. For more about Real-Time Translation, read the comparative study, and visit the K-12 Blueprint Learning Next page for whitepapers, abstracts, and infographics for this and other Accelerate Learning topics.

1 English Learners in Public Schools | National Center for Educational Statistics

2 English Language Learners | National Education Association

3 World Report on Disability 2011 | World Health Organization

4 Students With Disabilities | National Center for Education Statistics

5 UN Sustainable Development Goal #4