The use of Google Glass should be explored in a variety of settings including education . I decided to look at the pros and cons of this Google gadget in our schools. I am fascinated by the idea of portable, wearable and hands free technology. Who didn’t grow up watching Star Wars, Star Trek, The Jetsons or some other futuristic world where people wore devices that made life more convenient and information more immediate? It seems like the advent of this technology has brought us closer to a world immersed in information through a constant stream of communication from a pair of glasses. Since this technology is so new, (some of you might be saying “so last year”), I decided to go watch some Youtube videos to watch some first hand user experiences. *I will provide links at the end of the post for you to see the videos mentioned here.
The main caveat of Google Glass, in my mind, has to be the price, especially for public school systems. Google Glass costs $1500.00 plus tax. There is no way around it. Will the price go down as wearable technology gains popularity? Will wearable technology win over the world? This remains to be seen, but it sure looks like it might be fun.
One Google Glass explorer, Andrew Vanden Heuvel of the Michigan Virtual School, asked excellent questions regarding the use of Glass in the classroom. (I will also refer back to him later because I think he already has some great Glass ideas that he has already implemented.) He asked:
“What is this? What are we going to do with it? What do I need? What am I trying to get my kids to do?”
These are definitely the essential questions that need to be asked by every teacher when deciding what technology devices, software or applications should be included in our classrooms. Every educator looks at new ideas for our curriculum with these questions in mind.
Many of the complications with Google Glass are familiar problems. The main problem that many of the first time users cite is its poor battery life. I often hear this complaint with smart phones, cameras and other devices, so it is not a surprise. The Google Glass does come with a flat USB cable and apparently a battery pack. One of the videos showed the student recharging during the school day. The student and the teacher both explained that this was their greatest concern about implementing Glass usage in school.
Other issues that were mentioned about the use of the technology in a classroom are already common problems in schools. Many teachers and administrators are concerned with what will be disruptive in the classroom – I pods with earbuds, smart phones and cell phones are at the top of the list. Glass users that were interviewed thought that it might be disruptive to hear students using vocal commands during class, but felt that the disruptions would still be less than those caused by phone usage in the classroom. The student wisely advised that anything can be a distraction if you let it be, but that would be true of anything in a high school. Finally, both students, teachers and first time users mention that, as with anything new, there will always be a learning curve and process that one must go through in order to begin using new technology – this process might be a distraction to the user as the period of adjustment is navigated.
Although Glass might be cost prohibitive or there may be complications, I have just scratched the surface in finding some of the benefits of using it in the classroom.
The student who used Google Glass for a trial period in his high school really seemed enthusiastic about how he didn’t feel Glass was invasive, but allowed him to stream information in while working in class. He used examples of looking up definitions for words he did not know or Googling information that he could not recall. The experience seems to allow him to be immersed in his work while also using knowledge from the outside world. There are far less costly recording devices available to students, but the Google Glass does allow users to quickly record and store videos or pictures.
Screen casting is also an excellent feature of Glass used by both students and teachers. The user can be screen casting experiences from another location to a Google Hangout. This feature appealed to me the most. Andrew Vanden Heuvel took his Google Glass to CERN to the Large Hadron Collider and was able to bring this experience to his students virtually. Virtual field trips can be conducted very easily using Glass and would be probably be my favorite use of this wearable technology. Also, teachers can screen cast any lessons so that students will be able to watch them later. Glass provides another avenue for educators to flip their classrooms.
Google Glass also expands the lives of our students in another way. A few months ago, I saw a news report on how Google Glass is enriching the lives of the disabled. The Google Glass technology enabled those who are paralyzed from the chest down to perform multiple tasks (like recording video, taking pictures, etc.) by using voice commands. Also, I watched a Youtube video that mentioned the “wink for picture” feature, that allows the wearer to wink an eye to take a photograph. The hands-free portability of this device, then, would be useful to students with similar disabilities. This would allow these students to record and create within the classroom with minimal assistance.
Anthony Rotolo, a professor at Syracuse University, often uses social media in his classes to motivate discussion. He wore Glass in the classroom to see how it would go. He found that it was highly effective because it was less distracting because he was able to see the Tweets of his students and have increased reaction and response to their online discussions. This continuous exchange of information and communication was made possible by the information layer provided by Glass.
It remains to be seen whether or not wearable technology like Google Glass will become as commonplace as computers are in schools today, but it looks like many educators and techies are having fun trying it out.
Links to the videos that I viewed for this blog post: