Google Glass and Education: Anticipating the Online Classroom

In March, VOX Global began testing with Google Glass. This is the first article in a series that investigates what Google Glass and wearable tech will mean for companies with a public affairs interest.

On February 21, 2013, Andrew Vanden Heuvel, a teacher at Michigan Virtual School, tweeted:

With his tweet, Vanden Heuvel was submitting his entry to join the Glass Explorers Program, an invitational beta program by Google to find select consumers to test out Google Glass, their new wearable technology. To those with a compelling enough plan for the product, Google would offer a chance to purchase Glass and use it in their day-to-day lives. Vanden Heuvel was possibly the first teacher to receive an invite to the program, and in March, Google invited him and his family to Geneva to do a live demonstration of a few ways that Glass may change education in the future. In May, Google released a video of their work.

This was the first video in Google’s now expanding series of Glass Explorer Stories, and revolved around a highly produced trip to CERN in Geneva. With this kind of launch video, Google’s demonstrating that this product isn’t just a glorified GoPro; rather, it’s a tool they hope will change the way we communicate and learn at a more basic level.

Inspiring Opportunities in Education

Like most uses of the wearable tech, Glass’s function as an educational tool often stems from recording and sharing a personal perspective with other people. Recording a student’s perspective could allow teachers, mentors, and behavioral specialists to assess student behavior, performance, processes and psychology. It could allow students to actively use Glass as a storytelling tool, to share videos and photographs of what they’re learning or what they want to share with others.

If teachers were to wear Glass, they could relive their classes anytime and detect student behaviors they missed in the moment, or try to improve their own behaviors based on student reactions. Social workers and educational specialists could review these same materials to craft appropriate interventions when they might help a student. Superintendents could review teacher performance unobtrusively and offer live guidance to teachers while they work.

This live exchange of information offers a lot of possibilities. In Vanden Heuvel’s video, we see a few initial examples: students and teachers collaborate across the globe. These kinds of virtual field trips and exchanges create amazing opportunities to share experiences and lessons with nearly infinite participants.

As Alex Blaszczuk, another Glass Explorer wrote in her #ifihadglass submission,

I am a New Yorker, a law student, a quadriplegic. #ifihadglass I could finally capture my life on my own. I would show the world how to thrive with physical limitations in the most interesting city on the planet. With Glass, paralysis doesn’t have to be paralyzing.

This is a technology that can change education and communication across the disabled community and for all kinds of remote students (Alex received a Glass invitation and had her story told in another Google-rific video narrative. Check it out here).

Right now, medical educators are particularly excited about Glass. Rafael Grossman, a doctor and educator, started a YouTube channel dedicated to sharing uses of Glass in the hospital and for medical pedagogy. In a short video, he takes Glass into a live medical demonstration (for those averse to blood, don’t worry, he uses a dummy in the video).

In Vietnam, an education startup is using Glass to teach English language use in public, real life situations. Remember learning the words for “coffee,” “glass of water,” and other café vocabulary in foreign language 101? Topica is taking this idea and combining it with a full immersion experience.

In any case where fabrication, performance and action are involved, Glass shines. This might be artworkchemistry  constructioninstrumentation or music. In all of these cases, a live connection with a tutor or mentor can mean a new level of performance in remote interaction.

What about a more basic learning environment – a student performing simple algebra problems, or reading MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech at home. In both of these cases, Glass could allow a teacher to have an intimate connection with the student and offer guidance on the order of operations, mathematical process, or basic reading mechanics.

Across language, medicine, remote learning, and other forms of collaboration, Glass is positioning itself to change the way we think about education. Ultimately, there’s only one constant in all of the above cases. They don’t happen in a classroom or on a campus. They happen online.

Shifting the Policy Debate

Over three years ago, Bill Gates made a contentious statement at the Techonomy conference: “five years from now on the web for free you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world… It will be better than any single university.” Since then, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of MOOCs and online classrooms like Khan academy. As Google Glass emerges and evolves, it will contribute to the accessibility of a first-class education online and in remote environments, and continue the disruption of existing educational models. It’s already inspired Vanden Heuvel to create his own online classroom: check out STEMbite below. Some of the greatest educational policy debates – around topics such as school size, class size, and school choice – may begin to take a backseat to less physical (or “place-based” as Gates calls them) policy issues.

Teaching practice may see a larger spotlight in our discussions. Talented teachers like Vanden Heuvel will be able to share their most compelling mentoring samples in video portfolios that quickly convey their ability. As teachers apply for work, they will have new tools to demonstrate their mentoring experience. With this increased visibility and agency, teachers won’t be as dependent on any single institution to support them.

As consumers of online educational content, we’ll feel more familiar with a teacher’s work and establish trust more quickly. This rise in trust may help already vibrant tutoring marketplaces to flourish, allowing teachers greater access to new avenues for work. Teacher pay structures and teaching methods may change radically as these marketplaces emerge. All of this democratization points toward a shift to a more tailored, individual teaching experience.

We’re tracking the proliferation of Glass in the classroom as well as the digital changes and challenges it brings. The first of those – privacy concerns – are particularly sensitive in an educational environment. When it comes to children, parents aren’t excited to place a computer and camera onto a child’s face. We depend on “place-based” educational institutions to snatch a cell phone from a texting student’s hand. We depend on these institutions to actively shape children’s notions of privacy and to stop camera use when it’s inappropriate.

This may be Google’s greatest educational push. In the same way that they’ve lobbied to legalize the use of Glass by drivers behind the wheel, we expect to see them push just as heavily to keep Glass in front of the eyes of students and teachers everywhere.

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Google Glass and Education: Anticipating the Online Classroom

In March, VOX Global began testing with Google Glass. This is the first article in a series that investigates what Google Glass and wearable tech will mean for companies with a public affairs interest.
On February 21, 2013, Andrew Vanden Heuvel, a teacher at Michigan Virtual School, tweeted:
#ifihadglass it would transform the way I teach science – making every moment a teachable moment. http://t.co/xSifJv7lgP
— Andrew Vanden Heuvel (@avheuv) February 22, 2013
With his tweet, Vanden Heuvel was submitting his entry to join the Glass Explorers Program, an invitational beta program by Google to find select consumers to test out Google Glass, their new wearable technology. To those with a compelling enough plan for the product, Google would offer a chance to purchase Glass …

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