My time with Google Glass – educational potential or epic failure?

I have been given Google Glass by The college of Social Sciences (CoSS) to trial as a tool for teaching and learning. Of course, given all the media hype around the device, I snapped up the opportunity and decided to put them through four different situations: at home as a personal device, at work as a professional tool and in two classroom settings with my year 2 Graphics students and my year 4 Advanced 3D Design students.

It’s amazing how the Project Glass team has managed to squeeze all of its features into a tiny ‘computer’ supported on a lightweight yet strong frame. Google Glass is packed with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, speakers, a camera, microphone, touchpad and a gyroscope that detects head-tilts. Then there’s the main piece, a tiny screen the size of your finger, that shows you all the information you need at your finger tips and constructed in a small prism of glass. The voice control works really well and is very responsive. The only downside – I couldn’t find a way to come back out from a menu without having to take off the Glass. The swiping motion didn’t seem to work well for me.

I had some connection issues to resolve first. The university open wifi would not allow the level of authentication required for connection, so this option was ditched in favour of a bluetooth connection to my iPhone and a personal hotspot. I had already downloaded the MyGlass app and I had set up the CoSS  Google account (required for the Glass to be used to it’s full potential). The app allows you to screencast (essentially what you see via the Glass camera and prism is what appears on your phone) and select some basic options from the menu. This excited me for two reasons. The first, within my labs and seminars I use a visualiser to project my manually produced graphics to a projector and screen. The visualiser is fixed and the Glass has the potential to provide portability in that what I see is what my students see (more or less). By connecting to a device such as a smartphone or tablet computer, it would be possible to see this through. Unfortunately, on this occasion I was unable to get this working to my satisfaction. The bluetooth connection to my phone worked like a dream (I could make calls and send messages etc) but the personal hotspot connection was intermittent. I need to work more on this as it has significant potential. The second reason for my enthusiasm was for computer-aided modelling purposes. With some additional tweaking of the technology, I could capture video and still images of the modelling process and send this out to my students, literally at the blink of an eye. Once we cut through the reaction and use (it isn’t every day you see someone walking about with this device attached to their head) it proved to be a valuable asset. The ability to send media directly to social networking platforms is powerful. It raises concerns around privacy and access to your pictures etc, but then anyone who has a social network account will already know the dangers within. There is also an issue here around social acceptance and the shaping that this wearable technology could have on society. Imagine a world where you’re rated at the blink of an eye by a complete stranger… one star because you didn’t hold the door open for them or 5 stars for giving an elderly lady your seat in the subway. This information could appear on your timeline for all your family and friends to see! All that stuff amazes me. It scares me too. At home, the connection issue was not a problem. It worked brilliantly and my 6 and 8 years old children decided to have a go. They were not distracted by it’s appearance at all and seemed to pick up the voice and touch control much faster than me. I know that there has been much thought and debate around Marc Prensky’s digital natives, but to me there is something in that theory. Connectivism and online nodes of learning are evidenced in the way that we engage with web based technologies, and here is another device which allows us to integrate our human potential into that technological stream. I don’t believe for one minute that this ability only resides in the younger generation, but is determined by prior experiences and exposure to such technology. Conclusion: Educational potential – I want more time to play with this technology.


Academic Staff University of Glasgow and Author of Science Fiction

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Posted in Reflecting

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