As a technology focused company in the educational space it’s part of our job to be aware of new developments, new technologies and methodologies. So when the opportunity to test Google’s forthcoming Glass came along, we of course were excited to join the Explorer program in order to play with this new technology. It’s good to get a head start on something that has potential to change the way people interact and learn in the future.
How we got one
Google Glass is not currently available to consumers, so getting our hands on one was a matter of Google being kind enough to choose someone on our development team, Ken Lonseth, to join the program. The Explorer program handed out Glass to a few thousand people across The United States. At a hefty $1,500, the program is priced far above the eventual price of the consumer version slated for sometime next year. The price is actually in line with other beta-testing hardware programs. For many developers it’s a small price to pay for early access. The current conventional thinking on the consumer price is somewhere around $3-500.
The competition to receive Glass has come and gone, and Glass have been in the hands of all sorts of people for a few months now. Our copy has been around Knoxville Tennessee where ILS is located. Ken wears it around most days, and occasionally hands it out for people to try. The response has been one of positive curiosity.
What Glass is
Glass is essentially a mini computer with a display attached close to your line of sight. Near the display lies the camera that shoots both still shots and video. On the side is a touch pad for navigating the menus. In the back is the battery and the bone conducting speaker, which vibrates the sound behind your ears. The device is surprisingly light and can be worn for hours without noticeable strain.
The interface is different from a standard computer or smartphone operating system. You navigate through “cards” from side to side, pressing on cards will reveal more cards or options underneath like a folder structure. You interact by swiping, tapping and talking to the device, which honestly takes a little getting used to.
Glass is not meant to be an always on device, it shuts off into hibernation mode very quickly when not in use. It’s designed to be out of sight and mind most of the time, and should only pop up when you need it. The device pairs with a smartphone and Google Now, a service that tries to anticipate your next move. How this device and others like it are tracking our habits is perhaps a topic for another post.
The main features of Glass out of the box:
- Takes photos and video from a point of view perspective
- Share – all the social media and email sharing that everyone is used to
- Participate in Google hangouts – share what you’re doing with other people, in real time
- Read emails and other notifications, breaking news. (or have them read to you)
- Google searches, read webpages, translate phrases
- Navigation – turn by turn notifications pop up and are read to you.
- Take phone calls – hands free conversations
- Speech to text – tag images with a description or send a short email, all by just saying the words.
What Glass isn’t
Glass will not be for everyone, and it won’t be useful in every situation. There may be some over-promising out on the internet of what Glass can do. In it’s current form it won’t revolutionize education. In time, perhaps.
Many assume the device is tracking peoples whereabouts and is always recording. Although Glass is a neat step forward technologically it’s not really as sophisticated as all that. The invasion of privacy concerns, the possibility of facial recognition, the tracking of GPS data, are hot topics of discussion for sure. We’ll see how this develops over time.
Currently there are very few dedicated educational apps or programs for the device, so at this stage in it’s development Glass as a teaching aid or an educational device is a little less than stellar.
However there are a couple of very specific scenarios where Glass is already proving useful in educational settings:
- Virtual field-trips
- Show and tell
- Online learning environments
Some early examples:
- Medical training – Sharing medical procedures
- Smartsign – Sign language learning app
- STEMbites – Real world physics video examples
- Google Glass in education infographic
What about the classroom?
For pure classroom and lecture scenarios the picture gets a little murkier and questions start arising. What about cheating, how practical is this if everyone is wearing one, the level of distraction could be too great. What if anything of value can this provide in a classroom. I think realistically there’s not much to go on so far. Especially in higher grade levels where the learning becomes more abstracted.
For most everyone in education, Glass is not ready for prime time. Only early adopters who are comfortable experimenting will get any use out of it. Wearable technology is steadily on the rise though, so perhaps in a few years these devices may have matured enough to actually have major impacts on our lives as well as on how we learn and teach.
As we explore further we will post here about our finding.