Blog Post

Wearable Technology in the Classroom

Hello everyone, let me begin with a brief introduction. My name is Tyler Scowcroft and I am a Master of Fine Arts student (fiction) at the University of Washington. I became interested in the pedagogical applications of technology through teaching freshman composition. Particularly, I’m intrigued by how technology can influence student-instructor interaction outside the classroom (eg multimedia instructor feedback on assignments) and also how technology can shape the classroom experience itself. In regards to the latter, much of the tech news in recent months has involved forms of wearable technology, such as Google Glass or Samsung’s new smart-watch, the Galaxy Gear. While these types of products are not yet widely available or cost-effective enough to appeal to students en mass, if current trends continue this technology could very well become as ubiquitous in the near future as smart-phones are today. I would love to hear some thoughts on how some of you see wearable technology, especially immersive headsets like Google Glass, impacting the classroom experience. Would you be inclined to ban its use altogether or utilize it (especially if it is cost-effective) to produce an augmented reality in the classroom? Thanks! 

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3 comments

I think this is actually a really interseting topic, Tyler, and one that I must admit I hadn't given much thought until now. I'm a fan of technology in the classroom but I am also sensitive to the class distinctions that it brings out. Though certainly smart phonts seem prolific on our campus (yes, dear readers, Tyler and I are colleagues), I'm not sure I would call them ubiquitous. Even if as many as 75% of our students have smartphones (this is my guess for my own classrooms), the integration of *personal* technologies into the classroom would really draw attention to the "haves" and "have-nots," so to speak. 

Despite my interest in technology, particularly as a pedagogical tool, I also have to admit ignorance to much of the latest developments in the tech sphere of the larger world (hidden as I am in my cave of exam prep). I wonder how we might use personal tech items, such as Google Glass, as classroom tools without requiring students to provide them. Much like our standard computer labs, might we begin to see Google Glass labs at our libraries? Funding is highly competitive, but if we start thinking about a compelling articulation of such technology's utility for learning now, we might position ourselves for persuasive petitions for such resources in the future, however near or far that might be. I think that this question of utility is precisely what Tyler is asking here, and I look forward to reading more responses from those far more well-informed on the matter than I. 

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I say the more the better. A HUD for every student, for every class. Imagine it - 3D lectures, custom audio/text for ESL, focus aids for ADD, etc. A "pop up video" kind of effect for films watched in class, calling attention to elements of interest to the course. Reading a book and annotating it, then being able to recall those annotations on the fly during a discussion or lecture. Text of a reading overlain on the view, ready access and voice search to find relevant bits.

And then, we have the students create not only paratexts, but actual content. Have them create lessons, create discussions. Have them create apps and software specific to a course, force them to see course content in a whole new light.

Love it.

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I really appreciate the ability to integrate technology into many parts of my teaching--audio/visual enhancements to lectures, interactive web sites presented in class or assigned as homework, and many more.  I'm always looking for more ways to use available technology to help facilitate learning.

Yet I have found that individual use of technology can be detrimental to the communal aspects of classroom instruction.  Although most students don't "wear" technology yet, several are often physically connected to phones, computers, and tablets throughout the day.  As students use their own, personal technologies in the classroom--that is, as they move their eyes away from others and to some sort of screen that they manipulate, they are less likely to really engage with me and their fellow students by listening intently and conversing thoughtfully.  Although there is much to be gained from individual reading and research on various devices, I'd prefer that they do that sort of individual reading or research on their own, at a time when they won't simultaneously lose out on the opportunity for academic community that the classroom offers.  

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