Researching the use of Google Glass in the classroom
“#ifIhadglass, I could see if it would make me a better teacher.”
With those words, Robert (Bud) Talbot III, PhD, joined thousands of other Twitter and Google+ users making their case for participating in Google’s Glass Explorer Program.
Aimed at people who want to try out Google’s wearable computer, the invitation to acquire Glass arrived by social media campaign just about one year ago. Early recipients of Glass skewed heavily to celebrities (Newt Gingrich, Neil Patrick Harris) and users with a significant number of social media followers.
Talbot, an assistant professor of science education in the School of Education and Human Development (SEHD), had always embraced the use of technology in the classroom, ever since he started using interactive whiteboards and computer simulations as a high school physics teacher in the late 1990s. But Google Glass was in a league of its own, and Talbot was neither a Twitterati nor a member of the glitterati.
“I never thought anything would come of my application,” he said.
So when the email inviting him to receive Glass arrived in early December, Talbot was both surprised and delighted.
“First I thought ‘Oh cool!’” he said. “Then I thought $1500! No way is this going to happen.”
But it did happen. Working with Brad Hinson, SEHD director of technology, teaching, and learning, Talbot crafted a research plan for using Glass in the classroom. The two men combined resources from their respective research accounts to pay for Glass.
Research: “… a skeptical lens not a fanboy lens.”
Today, Talbot sports charcoal grey Glass as he teaches his students. “It becomes him,” said senior Rachel van Scoy.
Talbot laughs when he hears that. “Yes, my wife also says [Glass] fits my image as a geek,” he said.
When Talbot teaches, Glass records class discussions—every action, every word spoken—all from his point of view (POV). What he sees and hears, Glass sees and hears—and saves.
Talbot hopes his research will answer these questions about Glass in class:
To what degree is the use of Google Glass feasible in the university classroom environment?
Is classroom audio and video recorded from the teacher’s POV more informative than recordings from a camera positioned at the back of the room?
How can wearable technology help teachers provide rich feedback on student work products and procedures?
How do students perceive the use and value of wearable technology in their classroom?
Talbot is already seeing the potential of Glass when providing feedback on students’ work. Now, instead of sending notes on the product, a teacher can send a personal audio message with accompanying video made while looking over their work, complete with inflection that reinforces the feedback.
Talbot is also working with a developer to create Glassware (software for Glass) that teachers can use for taking attendance and documenting students’ work.
Talbot is not required to provide feedback to Google on his experience and research with Glass, but he has launched a Google+ page posting some research data and general thoughts about using the wearable computer. While he admits interest in using technology in the classroom, he does not have a preconceived opinion about the usefulness of Glass in class.
“Millions are being spent on putting iPads in students’ hands, but do they really contribute to student learning?” he said. “Wearable computers are the next phase, but do we want to jump on the bandwagon? We’re doing this research with a skeptical lens, not a fanboy lens.”
Student and colleague reviews: “ ….established a point of comfort… ”
Any time a teacher introduces new instructional tools into the classroom, there is a period of adjustment. The chalkboard, which arrived in American classrooms from Europe in 1801, might have seemed revolutionary at the time. The first computers in classrooms were often considered a distraction.
Talbot tries to take the novelty out of Google Glass by freely offering a test drive to anyone who expresses interest. His students pass Glass around before class starts, tapping the side of the frame to take pictures, record video, or change the information in a tiny monitor that floats above the right eye. By the time he starts teaching a class, it seems like Glass is part of the program. “He establishes a point of comfort with [Glass],” van Scoy said. All students involved in the classes where Talbot is using Glass signed a consent form agreeing to participate in the research. An early survey of the students indicates that they do not find Glass to be a distraction in the class.
As for his colleagues, Talbot says most of them remain cautiously positive. “They say ‘That’s really cool, but I would never use that in the classroom,” Talbot said.
Talbot’s research may change their minds.