You’re walking through the streets of Paris on your way to the Louvre. Upon entering the museum you pause at the Venus de Milo before heading down the long corridor to see the Mona Lisa. As an art student, the chance to study Da Vinci’s masterpiece up close is a once in a lifetime experience—and you’re doing it without ever leaving the classroom. Instead, you’re watching it through the eyes of your professor who is traveling abroad and with the help of Google Glass is streaming a live feed that takes you along for the journey.
This might see like a scenario too far off to consider, but for students and faculty at Morningside College in Sioux City, the possibility is real. The director of Technology for the college, Marcie Cambigue was selected to be part of the Google Explorer program after entering a contest in February and she now has her own pair of Google Glass to try out.
“Wearable technology right now seems to be the going thing and voice activation and gesture seem to be replacing touch,” says Cambigue. “We’re looking at how these things can be used in the classroom to allow our students to be better prepared for the world four years from now.”
Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display. The lenses of the glasses are like a computer screen, allowing you to see information much as you would on a traditional laptop, desktop, tablet or smartphone except the data doesn’t interfere with your line of vision. You can take pictures, record videos, surf the Web, videoconference via Google Hangouts and receive information like directions or language translation in real-time. Other than its obvious cool factor, Google Glass has a very real potential to greatly enhance education.
On a practical level, Morningside College is using the technology in its computer science classes where students are developing apps for Google Glass.
“It gives the them the ability to write apps for some of the newest and latest technology. We’ve already got a professor here on campus that will be incorporating that in a fall class,” says Cambigue. Being a Google product, Glass runs on an Android operating system, which is essentially how the students will design and build their apps.
Cambigue picked up her Google Glass at the company’s Mountain View global headquarters on June 24th. Since then, she and her colleagues have only begun to scratch the surface of what the technology can do. “There’s just so many different applications and so many different ways you can use this,” she says.
Drawing inspiration from fellow explorers, Cambigue sees the value of Google Glass for the health and science students. She says doctors are using Glass to take video or pictures during a surgery. Imagine having a front row seat to a complicated operation as a medical student. The kind of knowledge you’d gain would be impossible to imitate in the classroom. It also takes telemedicine to another level.
“If you are a nurse in a remote area and a doctor needed to do an exam, it would just be a matter of you wearing the glasses,” says Cambigue. “You do the exam. You get the patient feedback and everybody can talk to everybody. The doctor doesn’t even need to be in the room.”
Google Glass could also be a powerful assistive technology for students with a handicap or disability. Voice activation and its ability to read aloud to you are especially helpful applications for such situations. Through another Glass wearer, a handicap student could also experience, in the first person, what it’s like to go rock climbing or even run a marathon. This many not be an application particular to education, but it’s still a powerful one.
“You can kind of live vicariously through someone else in their experiences so you can send people out and have them doing different things these people might not have the opportunity to actually do,” says Cambigue.
How It Works
When you’re ready to use the glasses you say “OK Glass” followed by a command. For example, “OK Glass, Google HigheredTechDecisions.com.” The side of the glasses is like a touchpad similar to the one on a laptop allowing you to scroll through the website or tap on the side to open a link. Holding down your fingers will cause the screen to zoom in while moving your head allows you to see the whole site.
“As soon as you play with it you’ll figure it. I put them on my 81-year-old mother and she didn’t have any problems. She caught on quickly about the swiping and the vocal commands and she sent an email right away,” says Cambigue.
Since Cambigue picked up her glasses in June, there have already been three updates to the Google Glass operating system. Any of the minor problems she picked up on originally have since been corrected. It used to be difficult to click on links but that problem has been resolved. In addition the latest update included better integration with Google Now including cards for events and reservations, movie times and public alerts. Voice support was added for third-party apps Path and Evernote, the Glass video player received controls through swipe and users now have the ability to use hashtags.
When asked about the greatest impact Google Glass could have on the learning environment, Cambigue points to distance education. “I think it would make things a lot more accessible to people outside the classroom, ” she says. Distance learning requires a camera and a microphone positioned strategically to get the best visual for students off-site as well as superior audio, a task that can be daunting. If you don’t have a lavalier microphone then you’re rooted to one particular spot. Google Glass simplifies all that.
“You don’t have all those other things in your way like the laptops and the cameras and the microphone because you have everything right there on your head,” says Cambigue.
Morningside will continue to explore Google Glass during the school year. There are already five faculty members borrowing the technology to try out in their classrooms as they brainstorm the many ways wearable technology can be incorporated into education.
“It’s just been a fun experience,” says Cambigue. “It’s something totally new and we’re just having a good time being able to explore. It’s a great opportunity.”