Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Two ways we can use wearable in ed and 3 reasons we are far from 1:1

In recent months, I have noticed an upsurge in posts and conference sessions about wearables in the classroom. This trend follows a similar one a few years ago following the release of Google Glass. I love new technologies and try to champion their contribution to learning, BUT I do think that we are still far from being able to use wearables in the classroom effectively. I see three major points:

1. Cost. Most (if not all) wearables are still dependent on a primary device to connect them to the internet. As a result, the cost for a wearable combines the cost for a primary device (usually a smart phone) and the cost for the wearable. Since wearable costs are similar to the primary device, this essentially doubles the cost for the consumer or school system. Some school districts that I work with are starting to think about a two devices per student approach. In that scenario, most are discussing a laptop and a mobile device. A third device would be a luxury that is still far from what we can do now.

2. Real estate and attention. Screen real estate is critical in education. The capacity to show large images and text is paramount in reducing cognitive load and increasing student focus. Having a small distracting device will not add to learning.

3. Privacy. Most school-related devices are bigger and require a decision to carry them around with you at all times. Wearables, on the other hand, are designed to be on (the person) at all times. When they belong to the school, it raises serious questions about privacy.

Despite that I can see two main uses for wearables in the classroom that could make a difference.

1. As a teacher device. Teachers can use a small wearable (perhaps most notably a Google Glass type device). To manage their classroom on the go and access information during teaching, workshops and meetings. It is a stretch, would require some specialized software and would have very limited impact on education (it is a teaching not learning device).

2. Special education. A watch type device can be significant in helping students in special education learn to monitor themselves nd provide timely feedback and measurement without the need for constant supervision from teachers. This ould increase learning for special education students and reduce the load on teachers.

I think wearables are still a long way from being 1:1, but I can see targeted use coming in the next few years.
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