Jul 02 2013

Can Google Glass Solve the Student Engagement Problem?

Online teacher Andrew Vanden Heuvel thinks so and is determined to prove it.

Andrew Vanden Heuvel has figured out how to use Google Glass to deliver education, and his ideas could change the way students learn.

The 28-year-old physics teacher has been making waves in the online education community for several years now. He teaches advanced physics courses through the Michigan Virtual School, an online resource that ensures all students in the state have access to accredited teachers; teaches online astronomy courses at Calvin College; and since April has been publishing short educational videos created with his Google Glasses on his YouTube channel, STEMbite.

Teaching K–12 students online isn’t revolutionary, but Vanden Heuvel’s use of wearable technology like Google Glass could increase engagement using the Internet. That and Vanden Heuvel’s playful and likeable personality make for a winning combination. It’s abundantly clear that online learning is a great opportunity for K–12 students, but could Vanden Heuvel’s approach finally unlock its true value?

Vanden Heuvel certainly thinks so. His work is driven by a few core principles. Most important, he wants to make education more exciting. In a blog post on the topic, he writes, “I think the lack of student engagement in school is the worst problem in education (and possibly all of society) today.” His assessment is backed up by considerable research, and he ponders whether increased engagement in schools could help solve issues like poverty and crime. After all, if students are excited to learn, they will more easily obtain the knowledge and skills to pursue a rewarding career.

If you aren’t convinced that Vanden Heuvel’s convictions about online learning are warranted, it’s worth checking out a few of his videos (see below). In a recent post on instructional technology specialist Kyle Pace’s blog, Vanden Heuvel explains his strategy for using Google Glass as a learning tool.

I work extensively in the world of online and blended learning where video content is an essential element of every course. I’m often frustrated, frankly, by video lessons that are long, dry, and boring (Khan Academy, anyone?). Sure, the videos contain all the content, but they don’t make learning interesting or fun. To me, Google Glass offers a unique opportunity to bring a new perspective (quite literally) to online video lessons.

Using Glass, I have created a video series called “STEMbite.” These engaging bite-size videos show the science and math that can be found in everyday life, all from a unique first-person perspective. As students ride along in my head (scary, I know), they can start to see the world as I do — a place full of amazing applications of math and science. Rather than try to explain all of the content, my goal is to motivate and inspire students to learn more.

Here are a few of our favorite videos. The rest can be found at youtube.com/STEMbite.

STEMbite: Standing Waves

STEMbite: Polarization of Light

STEMbite: Duck Pond Weirdness


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