Oct 21 2013

Will Google Glass Usher Augmented Reality into the Classroom?

Schools are taking notice of the buzz surrounding Google's wearable tech gadget.

For educator Jeff Mummert, the future of augmented reality (AR) is so bright, he's got to wear shades — Google Glass shades, that is.

Mummert, who chairs the social studies department at Pennsylvania's Hershey High School, is a pioneer user of Google Glass, which enables users to access additional information about what they're viewing through voice commands and buttons on the head-mounted display.

The Google Glass high-resolution display is equivalent to a 25-inch high-definition screen viewed from 8 feet away.

SOURCE: Google

For instance, using a digital compass and GPS, Google Glass can overlay route directions in real time so a driver can determine which turn to make without taking his or her eyes off the road. Google Glass also can display video, photos, texts, Internet search results and more within a user's field of vision.

Mummert, who teaches 11th- and 12th-grade European history and AP human geography, sees promise for Google Glass and its AR features in the classroom. For ­example, he could wear a Google Glass headset on an archeological dig and share the view with his ­students via a Google Hangout ­session. Using voice ­commands, he could pepper the ­lesson with ­important historical, geological and geographical data ­related to the dig site.

Google Glass is still in the ­research and development phase, and won't be released to the public until sometime in 2014. Wide­spread usage of Google Glass in K–12, meanwhile, is still three to five years out, according to Jeff Orr, senior practice director at ABI Research. But Google Glass coupled with AR content can potentially "give ­students an experience they wouldn't normally encounter in their classroom," Orr says.

Where Is Augmented Reality Now?

Google Glass may just represent the future of AR in the classroom. But do today's educators see it that way?

According to Bill Bass, innovation coordinator for instructional tech­nology, information and library media at Parkway School District in Chesterfield, Mo., most of them are still figuring it out and using it sparingly. He recently helped ­teachers use the AR platform Aurasma to bring the Constitution to life. Amend­ments were projected onto a wall, and as students ­approached each one, they could watch a related video ­created by their classmates.

"Putting that ­extra ­layer in made it far more ­engaging for the students," Bass explains.

At Powell High School in Powell, Wyo., Dean of Students James Kapptie has his economics students create multi­media profiles that their peers can access via ­projected 3-foot portraits using Aurasma. Students also learn ­vocabulary words and study the economic impact of certain books using the AR platform. With Google Glass, Kapptie could take them on a virtual tour of the New York Stock Exchange, watch the market in real time, conduct mock trades and more.

Kapptie encourages teachers to stay open-minded about Google Glass. "Education is at a major turning point," he says. "If we're not going to [mimic the information students consume] every day, then we're going to lose them."

Reality Check

Educators already familiar with the benefits of augmented reality are keen to see Google Glass in the classroom, but there are a few items that need to be addressed first.
According to James Kapptie, dean of students at Powell (Wyo.) High School, and Jeff Mummert, chairman of the social studies department at Pennsylvania's Hershey High School, that checklist includes the following:

  • Schools must create policies and filters to control the content that students can access via the displays.
  • Content creation tools must be user-friendly and efficient, or educators won't adopt them.
  • Educators must set parameters for their own use of the displays. For instance, facial recognition tools could enable teachers to prejudge new students by matching their faces to their behavior and learning profiles.

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