Professors Envision Using Google Glass in the Classroom


Richard Koci Hernandez, of the U. of California at Berkeley, while excited about Google Glass, said he does not yet see its applicability in the classroom.

New digital eyewear from Google, which features a built-in Webcam and the ability to display e-mail messages and other information, has sparked a mix of curiosity and skepticism in the popular press, but several professors are rushing to try it out in their teaching and research—and early reviews are mixed.

Cynthia Johnston Turner, Cornell University’s director of wind ensembles, is among the academics who see possible ways to use the high-tech glasses in their instruction.

Google Glass, as the product is called, is not yet available for general purchase, but the company has sold a limited number to developers and to a group of people selected based on their tweets about how they planned to use the gear. Ms. Johnston Turner’s note to Google: “I’d use it in the music studio, rehearsal room, and classroom to record conducting students and give immediate feedback!”

A few weeks later, Ms. Johnston Turner received a tweet from Google saying that she was invited to shell out $1,500 to become a “Google Glass Explorer.” She jumped at the chance, saying that Mozart would have done the same. “He would have been a rock star,” she said. “He would have loved this technology and would have used it and abused it and done amazing things with it.”

It is in that spirit that a handful of others in higher education have gotten an early version of the device as well, by tweeting to Google their plans to use Glass for improving class lectures or teaching multimedia journalism.

“We’re all willing to be experimental guinea pigs,” said Robert Hernandez, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Southern California, who was also chosen to be an Explorer. He said that professors should “find out how the device will improve and augment our workflow, our teaching, and our craft.”

Mr. Hernandez said he planned to use Glass in his multimedia-journalism classes to explore the technology’s capabilities with on-the-ground video reporting. He also speculated that the glasses could be used for instruction purposes. Instead of giving students a step-by-step guide to doing something, Mr. Hernandez said, he could just wear the glasses, use the Webcam, and show them the process through his own eyes.

Mr. Hernandez has not yet received his Google Glass, but he said he suspected students would think he’s a “dork” if he wore the glasses in the classroom. That doesn’t bother him as much as finding out whether or not the technology will actually live up to its hype.

Richard Koci Hernandez, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, has already received the glasses and said that while he is excited about the technology’s possibilities in multimedia journalism, he did not yet see the advantages of using it in the classroom.

“Currently there just doesn’t seem to be any real classroom application yet,” he said. “Even if you wanted to record a video straight, you’re only going to get about 30 minutes of recording before the battery dies. My lectures are at least an hour. It’s very limited.”

Mr. Koci Hernandez added that the Internet access that Glass provides seemed a little “obtrusive,” since he has his laptop right in front of him during a lecture.

Jeremy Littau, an assistant professor of journalism and communication at Lehigh University who also got an early pair of the glasses, said he’d like to have students use the devices to create mini-documentaries to enhance a story’s narrative. A documentary about an athlete, for example, might feature a subject actually wearing Google Glass while running, allowing viewers to experience what the runner is actually seeing.

Mr. Littau said he hoped to see further application of Glass in the classroom, although he could not say for certain what else it could be used for.

“It’s a device made for the liberal arts,” he said. “The whole device is about putting you in the shoes of the wearer to experience the world through their eyes. An auto-ethnography in history could be an interesting thing to experience.”

Meghan Corbin, an assistant professor of communications at Mercyhurst University, said she envisioned using Glass to project lecture notes right in front of her eyes so she wouldn’t need to look down at her podium. She called herself an “active lecturer,” meaning she likes to walk around the room and engage with her students in a way that static notes do not give her the flexibility to do. However, that may not be entirely feasible given the reported limited battery life of the device.

Ms. Johnston Turner, for her part, said she would be working with a technology expert at Cornell and an undergraduate student to explore Glass’s capabilities. Among other things, she envisions using Glass in concerts to live-stream to the audience what the conductor and performer are seeing. She also hopes to help develop applications to embed music scores into Glass so that a conductor doesn’t need to look down at a sheet of music while conducting.

Mr. Koci Hernandez, the journalism professor at Berkeley, however, has already suggested one change in the technology that would benefit his teaching in the short term.

“I wish it had facial recognition,” Mr. Koci Hernandez said. “So I can sit there and all my students’ names pop up.”

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