Google Glass: Documenting learning for a global audience

Margaret Powers

Margaret is a passionate educator working as the director of STEAM Innovation at an independent school outside Philadelphia. She also works as an Ed Tech and Innovation consultant, specializing in design thinking, the maker movement, global education, early childhood education, social media, and mindfulness. She is a coach for the Teachers Guild and facilitates professional development with the Global Online Academy. Margaret is a Google-certified innovator and a PBS digital innovator who loves working with students and teachers to explore new approaches to teaching and learning.

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People have been aware of Google Glass for a while now, but how can it work with education? Philadelphia-based school technology coordinator Margaret Powers walks us through her experiences and successes with the device.

When I look at Google Glass, I’m not trying to assess whether it’s the hottest tech toy of the year or if the latest press releases about it are accurate. Instead, I am interested in discovering if and how it can be used as a meaningful tool in the classroom. On a daily basis, I work with students ranging from four to eight years old, students who look at the world through a different lens than I do. I have discovered that Google Glass can provide insight into that world.

When I first picked up Google Glass over a year ago at the Google office in New York City, I really was not sure how effective it would be in education. I was intrigued by the idea of being able to see a classroom or moments of learning through the eyes of my students, but I was not sure if it would be a good tool for them to use. Luckily, I have discovered that Glass is actually a great tool for both students and teachers to create seamless documentation of classroom learning experiences.

"Last year I took advantage of the Hour of Code to introduce computer programming to my students, and I used Glass to record each lesson for all of the twelve classes I teach."

Students have used Glass to capture their work painting, writing, exploring pumpkins and much more! I have used Glass to help discuss the idea of documentation itself, helping students practice recording what we are learning so we can reflect on it and share it with others. I have also used Glass to document my own teaching practice, especially when I am teaching new lesson plans. For example, last year I took advantage of the Hour of Code to introduce computer programming to my students, and I used Glass to record each lesson for all of the twelve classes I teach. This allowed me to review how well the lesson went and make adjustments before teaching the next class. This year, I plan to review those videos again before I introduce coding so I can improve on my practice even further.

Glass makes it easy for me to maintain eye contact with students, while we are discussing a new concept, and still capture an activity in which they are engaged in or what I am teaching. Similarly, students can record first-person perspectives without having to be behind a screen or hold a camera, which can be challenging for young students with developing fine motor-skills. In addition to the camera features in Glass, I can use the Evernote app to document students’ learning. I am hopeful that there will be more apps designed specifically for education. It would be great to have something like the Memoirs app that was designed to help students and teachers document and compile an eportfolio directly from Glass. Likewise, I would love to see a Kidblog app where students could dictate an audio recording or speech-to-text post and then add in photos or videos taken with Glass. For now, I am documenting more of my own learning and explorations with Glass and reflections on students’ recordings on 365daysofglass.com.

This year, I am specifically focusing on using Glass as a tool to help students connect and share their learning with other classes around the globe. Although Glass is not the only tool we use to create projects and send work to our partners, it is unique because it allows our partner-classes to truly see our classroom spaces and the topics students are learning about from the students’ eyes. Since the goals of the partnerships include building meaningful relationships and getting to know each others’ cultures, this viewpoint is particularly powerful. We are partnering with classes in at least ten different countries, and although our partnerships are just getting started, you can follow along throughout the year on my blog.

"Students can ask Glass to tell them how to speak phrases in another language, hear the pronunciation, and see it written on the screen."

Another way that Glass can be instrumental in helping to build these global bonds is by providing an easy avenue for students to experience the languages of their partners. There are many apps on Glass that support language exploration, such as World Lens, Duolingo, and Google Now. I had kindergarten students try this near the end of last year for one partnership, and I am hoping to have more classrooms use it this year. I think it might be even more valuable for the first and second grade students, who have an easier time manipulating the track pad and voice interface. Students can ask Glass to tell them how to speak phrases in another language, hear the pronunciation, and see it written on the screen. This is also a great way for dual-language learners to practice their languages, and by using World Lens, peers can walk around a classroom and see words written in a friends’ native tongue.

Like any other device, Glass takes some time to learn and it takes practice to use it effectively. If more educators get access to Glass (a challenge given the current price point) and set aside some time to introduce it as a tool for students to capture what they are learning, I think we could see some amazing moments of discovery shared around the globe.

Have you used Google Glass in your work? Share your experiences below!

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