Glass: my first encounter (and applying it to higher ed)

July 1, 2013, 8:50 pm


Gardner is in shock by Glass awesomeness. I’m looking mad that I have to wait twelve months for my own device.

Wow. I just experienced something special. This afternoon Gardner and I sat down with a Glass Explorer. It was a 60-minute meeting that turned into 160 minutes of mind bendiness.

Flashback I was in high school when the transition from cassette tapes to CDs happened. I was in college when my roommates and I dialed into the Internet to figure out “what’s the web for?” I was in Atlanta when I first held an iPhone and then bought one the very next day. Flash Forward Those were all critical technology experiences for me. Today, in Blacksburg, I had another one… it was Glass.

I should just end this post right now because I’m still trying to process what I saw. You may think I’m feeling technolust – and you would be right. But there is something more to this. If you open your mind to what this technology can do — it is very invigorating. However, if you just want to perceive it as a toy, then that’s all it will ever be for you. I wore Glass for about five minutes and I didn’t want to take it off. Lord of the Rings stuff going on there. It’s addictively awesome. I looked down at my iPhone afterwards and felt… disappointed?

They are two completely different devices with different intentions but the interface and the interaction of my phone immediately felt outdated. If you read my blog regularly you know I love Apple. In fact, I get into philosophical arguments over Apple. I’m a brand champion for them. But after a few hours of dabbling with Glass I’m ready to drop my iPhone and switch to Android. If Glass were commercially available right now I’d probably be on my way to making that happen tonight. I’d keep my iPad though because it is a beautiful reading experience.

Higher Ed

Let me fill you in on the backstory.

Besides my role in the Library I am also an Associate Director for the Center for Innovation in Learning at Virginia Tech. One of our key components is a grant program for faculty looking to push the edge of pedagogy. Five projects were selected for the year ahead and one of them involves Glass.

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Ralph Hall. Planning meeting on using Glass in his course.

The faculty member is Ralph Hall (Urban Affairs & Planning) and he is documenting his experience. Rather than trying to explain the project I am going to provide excerpts from the IRB proposal:

After being selected as a Google Glass Explorer, I began to consider how I could use this emerging technology to augment my teaching. For a while I considered the safe options, such as Skyping guests into my seminars and enabling students to ask me questions (via streaming text on the Glass lens) while I’m leading a discussion/lecturing. These ideas, though, are a safe distance from the ‘edge.’ As I returned to the drawing board, I realized that it is precisely the process of being at the drawing board – in the creative space of course creation (or writing) – where a significant proportion of “my” learning occurs. Why, then, are my students not engaged in this process with me? From here, a more profound and troubling question emerged that lies at the heart of this proposal. I have no real sense of how my students learn. I’m a ‘Generation X’ trying to get into the minds of ‘Millennials.’ Thus, this project seeks to leverage technology, such as Google Glass, to open up the black box of learning though cognitive life logging.

The Glass technology presents an opportunity for students to follow my thought process in creating a course as we go – i.e., to hear me narrate about why I included or excluded certain subjects or material, what advice I was given by mentors/colleagues in the design of the course (including, for example, how their facial expressions added weight to the subject matter selected), capturing conversations with guest speakers about what they could cover before they speak in the class about a narrower subject matter, etc.

I envision developing seminars/courses in which time is equally divided between content and self-reflexivity. Students would be required to prepare a written assignment that would be accompanied by a short video/blog post that captures the cognitive process he/she followed in completing the assignment. The purpose of the self-reflexive conversation is not to retread ground already covered in the videos/posts – although, a certain amount of this would be necessary – it will be to help people recognize their learning patterns and processes. The seminar/course will be designed to encourage exploration and enable the students to experiment with different ways of engaging with the subject matter.

This is powerful. Ralph is pushing beyond pure content delivery and tackling much larger idea. We’re really grappling with reflection, attitudes, sense making, and cognition.

An interesting piece of the Center for Innovation in Learning is that we don’t just give out money—we become creative partners in the project. I think it is somewhat similar to y combiner. Ralph received his Glass on Friday and on Monday we’re in my office hacking at it. This is more than just a financial investment—it’s an experiment on the future of teaching and learning.

Ralph made an interesting comment along the lines of the class – that he is using his own book and his goal is to disrupt the text. He is essentially challenging how he teaches and how students learn. I’ll get him to elaborate on that more in the future.

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Me taking a photo of someone taking a photo of me.

I plan to provide occasional updates on Glass and the other projects in the Center’s portfolio. Right now I just wanted to capture my “wow” feeling. Today I beheld the future… and it was beautiful. It does feel like science fiction invading the real world—and that’s probably exactly what Google is aiming for.

I’ll share more on this soon. I’m too scattershot right now and need more time to process what I just experienced. Maybe tomorrow the Google Buzz will wear off?

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