Google Glass and What Wearable Technology Means for Future Learners

May 21, 2013
Kelsey Herron
Common Sense Media
San Francisco, United States
CATEGORIES In the Classroom, Policy

Google Glass, the latest invention from the pioneering tech company, has received a lot of hype. While the sale date for the device has not yet been announced, state legislation has already begun limiting when Glass can and can’t be worn. Meanwhile, some 8,000 “Google Explorers,” handpicked by Google, are becoming the first members of the public to test the device, and privacy advocates are busy developing their arguments against what some have deemed an invasive development in technology.

“Right now, Google Glass might be the world's worst spy camera,” said Steve Henn of NPR’s All Tech Considered. “If you go out in public with a pair on, you are guaranteed to attract attention. Still, the idea of techies mounting a tiny screen and a little camera to their faces makes millions of people uncomfortable.”

This discomfort is the reason why the devices have been preemptively banned from one Seattle bar and in several Las Vegas casinos, New York Times writer David Streitfield reported. West Virginia legislators are also working to make it illegal to use the device while driving.

“This is just the beginning,” Los Angeles lawyer Timothy Toohey told Streitfield. Toohey specializes in privacy issues. “Google Glass is going to cause quite a brawl,” he said. Google, and the techies who helped develop the device, are painfully aware of the skeptical-at-best public opinion surrounding the gadget, which was solidified by a Saturday Night Live spoof that aired earlier this month.

"Google has been incredibly transparent with their Glass rollout," tech analyst at Forrester Research Sarah Rotman Epps told NPR’s Henn. "They realize that Google Glass will require shifting social norms to be accepted."

As Streitfield reported, the momentous release of Glass is happening while politicians, law enforcement, privacy advocates, and tech companies are arguing over the boundaries of technology, and a wearable technology has thrown a proverbial wrench into the conversation.

Despite concerns raised by legislators and privacy proponents, Google and the device’s supporters are arguing that Glass represents a multitude of new learning opportunities for teachers and students. The company released a short promotional video of a physics teacher taking students on a “virtual field trip” to visit the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland.

Educator Don Wettrick’s classroom in Franklin, Ind. was also chosen to try out the new Glass, which, according to Wettrick, will help transform formal education. “Because we‘re going to be first, they‘re going to be looked at as pioneers, and then possibly, as a game changer for education,” he says. “I‘m really hoping they‘re going to collaborate with other students and other teachers and other professionals.”

Hopefully, as Wettrick suggested, Glass represents new opportunities for learning, rather than signals the end of public privacy. And as with most tech/privacy issues, there’s probably a middle ground waiting to be discovered. As the 8,000 explorers are still in the process of receiving their devices, it appears only time will tell.