It’s not uncommon for students on campus to stop and stare at Sam Jones.
That’s because the sophomore broadcast journalism major regularly dons Google Glass, a wearable electronic device with an optical head-mounted display.
Jones said people often are unfamiliar with the device.
“Ninety percent of the reaction has been curiosity,” Jones said. “It’s a new product, and they haven’t really seen it. Google hasn’t put a whole lot out about it.”
Jones first learned about Google’s wearable technology project while watching online video coverage of Google I/O 2012, an annual developer-focused conference held by Google in San Francisco.
During the announcement of the project, Google revealed its Explorer Program, designed for those wanting to test the device in its early stages. Jones was eager to participate.
“I’m a huge early adopter of anything, and I think the next big thing is wearable [technology],” he said. “No one else has something that is as well known and has as many features as Google Glass.”
After applying twice for the Explorer Program, Jones received a pair of the glasses at the end of the Fall 2013 semester and immediately began experimenting with it.
To use the features of Google Glass, the wearer tilts his head upward to activate the device.
Light is projected into the glass prism located on the right side of the glasses, which then displays a miniature screen that is visible in the wearer’s peripheral vision.
Most of the glasses’ features can be used hands free.
The wearer can take a picture by winking and can use voice commands to search the Internet or record video.
A piece built into the right side of the glasses sends sound vibrations through the head from above the ear.
This makes headphone use optional when listening to music and playing games, Jones said.
Jones usually wears the glasses daily. He said that Google Glass allows him to stay more engaged in the moment by avoiding consistently looking down at a smartphone throughout the day.
“There are a lot of new things coming out that are anti-productive; they’re taking steps backward,” he said. “To me, Google Glass is taking a step forward with providing something less distracting.”
Because of increasing public awareness of surveillance, Jones said some people who have seen him wearing the device have had negative reactions.
“When it is publicly released, people will have to be responsible with it,” Jones said. “There are always those people that ruin it for everyone.”
As Jones has experimented, he has found ways to use this form of wearable technology in his classwork at Union.
Last semester, he used the glasses to record part of a short film created for his class final in Digital Storytelling, a communications class that explores the fundamentals of filmmaking.
Jones is not the only one incorporating Google Glass into academics.
For Union alumnus Kevin Trowbridge, assistant professor of public relations at Belmont University, the device already has become a part of his classes’ discussions on the ways new technology can be used to create multimedia content.
Trowbridge, a member of the Explorer program, introduced his class to the device by beginning a classroom lecture wearing Google Glass.
Students quickly noticed the glasses and interrupted his lecture by expressing their interest in the device.
One student took a picture with her smartphone to remember the first time she saw Google Glass in person, Trowbridge said.
“It takes time to get accustomed to it,” Trowbridge said. “Once the novelty wears off, we will be able to look at it more critically.”
While he has considered multiple ways to use the glasses in academic settings, Trowbridge already has begun talking with his students about the ways new technology can influence social interaction.
“I think it’s our responsibility as educators to model the appropriate use of technology in the classroom,” Trowbridge said. “It all comes down to the way we establish classroom culture.”
This mindset has lead Trowbridge to allow the use of smartphones in his classes. He has found that his students sometimes use smartphones in class to look up terms and research concepts related to his lectures.
Rather than prohibit smartphone use, Trowbridge keeps students using forms of technology in the classroom accountable by asking them to contribute to discussion with what they are discovering.
Anna Clifford, professor of early childhood education and technology integration specialist at Union, also uses electronic devices as a way to enhance classroom lectures.
Clifford incorporates iPhones and iPads in her undergraduate and graduate instructional technology classes. After testing Google Glass, she has begun researching ways to bring the device to the classroom.
Initially, Clifford said she was hesitant after realizing how the glasses could be used to discreetly record.
“It’s just a different kind of feeling to know that someone could be videoing something anytime they wanted to. However, I think you have to get beyond that,” Clifford said.
Clifford said it was the same feeling she felt as an instructor when students began bringing smartphones into the classroom.
“Now, we are finally getting to the point where we are willing to bring phones into the classroom to find out how they can be used for educational reasons,” she said.
From elementary school teachers to professors in higher education, educators have been working to find ways to assess students outside of standardized testing, Clifford said.
“In the world of education, assessment is a big component,” she said. “A big part of the Tennessee Common Core State Standards is allowing students to use technology to create.”
Clifford said she could picture a chemistry student using Google Glass while being tested over his attempt to successfully complete an experiment. The student would record his attempt, and the teacher could then grade the student based on the video recording.
Clifford predicts that the glasses will be first incorporated in primary schools.
“Elementary teachers tend to be the ones who make changes,” she said. “Also, a lot of our local technology funding can be found at the elementary and middle school levels.”
For those wanting to learn more about Google Glass, Trowbridge will be presenting about the glasses at the first of the Rosebrough Center for Educational Practice Speaker Series to be held at 6 p.m. April 10 in the Carl Grant Events Center.
The event is free and open to the public.
The event is sponsored by the Thomas R. Rosebrough Center for Educational Practice, which is directed by Eric Marvin. The center plans to host one event about educational practice every year.