Everything is perennially “new” in the world of technology. But the emerging category of “wearables,” such as Google Glass, Samsung Gear VR, Oculus, and Apple’s Smartwatch, have blazed a path toward furthering the parameters of 21st Century thinking and the IoT (Internet of Things). As wearables gain market acceptance, technology managers on campus want to know when—and in what wearble—to invest. What will be obsolete? How should ROI be reframed?
The education world has seen its share of technological advancements, so much so that such developments have catapulted certain institutions, e.g., Harvard, to the forefront of market recognition. Similarly, technologies and applied concepts—such as MOOCs, cloud, virtualization, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)—have made the higher education space more akin to corporate and enterprise vertical industries than ever before. The way some institutions have leveraged emerging technologies puts them a cut above other vertical markets.
Most market-leading manufacturers are taking a measured approach to introducing equipment at the “right time” to satisfy the expectations of tech-savvy end-users. The Google Glass Explorer trials are one small example of this.
The Ivy League and major universities usually grab the spotlight for their expansive technology developments. They are not, however, the only ones pushing the emerging technology envelope. Google Glass, in particular, has a uniquely democratizing nature. Colleges and universities that may not be as large or notable are fast-becoming education technology innovators. In some respects, smaller institutions, such as Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA, have begun to blaze a path for those of major notoriety.
Stephen diFilipo, a technology strategist and thought-leader in higher education, who also happens to be expert in BYOD policy, is known for his work with advanced wearable technologies. diFilipo considers Google Glass to be a game-changing technology in the higher education space.
“The emerging category fits into wearables and I think [Google Glass] is a high-end wearable, because of its ability to capture still imagery and video,” he explained.
“As tech managers,” diFilipo continued, “we have to pay attention to the entire category of wearables. Each wearable brings with it its own unique ecosystem: how it functions, what its features are, what its characteristics are, how it gets used in contextual moments. The category of wearables itself is constantly changing—as we found out with Apple’s new watch.”
Though this category is a moving target, diFilip believes that it is critical to understand exactly how end-users could be affected when considering a potential purchase, management strategies, and upkeep.
Regarding wearables and IT departmental concerns, diFilipo opined, “Every vertical has its own challenges and its own characteristics, however, we’re talking about higher education. There are segments of higher education, especially much larger institutions, that have a lot of resources and a lot of distributed IT. We’re in a smaller institution that’s a little more tightly controlled, however, even with this, we have a better view of the whole landscape. Wearables comes into the larger context of the consumerization of technology.”
diFilipo explained his nuanced approach to BYOD. “In the context of BYOD at my institution, we take a very hands-off approach. There are some devices that we supply to faculty and staff, and lend out to students in some cases, and BYOD where the end-user faculty, staff, and students are bringing their own devices.”
Ball State University is one of the larger higher ed institutions that diFilipo finds notable. He referred to a gentleman out of Ball State University, Kyle Parker, a Sr. Software Engineer for Developing Technologies. Parker has been a strong influence in the usage of Glass, as well as other high-end technologies on campus.
“Google Glass and other wearable devices represent a fundamental shift in how students interact with technology and their environment. Instead of fumbling around to retrieve a phone from a pocket, or a tablet from a backpack, wearables provide a quick and easy way to capture photos, check notifications, and deliver glance-able content.”
Parker continued, “At Ball State, we have purchased several pair of Glass and distributed them to computer science professors, a student, and technology staff—all in the hopes of finding that perfect union of technology and education. We want to get faculty and students excited about the possibilities the technology can offer, and find creative ways to incorporate Glass into the classroom experience.
“In terms of tangible development efforts, earlier this year, we launched an official Glassware companion for The Traveler, a trip journal and digital sketchbook created for field study trips developed here at Ball State. Through path recording, the whole purpose of the app is to gather content and data during your trip. One of the features is recording the path that you have traveled; you’re even able to do that from a smartwatch while you leave the phone or your tablet in your backpack. Google Glass can also be used to capture photos for the trip, making their travels a truly hands-free experience.”
Regarding the usage of smartwatches, Parker offered more insight. “With our museum project, we’re working with the watches in that space to deliver content to the students and visitors. Through the delivery of timely and relevant content, along with subtle reminders, the watch represents an attempt to eliminate the distraction of traditional technology and allow visitor to focus on the artwork.” Parker illustrated an example of this: the scavenger hunt. Visitors are invited to locate pieces in the galleries based on snippets of the art and simple clues. “By incorporating indoor location technology, we can deliver ‘hot and cold’ notifications to the watch as the visitor navigates through the museum,” he said.
Joe Evans—an archeology teacher, University of South Florida PhD student, and Glass Explorer—has taken Glass usage to a new level. “In the scientific study of technology and history, I like to think I’m different and more unique than other scientists,” Evans said. “My whole objective is to bring people together, and to communicate in as many different ways, with as many different people as possible. Early on, when I got Glass, that was my whole goal.”
Evans pointed out that with this technology used at an archeological site, people who may have not been able to travel can now experience the exploration, as if they were actually there. “I’m at archeological sites all over the world and they’re very remote. So, how can I get people there who can’t actually go, for example, people who are handicapped or who have any sorts of financial issues?”
Another notable development is that while some colleges and universities own and deploy Glass, Evans stated that his university does not own a single pair. “In the beginning, [Glass] was by invitation; I got the invitation,” he said. “I didn’t know anyone who had gotten the offer here, but it’s certainly prohibitively expensive. With the knowledge that the University of Southern Florida is a tier-one research university, it’s exactly what we’re made for.”
Wearables as a category provide countless possibilities for pedagogical tools, app development, and more. Such technologies aid in not only bringing greater market visibility, but also in providing a strategic pathway toward the broader advancements to come.
Corey Moss is the president & CEO of DC Smart AV/IT. Reach him on Twitter @DCSmartAVIT
Reading List For Managers & Buyers of Campus Tech
For early adopters & the uninitiated, these reports will inspire you to learn more about what’s possible in emerging technology.
• UCI School of Medicine first to integrate Google Glass into curriculum (via University of California at Irvine)
Wake Forest is experimenting with Google Glass in class (via Wake Forest)
• How Google Glass might be used in education. (via Open Colleges)
• 30 Ways Google Glass Works in Classrooms (via EdTech)
• Video Shot With Google Glass: How Point Park University in Downtown Pittsburgh uses Google Glass. (via Pittsburgh Business Times)