Wearables are in education. Without us noticing, many of them walked through the front door. Since wearables are here, let’s understand and use them today.
As an illustration, some wearable devices can count:
- How many hours you sleep at night and more.
Furthermore, your wearable device can even become a personal secretary of sorts. To be sure, wearable technologies have many uses in the classroom an in our world. Given that research predicts a 46% growth of wearables in education between now and 2020, we all need to understand them. It is my hope that you won’t let the simple, easy power of wearables hide behind big words. With this in mind, let’s pull back those big words and get to the big ideas that make wearables so wonderful (and a bit scary.)
Biometric devices can measure your steps, heart rate, and sleep patterns. These biometric devices can be part of a watch, a pedometer-like device, or other wearable device.
Understandably, physical education is one of the first areas to use biometrics. First, some claim it helps today’s digital youth develop healthy lifestyle habits. Second, many believe that early intervention through wearables is a key to preventing massive health problems as today’s predominantly obese youth grow up.
Third and perhaps most importantly, in-the-moment management of healthcare can help doctors and patients connect and cooperate. Imagine a diabetic’s blood sugar dropping and his doctor knowing in moments. Or, what if a heart patient had special care when her blood pressure became too high. These same technologies will link students with school nurses and link schools to emergency care.
But, the wearable web will take us much further than medical monitoring.
Tracking Students and Taking Attendance
Currently, RFID tags are already helping businesses keep inventory. In a similar manner, some schools have used these chips to help track attendance. One school quickly dropped the use of RFID tags in tracking students because they claim no impact on attendance. However, one school for emotionally and behaviorally struggling children uses an RFID system to call for help.
RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. These chips interact with sensors. So, when a school in Cincinnati used RFID in student badges, they were able to give some pretty cool features to parents. For example, when a student scanned their card to get on the bus, a parent could receive a text message.
Schools aren’t alone, Disney uses the chips in plastic wristbands to monitor your journey through their amusement parks.
But don’t think monitoring is the only use of wearables, we can also see the world in a whole new way.
Virtual Reality Headsets
Virtual reality headsets make you feel transported to another place. Imagine putting a high definition 3D television set inside cool goggles. Some even add great sound system in the ear buds. You’re immersed.
On one hand, the experiences are fantastic. On the other hand, students have no knowledge of their physical surroundings. As a result, I appoint each VR headset “traveler” to have a “watcher” to make sure they don’t hurt themselves.
The word “augment” means to add something. So, simply put, augmented reality adds something on top of the real world.
The popular game Pokemon Go is an example of an augmented reality game. Simply put, players open the game on their phones. Then, they look through their phone and see a video of the real world. The Pokemon Go game shows characters, tokens and other parts of the game like they are part of the real world through the screen of the smartphone.
The old Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, Terminator, shows an augmented view of the world. In the movie, moviegoers often see the world through “the terminator” robot’s vision. As this robot looks at the world, text appears to show him targets, where to go, and other information. Soon this technology will be available in our classrooms.
Google Glass gave some people a sneak peak into augmented reality glasses. But soon, everyone’s glasses and contacts could change our view of the world. You might see information about a person as you meet them the first time. For those of us who struggle with remembering names, we could add people’s names to our view of the world. Once we do this, a person’s name might appear right above their head as we see them.
“What are the eight wonders of the world?”
Within moments, the answers to their question could appear in view. As teachers, helping students understand will become even more important. Facts will be a glimpse away. A picture of books and text can be taken with a glance. Furthermore, those pictures can be stored and accessed later when needed. Memorization may become even more irrelevant as facts become more accessible.
A New Way to Be Human: Augmenting the Human Experience
Voice Activation and Interaction
With the improvements in voice recognition (Google Now, Siri, Alexa from Amazon), talking to our wearables is now easier than ever. In my classroom, I’m often setting timers, alarms, appointments on my calendar, reminders, or even sending quick text messages to parents via my wearable device.
When my son has a new grade in Powerschool, I receive a notification on my watch. In many ways, the voice activation and tight connection with cell phones has made my own wearable more like a personal secretary than a watch.
Interestingly, artist Neil Harbisson is the world’s first human cyborg. Due to a visual impairment, Harbisson is unable to see color so, he uses a camera that sees color and turns various colors into sound. So, literally, Harbisson hears color.
In similar fashion, in 2014, Lanie had no voice. Her teacher, Jennifer Cronk, helped her get it back. You see, Lanie has cerebral palsy and could not speak without a special eye tracking device. This device turned Lanie’s eye movements into typed or spoken words. Mrs. Cronk and Lanie’s classmates raised the money to get Lanie a portable device that traveled with her on her wheel chair to let her communicate with the world.
My friend Scott Rigsby became the first double amputee to complete the Hawaii Iron Man. Interestingly, Scott was cited amidst concerns that Oscar Pistorius’ gave him an unfair advantage in the 2012 summer Olympics. (A fact yet to be proven.)
However, if you look at the robotic exoskeletons being worn already in the military and in some jobs, you’ll soon be able to put on a suit that lets you lift a hundreds of pounds. Some of these exoskeletons are being used already to help the paralyzed walk again.
So, we’ll continue to see massive leaps forward with all types of disabilities. It is possible that students with impairments will have a totally new way of sensing the world, thus causing the rise of the term transhuman. Understandably, discussions of transhumanism are full of controversy, concern, and ideas about the future.
Whatever your concerns are about the future, the reality is that we’ll be able to teach and unleash more human potential because of our increasing ability to help those who need help sensing the world around them. As a teacher, helping the blind see and the lame walk is a great thing.
The New Web
Many call Web 3.0 “the semantic web.” You can talk to it. Lots of things connect.
Perhaps if we look into Web 3.0 and beyond, the Internet will become the biologic web. For eventually, not only will we wear the web, we will likely ingest it, implant it, and inhale it. While many of the possibilities will come with their own ethical issues, the future is already here. We’re wearing it.