For weeks now, tech news pundits have been speculating about all the possible uses of Google Glass in the real world. Topping the list seem to be (1) utility apps such as text messaging, video, and navigation; (2) novelty apps such as games and ‘hangout
’s; and (3) career-focused apps such as for firefighters, carpenters, and surgeons. What few people have been discussing is how heads-up displays (HUDs) such as Glass might end up fundamentally changing the way we learn.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic for the past several months – especially as it relates to Brainscape. While I’m still not convinced that we will soon live in a world where everyone is walking around with a computer on their face, I do see three major ways in which students could use Glass for education:
- To augment real-world learning experiences. Imagine walking around a museum, or conducting a chemistry experiment, or dissecting a pig while receiving real-time visual annotations of what you’re seeing. Or imagine being assigned a project to go to Six Flags and analyze the physics of roller coasters, based on the protractor and speedometer that are in your vision. With HUD apps, students will be able to integrate living and learning like never before.
- To practice a foreign language. Imagine speaking to someone in a foreign language and seeing a transcript of your conversation in your field of vision. At your subtle request, a new phrase you hadn’t heard before could be added to a personal knowledge management system like Brainscape for you to study at a later date. And when you study the phrase later, you could click a link to go back to the video clip of the context where you first heard it. Applications like this (or even features like image recognition with foreign-language text overlays) could completely change the way we learn languages in the real world.
- To study “on demand” throughout the day. Imagine being able to look up and see a bite-sized Brainscape learning tidbit that you could access at any time. “How do you say I’m tired in French?” it might ask. Or “Who is the Prime Minister of Canada?” At your own pace, you can reveal the answer, rate your confidence, and proceed through as many items as you wish until you want to divert your vision. Using a Glass app like Brainscape as your on-demand study tool will prevent you from forgetting things that you have previously learned.
Of course, the jury is still out on whether wearing a HUD headset at all times is a good idea, or whether it will completely destroy our attention spans. (You must watch this SNL skit about Glass if you haven’t already.) That’s a big reason why Brainscape has not yet developed a Glass app in the first place! Yet regardless of Google Glass’s proliferation and effect on society, there’s little doubt that developers will find creative ways to integrate learning into HUDs for many years into the future.