Google Glass Offers Promise and Peril for Teachers

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By Brian P. Gatens

I am unashamed early adopter of new technology, so I see why Google Glass — the search giant’s eyewear/video camera combo — has the promise to be an amazing and transformative piece of technology, particularly in the classroom. 

If it lives up to its potential, Google Glass will create a fully recordable, connected and immersive experience for the wearer. My mind races at the possibilities for educational applications, but then my superintendent brain kicks in and I start thinking about the perils.

Imagine the power of Google Glass in the hands of a student: no more need to take notes in class because everything she sees can be recorded and sent wirelessly to a synced computer for later study and review. Think of the ability to easily capture the contents of any class setting, connect to relevant material through Internet searches and save all that work for posterity. The technology can truly transform the classroom teaching and learning dynamic.

Then there’s the other side: What of the teachers who don’t want their likenesses to be recorded in perpetuity, or what of the class recording that is forwarded to an administrator along with a parent’s complaints? While many professionals have grown comfortable with the idea of always being on camera, teachers are not accustomed to their classrooms being documented on video.

Google Glass (or something like it) could significantly disrupt the delicate balance of the classroom. While we have to put the needs of children first, we also have to respect the professional autonomy of teachers, who face relentless pressures from parents and the public. I have a sneaking suspicion this issue will eventually be decided in the courts, but before we get there, let me make a few suggestions regarding any type of technology:

1. Strive for Greater Transparency

Make all your class notes available online at all times to your students. Move away from the old model of the “Sage on the Stage” where the teacher holds all the information hostage. Instead, strive to spread all the information out in front of the kids (sometimes literally) and give them the tools to know what information to pick up and when.

2. Cast off Old Modes of Information Delivery

One time I stopped in for an informal observation in a classroom and found the teacher had the students copying information word-for-word from a PowerPoint presentation. My head almost popped off. I strongly recommended that the teacher make the PowerPoint available to the children via the teacher’s website and then dedicate class time for the children to learn, interact and work with the information.

3. Read Tony Wagner (and Then Read Him Again)

I’m not a big fan of recommending individual writers, as there are so many to choose from, but Harvard University’s Tony Wagner is a true leader in showing how schools have to adapt to today’s technological changes. President Obama has cited Wagner’s book “The Global Achievement Gap” during his educational policy speeches. Wagner offers a commonsense and clearheaded approach to how American schools have to adjust to prepare our students for the new world of work.  

4. Open the Door to All Technology

Yes, changes in technology have reached head-spinning proportions. But rather than imposing hard-and-fast rules on what technology can and can’t be used, teachers need to stay open to any technology that proves useful in the classroom. Always begin with the idea that any “shiny new thing” a student shows you can be used to improve the quality of teaching and learning.

5. Don’t Sacrifice Your ‘Educational Soul’

Always remember that any technology, regardless of how new, powerful or shiny, is only a tool. It’s no different than a piece of chalk on a blackboard or a photocopied piece of paper. What you do with that tool is what matters. Never move away from the core of good teaching — learner-centered, appropriately challenging and growth-oriented — that must always be at the core of what you do every day.

An educator for two decades, Brian P. Gatens is superintendent/principal at Norwood Public School in Norwood, N.J. Gatens has worked at the K-12 level in public and private school settings in urban and suburban districts. He has been a classroom teacher, vice principal, principal and now superintendent/principal.

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