Sunday, January 12, 2014

Glass in Class: Part 1

When I first started playing with Glass, I immediately envisioned several uses for it in my classroom, but with no experience in programming, I am not the one to make these ideas a reality. Glass's modest variety of apps through MyGlass temporarily limits the device's capabilities, although rumors of presentation programs and sideloaded apps that are still in development give me hope that the general as well as classroom-specific utility of Glass will improve with time. However, I have found a few pertinent uses for Glass in the classroom, and even if these uses are all predicated on using the camera, I have found that Glass has aided my teaching practices in unique ways that other technology has not.

1) Video Critiques: I use Glass to record my critiques of physical projects, for example, plate tectonic game boards and science fair projects. Sure, rubrics elegantly outline every point made (or lost), but if you watch a room full of twelve year old students who hail from a highly competitive community, you will witness forty sets of eyes scan the rubric from top to bottom, where they eagerly come to rest on that final grade. My detailed comments are often neglected or simply skimmed.

Recording video critiques obliges students to listen to those comments before hearing that final grade, so the critique becomes yet another learning experience in which students learn how their work is evaluated and how to improve next time. I still use the rubric as a type of script as I deliver the evaluation for each required component. Additionally, I find it useful that I can manipulate the project while continuing to record. For a school trying to convert to primarily digital learning, this version of a video rubric allows me to waste less paper, to spend less time writing a rubric evaluation that will be largely ignored, and to emphasize the critique portion before reciting the final grade.

2) Video Field Trip: I am fortunate in that my personal interests intertwine with my subject matter. I hike, backpack, and travel often, giving me wide exposure to places and things of scientific interest.

For example, when I was backpacking last summer, I recorded a short video about microorganism in the forest. Juggling a camera while trying to use a hand lens to show in more detail those microorganisms was a laborious process that led to a mediocre video that seemed more like The Blair Witch Project than a neat, mini documentary.

Much like video critiques, being able to shoot from a first person perspective frees my hands to manipulate objects within the camera's view. It also frees mental space that would otherwise be dedicated to balancing the camera and monitoring the framing of each shot.

3) Calendar: Teachers spend only about half their time on the actual instruction; the other half of the time is dedicated to curriculum planning, workshops, and meetings. Daily schedules are planned down to the minute, so punctuality is an essential tool in a teacher's repertoire. Email calendars are helpful but require actively engaging with email in order for reminders to appear.

Glass puts those calendar reminders in front of my face, so as I am teaching seventh period, I receive reminders for afterschool IEP meetings and parent conferences. I can mentally prep for these events by being aware of my schedule in advance, and I find that advantage invaluable in being able to quickly and intelligently transition from one even to the next.

4) BTSA: Otherwise known as Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment, this program, as its name implies, supports and assesses first and second year teachers. We are required to collect extensive evidence of the efficacy of our teaching practices and their alignment with state standards, district standards, and personal goals. This year, the program switched to a digital format, allowing teachers to collect a wider variety of evidence to validate their progress.

Whereas last year I was confined to filling out documents and providing student work samples, this year, I can photograph and record evidence that is difficult to quantify in a document. Using the Glass camera, I have recorded students debating ethical issues within science, collaborating on group projects, and presenting final products. The Glass camera allows my attention to stay on the students, because recording becomes a passive, background process with Glass. My recordings are faithful narratives of my classroom experience, as students act more naturally for Glass than they do when a typical camera is recording them.

5) Parking Duty: On my campus, teachers participate in parking duty. Our school is notorious for our parking "situation" (they even made new segments and newspaper articles about our campus). The parking situation is particularly problematic in the afternoon, with traffic backups as long as twenty minutes if parents elect to arrive right at the end-of-school bell. Due to some unethical choices being made in the parking lot, our principal advised teachers to bring to parking duty their school-issued iPad in order to photograph the license plates of offending vehicles.

Much of my time is spent trying to direct parents who more often are looking sideways onto campus for their child/children rather than focusing on the cars and pedestrians in front of them, so holding an iPad while trying to flag down cars is an inconvenience. Glass, however, allows me to quickly and surreptitiously photograph license plates and incidents that happen on my shift.

Again, my uses for Glass are centered around the camera, but I am confident that in the future, Glass will offer services and apps that improve the classroom experience. For example, taking role by voice command allows me to keep a visual on my students without having to duck behind a computer (or even an iPad).

Also, I am excited by the rumors of an app that projects presentation notes through Glass while the actual slides appear on the compute. The Glass touchpad controls the movement of slides, allowing me to move around the room as I deliver direct instruction.

I would also like to be able to instantly access student grades via Glass. Right now, I have to navigate quite a beefy process on my iPad to access grades, but with the quick access that Glass could provide, I would be able to instantly address missing work for each student.

Lastly, a random student selector based on the class roster would provide a more non-biased way for calling on students. If you have never managed a group of forty middle school students, then you may not understand the executive planning involved in these "micro" decisions, which have to balance fairness, student shyness, with classroom management. If there is a consistent expectation that each person has an equal opportunity of being called on, there is more accountability and less of a feeling of "teacher's pet" ruling the classroom. There are mobile apps that address this concept, and perhaps those mobile apps are just as effective as a Glass version would be, but I value being able to keep an active eye on my students. Seeing their facial expressions helps me to judge how much they "get it", before I even call on someone.

This is only an abbreviated list of the many possibilities for uses of Glass in the classroom. I tend to be app focused, but I am sure there are opportunities for services as well to aid in the classroom experience. I want technology to improve my efficacy and access to data, and I believe the unique interface of Glass can do just that.