Google Glass, All that is Wrong with #EdTech… Again

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By Adam Steiner, February 11, 2014

There is no denying the value that Google and its associated products are offering to K-12 education these days. School systems are leveraging Google Apps for Education to provide low-cost e-mail access and document management to teachers and students, using Drive to collaborate and increase engagement, managing resources with Calendar, and now starting to implement learning management systems and student portfolios with Sites, and professional learning networks in Hangouts. There are innumerable effective uses of Google’s suite occurring every day. However, I would argue that the success of these technologies is that they identified needs related to student learning and then found appropriate technology to meet those needs. Or a broad examination of student learning and technology identified a way that the technology could make student work more interactive, more engaging, and more challenging in a productive way.

Google Glass is being foisted on education in precisely the opposite manner. It is heralded as the new revolution and appropriated priced at $1500 for the luxury of being one of the revolutionaries. Meanwhile, well-meaning edtech enthusiasts are trying to justify the extravagance by force feeding Glass as the next big-thing in education. It is perfect for videotaping a science lab for flipping the classroom. It will allow students to read reviews of books in the library as they go. It will give teachers the ability to document and display student work as it is happening.

All of these examples have merit in themselves, with a non-intrusive technology, not one that is strapped to the user’s head. All of them can be achieved with technology that is built into existing devices or with new lower cost options. Videotaping a science lab can be done with a $100 camcorder or a $250 Nexus 7. Students can talk (face to face) to librarians to get reviews or consult a $250 Chromebook for reviews on demand. Teachers can use a $200 iPod to take pictures and post them online. There are a million alternatives to Google Glass that cost much less, are multifunctional and more flexible, and easier to manage.

So, what is the problem if a handful of educators want to break the bank and try out something new and untested? First, Google Glass dollars are stealing from proven scalable technologies. For $1500, one could buy 5 chromebooks or 4 iPads. School systems and leaders should be making every effort to broaden the reach of technology to those who haven’t the means to buy their own device and every dollar siphoned off for Glass is a dollar not going to achieve that end. Second, a primary mission of technology education leaders is to foster a culture of technology acceptance by meeting classroom teachers halfway. This means providing technology with clear benefits for student learning, with features that make the administrative duties of the teacher easier, and with professional development that brings technology, curriculum, and instruction together. Google Glass does not offer the potential for any of these things. It is a technological outlier not unlike the personal computer in the early 1980’s or the TV/VCR combo in the 1970’s. Finally, by evangelizing for Google Glass, edtech supporters are threatening to lose their credibility among their more progressive teachers and push them to join the ranks of the curmudgeonly change resistant who cling to their paper and pencil planbooks, textbook assignments, and teacher-centered environment.

Now is the time to be capitalizing on our investments in edtech to be using wireless and relatively low-cost devices to expand access. Now is the time to developing curriculum with universal design at the fore and with technology to help make it happen. Now is the time to be using technology to bring educators together in a spirit of collaboration, to develop our social capital in ways that make technology part of the solution. Bleary eyed promotion of Google Glass will only undo that good work – and make the technology of today a sad bedfellow of the failed models of the past.


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