Teachers from across Wisconsin gathered at the La Crosse Center for the 108th annual Western Wisconsin Education Conference (WWEC) on Friday.
This is the first year the conference focused just on technology. The theme was, "Ready...Set...Mobile! Transforming Education with Technology."
WWEC partnered with Naomi Harm, the CEO of Innovative Educator Consulting. The company is part of an explorers group working with Google to help them improve their Google Glass product.
It’s a small interactive device that sits on your face like partial glasses frames. There’s a small screen that sits above one eye that has a camera next to it.
“Google Glass is a form of augmented reality,” Harm said, that allows you to stay in the moment and interact with your environment more than just looking down at a tablet or smartphone.
“The ultimate goal is to have teachers using them and children to help them reinforce a skill, help them with translation with foreign language skills in the classroom so there would no longer be a language barrier between different groups we’re working with. And also, it’s going to have some other accessibility features to help children and teachers with impairments.”
Deb Norton is a fifth grade teacher in Ripon, Wisconsin. She has been using Google Glass in her classroom. She says she likes the hands-free video and photo option.
“Rather than having to hold a device and walk around the room, I’m able to simply either wink and take a picture or I’m able to use my voice and activate the device so that I can take pictures and video and later share those out like in a newsletter,” Norton said.
Other teachers are using the new technology to record video and “flipping the classroom.”
“The homework is to watch a video of you teaching a lesson and then do the paper and pencil homework back with you in class,” said Katie Gudgeon, WWEC Board President.
Gudgeon says that way if students have questions, you’re there to help.
When she introduced Google Glass to her students , Norton said they had a lot of questions.
“Students would definitely think that’s very odd and ‘what does that do?’ But then after I gave a little presentation to the students, they understood it much better."
Of course, with any new technology parents, principals and school board members have many questions about how the device will be used and how teachers will keep information private.
“We had these conversations when cell phones entered years ago,” Norton said. “It seems like this device has brought some of these conversations back—‘Gosh, how is that being used’ and ‘How can we protect the privacy of the people.”
Right now, Google Glass costs about $1,500, but Harm says in 2-3 years, it’ll probably be $300-$400. Harm and her team are looking forward to seeing how this device will develop, along with other future technological tools used in the classroom.
“Technology will be more seamless and intuitive that teachers and students will be able to create and collaborate more freely,” Harm said. “There won’t be a lot of barriers within school.”