Maastricht University, The Netherlands

Meaningful Use of Google Glass in Education

Catalina GoantaGwen NotebornMaastrich (NL), November 2016 - Maastricht University (UM) is the most international university in the Netherlands and, with more than 16,000 students and 4,000 employees, is still growing. The University stands out for its innovative education model, international character, and multidisciplinary approach to research and education. At OEB 2016, Catalona Goanta will present the interesting results in the session "Discovery Demos: Google Glass for Education and Virtual Reality for Augmented Training and Development" on Friday, 2 December 2016 from 14:30 to 16:15.

Can you describe some scenarios for the meaningful use of Google Glass in education?

Gwen Noteborn and Catalina Goanta: In a law study (but not limited to that), simulations are essential for the learning of skills, or as my partner in crime Gwen puts it in academic terms, "procedural knowledge". This procedural knowledge is the way in which substantive information (or conceptual knowledge) is expressed. Let me give you a couple of examples. If a student has read five books and has memorized everything that is to be known about, let’s say, European contract law, but is not able to create and structure an interesting presentation about internet contracts; or that students cannot formulate their own thoughts into logical written arguments; or that students lack the analytical thinking necessary to solving a case on that topic. Well, in all these three situations, learning five books by heart is futile if the knowledge embedded in them cannot find its way in practical applications. This is what skills are about.

The recognition of how important skills are is at the core of questions that challenge our understanding of what future graduates need in order to succeed in their careers. A current emphasis on the so-called 21st-century skills (soft skills such as global awareness, cooperation, leadership, creativity, adaptability, etc.) shows a trend towards developing higher education curricula to incorporate procedural knowledge. This is exactly what we have been doing with wearable technology at Maastricht University.

Starting with 2015, Gwen and I, together with our colleague Bram Akkermans, started using Google Glass in our legal classrooms. Bram’s course, European Contract Law, uses a European Union negotiation simulation model in which up to fifteen students represent the various stakeholders (e.g. different countries, the European Commission, European professional associations, etc.). Two of the students – namely the ones chairing the meeting – wore Glass and received live feedback from their tutors, who were present in the room but did not take part in the negotiation simulation.

This feedback was projected in front of students’ eyes using the head-mounted Google Glass display. Providing feedback through Glass, only the student wearing the device would be privy to the content of the message. About sixty students took part in this experiment. First results showed that by using Glass the, discussion could be very subtly shaped by the tutors’ interventions without any disruption of the actual education whatsoever. What is more, students built on teachers’ interventions, which became mere nudges aimed at helping the students understand the real problems to be discussed in the room. By using wearables to include real-time feedback, it was possible to improve education on the spot.

The second scenario we tested was the use of Google Glass in a moot court setting. Law students often take part in moot court competitions, whereby they need to deal with a fictitious case from the perspective of one of the parties and then simulate proceedings before a specific court (e.g. arbitration before International Chamber of Commerce arbitrators, proceedings before the World Trade Organization dispute resolution panels, etc.). In this case, students had to give a five-minute oral pleading, and we asked half of them to upload notes on Glass so that they could scroll through their pleadings and have access to their own structure, in spite of the highly stressful environment. This was done within the ambit of the course "Skills: Introduction to Comparative Law", taken at the time by a total of 270 students.

Are there particular target groups that might prefer to work and learn with the device?

Gwen Noteborn and Catalina Goanta: Before we decided how to set up the Google Glass experience, we wanted to hear the students’ opinions about using wearables in the classroom. We set out a Typeform survey and asked students to apply to our focus group. A total of sixteen students wanted to come and test Google Glass and to brainstorm together with us how it could be used. Below are some of the answers they gave in the Typeform:

Student 1: "If during the moot court, you could have the document with your pleadings on the glasses, then you wouldn't have to look down at your notes all the time. That way, you can maintain eye contact and make a better impression. It also means it is a little easier to deal with nerves, not having to worry about dropping or shuffling your documents and exhibits."

Student 2: "I think it would be a really attractive opportunity to see how new technology can influence public speaking and debating. I am really looking forward to finally testing it! Thanks for this wonderful idea :)"

Student 3: "I'm really excited about this project, as I have never taken part in such experiments. What is even cooler about it is that through this experiment, we will take a step forward that may the affect development of education. It would be an amazing feeling to know that I took part in something so special."

Student 4: "An interesting way in which the Google Glass could be used could be concerned with your delivery speed or how loud you speak. For example, the Glass could inform you when you speak too fast."

What we saw in the focus group was that there were a lot of law students fascinated by technology and the idea of using Google Glass as a breakthrough in the legal classroom. Moreover, even beyond the focus group, I can recall there was one particular student who had massive problems with public speaking. She was so afraid of it that she asked us to allow her father to be present during her performance to avoid a panic reaction. And this particular student, with all these fears and existing problems, still wanted to test Google Glass and perform with them in the hope that it would help all these issues. Some students also dropped out and specifically did not want to wear Glass, but the vast majority of them wore glasses on a daily basis - and they could not use Glass that easily unless they got contact lenses. It was very important to hold training sessions. In them, students would come and spend up to thirty minutes in groups of three on how to operate Glass and access the functionalities we were going to use in the simulations. This way, we discovered that there are some drawbacks (like the situation with normal glasses explained above), and we could take them into account.

How can learning progress or results be measured, or is the use of Google Glass more a playful element in the learning process?

Gwen Noteborn and Catalina Goanta: Measuring the impact of tools such as Google Glass can take you into two directions.

First, we asked all students involved in the experiment to fill in questionnaires that showed us whether there was a difference in the perception of exam or performance anxiety they had such a device to rely on. Moreover, this data was also compared to the final results received by students in the moot court simulation.

Second, we scrutinized social media to see whether students had reported their experience with Google Glass by taking selfies or highlighting this use on their Facebook accounts, etc. A lot of the students were engaged in disseminating the use of such technology, which for us was proof that they were proud of being part of the experience, and they found it "cool" to share it. In this case, we can of course speak about the "playfulness" in the learning process, which should not be discarded. The truth of the matter is that unless universities have a gate-keeping selection procedure that really increases student motivation, keeping students engaged in the learning process is an immense burden.