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Wearable tech In the classroom: Are they appropriate?

  • Before now, there have been arguments and counterarguments over the harms done by smartphones and tablets to active learning. Some experts see them as unnecessary distractions that reduce the quality of the learning experience. But the onslaught of tech in the educational system and every area of our lives shows no sign of slowing down. Wearable tech is now gaining more popularity in the classroom, and statistics show that they will continue to see applications in the classroom and lecture theatre.

    According to the 2015 Horizon Report, wearables will continue to play important roles in every facet of the modern educational system. But with the ongoing arguments raging over the effect of earlier digital products to effective learning, is it appropriate to increase the use of wearable tech in the learning environment?

    While wearable tech has been widely applied with much success in the entertainment and sports industry, and it is unclear whether it will have the same impact in the educational sector. Supporters have argued that wearable technologies offer new and better possibilities that will enhance the classroom experience and make learning more effective. But every argument for wearable tech in the educational sector focuses on its potentials. Wearable tech is still in its infancy in the classroom, although it has been used actively for many years in other industries such as gaming and fitness.

    A wearable tech that holds a lot of promise in the classroom is the Virtual Reality, but in this case, an educational virtual reality. VR has been adopted by many schools to recreate ancient worlds for student exploration. The use of Virtual Reality has given a new meaning to immersive learning.

    PowerPoint was a great teaching tool because it provided students with a rich visual channel to immerse themselves in what they are learning, effectively increasing their understanding and assimilation of the salient points. Wearable tech such as VR has come to make the experience even better. With VR, students can see the real image of what is being discussed in the class. For example, while discussing the events of the American Civil War, students can get a realistic 100-degree view of reenacted scenes of the actual events.

    The scenario above is way above the budget of most school districts, but advocates of virtual reality-based learning are working assiduously to make the technology within reach of every school. According to Aaron Walsh, the director of Immersive Education Initiative, the Oculus Rift and similar devices are capable of increasing the interaction and excitement of the normal school day.

    Wearable tech may also be able to help visually impaired students get more out of the classroom. In an article published on edudemic.com, Aiden Wolfe argues that the inbuilt haptic feedback in smart devices can be used by visually impaired students to navigate graphs using a specialized app. E-textiles are also a form of wearable tech application that is believed to have the potential of increasing middle-schoolers' understanding of complex scientific principles at an early age.

    The role of wearable tech in education is not easy to assess at the moment because it is still a new development. Some people have maintained that increasing budgets allocated to digital technologies in the educational system will reduce the funds available for teacher training, infrastructural development and more critical elements in the classroom. Wearable tech also requires a significant amount of data connectivity and gather personal information about the student. There have been considerable concerns about the safety of student data as some of this information is stored on the servers of outside vendors. To be fair to the manufacturers of wearable tech, they have highly secure data infrastructure, but nothing is waterproof in the deep crevices of the web.

    These arguments are valid, but the truth is that wearable tech has provided favourable results in other sectors of our lives. Care must be taken to protect the privacy of students that use wearable tech in their classrooms, and school districts will have to find a way to cough out the extra thousands of dollars to bankroll their implementation.

    Eventually, adopting wearable tech as a learning tool may depend on the opportunity cost of other critical inputs in the educational system.

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