Mercyhurst prof explores Google Glass

Meghan Corbin

Meghan Corbin claims she never wins a thing, so when this Mercyhurst University communication prof learned she had been chosen by Google as one of 8,000 “explorers” to pioneer the futuristic new Google Glass technology, she figured she’d been scammed.

Instead, a second look revealed that her tweeted response to Google’s contest question: “What would you do with Glass?” had put her squarely at the forefront of a new frontier known as “wearable computing.”

In 66 characters, Corbin pledged to “Engage students in discovering its potential in a higher education classroom.”

Her good fortune comes with a price: $1,500 for a test version of the device, which essentially is a wearable computer with head-mounted display that looks something like a pair of space-age specs. She soon expects to make the trip to New York City, where she’ll join other winners in learning the product’s functionality. Then it will be up to her and her tech-savvy comrades to test its relevance in the real world and report back to Google.

Among those explorers are at least two others from the Erie area, Erie Insurance’s Douglas Boldt and Cathedral Prep senior Mark Lyons.

For those unfamiliar with Google’s newest innovation, Glass is designed to perform many of the same tasks as smartphones without having to interrupt life by gazing down at the screen. You may be walking down the street, for instance, when you want to respond to a phone call or text. Or, you may want to Google directions. Ordinarily, you’d take attention off what you are doing to react. With Glass, the information appears before your eyes and you can take action by touching the side of the device or uttering a command.

At first blush, the photo and video applications of Glass seem to have the broadest appeal. The spectacles are constructed with a tiny camera and display screen attached to a rim above the right eye. You could be walking along the bayfront, for example, encounter a beautiful sunset, and with a simple voice command record a video or snap a photo.

Corbin, who believes she is one of a handful of Glass explorers representing higher ed, is envisioning all kinds of ways of leveraging this new technology in the classroom.

“Imagine,” said Corbin, “that we are studying Gannt charts and I have a student who says, ‘I don’t even know what a Gannt chart is.’ If we all had this technology, I could say, ‘Glass, Google Gannt chart,’ and everyone would see it right before their eyes.”
Corbin said Glass would free her from the constraints of laptops, PowerPoints and notes to create a seamless, hands-free classroom experience.

I think it could potentially improve my lecture,” she said. “My lecture notes could streamline on a Glass feed and I wouldn’t have to interrupt the interaction with my students.”

Students, meanwhile, could use Glass to videotape presentations, access their own notes, view illustrations; they could also summon Facebook and Twitter.

“I see the benefits, but also the potential drawbacks,” Corbin said.

She pointed to ethical and privacy concerns, like the opportunity to cheat or to take photos and videos of people without their knowledge, all of which will need to be explored as well.

As an educator, Corbin is particularly excited about how Glass will impact the classroom of the future. Other explorers, from congressmen to rappers, have pledged their own assorted applications. One said she would use Google Glass on a trip to Japan to take pictures and video that she could share with her grandmother in the U.S. Former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich said he would take his Glass “on tours of zoos and museums to share the animals and fossils.”

Explorers like Corbin and her Mercyhurst students will help Google better understand how Glass can be integrated into today’s world and use that information to make changes before the product hits the mass market sometime later this year or early next.
Corbin has started a blog, glassinclass.blogspot.com, where she’ll be sharing her experiences as she navigates the world of Google Glass.

“I’m a communicator by nature,” she said. “As one of only 8,000 people worldwide testing this technology, I want to be able to share my experiences with as many people as possible.”



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