A couple of years ago I began using the promo video for Google Glass in some of my presentations to illustrate the way technology is beginning to become a 'part of us', rather than something that is entirely external (i.e. on our desk or in our pocket). My prediction was (and is) that this sort of convergence will continue, and with the recent announcement from Google about it's development of wearable technology, we see more evidence of this occurring.
From a technical point of view this is all very interesting, and provides yet more gadgets for the technophiles to eagerly wait in line to purchase. For educators, however, it provides an interesting set of challenges and conundrums. Even now I visit schools that have a 'no mobile phone' policy, posting warnings to students of 'invisible, inaudible or in the office' etc. because we perceive student use of such devices as being a disturbance to the task in hand – learning.
And disruptive they can be – the perpetual texting that can occur, mindless trolling through YouTube or watching sales on Trademe – we've seen it all. But what about when students are actually engaged in their learning, and have no time for such trivia – what use could be made of these devices to support their learning?
In the past two or three years I've seen an increasing number of schools and teachers begin to promote this sort of responsible use with their students – with encouraging results. I've interviewed students who have articulated very capably how the ability to use these devices for 'just in time' learning has been a real assett to their learning for instance.
So as we move towards greater convergance, when it will be increasingly difficult to identify exactly when a student is 'connected' via their technology, what sorts of learning experiences will we need to design for them – and what sort of assessment practices will be required?
Granted, at the moment it would still be possible to demand the removal of glasses and watches as students enter an examination room – but what about when the 'device' becomes a part of the jewellery they are adorned with or the clothing they wear?
In thinking about the way forward on this we should not be focused on the technology and ways in which we can harness or control it in our learning environments. Instead, we should be focused on what we are doing to promote forms of modern learning practice, that foster creativity, collaboration and connectivity – and where learners will be encouraged to make use of these emerging forms of technology to enable, empower and embrace their learning.