Wearable tech(e)?

Conceptualising the potentials of wearable technologies

Wearable technologies are poised to profoundly impact upon the way we access information, communicate and learn as a society, but also immense issues in terms of access, privacy, equity and so on. The Learning Technologies Research Cluster (LTRC) Wearable Technologies Summit held on the 27th of November drew together over 30 leading educational thinkers from across the University to consider ways that wearable technologies can be used to transform learning.

The Summit, organised by LTRC Director, Matt Bower, enabled participants to trial the latest wearable technologies from Google and Samsung. They were also given an overview of the field by industry experts and scholars, collaborated in a think-tank with colleagues to brainstorm the educational possibilities of wearable technologies, and given the chance to participate in a wearable technologies trial next year. All sessions were highly interactive and were designed to elicit ideas for how Macquarie can leverage the potentials of wearable technologies in learning and teaching.

There are now hundreds of types of wearable technologies on the market (see http://vandrico.com/database). Summit participants discussed a range of emerging concepts , including the internet of things, the quantified self, and the augmented web.

Wearable technologies also have tremendous implications for exploring and developing existing theories of communication and learning, including distributed cognition, Sensory Motor Theory, Actor Network Theory, neuroplasticity, and many more.

Participants brainstormed potential application of wearable technologies in education, with ideas varying from conducting virtual field trips, providing the first person view, recording practical work for student assessment, augmented reality scaffolding on kinaesthetic tasks, remote participation in classes, simulation of experiments, to research recording of first person interactions.

Participants also identified the importance of understanding the limitations of wearable technologies, including issues relating to  integration, available applications, performance (e.g. battery life) and so on. Also, the early nature of the market means devices do not yet have the features we might like, so we need to design for the future.

In the future we should expect more of everything (according to Moore’s law, exponentially so). Matt Bower suggests “we need to be careful to pick the right horses in terms of technologies and development platforms to avoid initiatives becoming outdated and superseded. We also need to adopt a big picture approach, looking beyond wearable technologies, as there will undoubtedly be other tools and approaches that emerge beyond wearables”.

Further details and notes from the summit can be found at the Learning Technology Research Cluster website: https://wiki.mq.edu.au/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=177803950


The LTRC Wearable Technologies Summit was sponsored by an Innovation and Scholarship Program Grant. In Semester One next year Macquarie University staff will have the opportunity to trial Google Glasses via their Associate Dean Learning and Teaching as part of the Wearable Technologies ISP Project. Interested staff should contact the Project Leader matt.bower@mq.edu.au for more information.





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