Wearable computer: what's in it for schools? Opportunities and risks
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionEngen BK: WEARABLE COMPUTERS: WHAT’S IN IT FOR SCHOOLS? OPPORTUNITIES AND RISKS. In: Chova LG, Martínez AL, Torres IC. ICERI2016 Proceedings, 2016. Associated University Presses p. 5706-5713
In this paper I present and discuss preliminary findings from an on-going experimental study on the use of wearable technologies (FitBit Surge) in two secondary schools in Norway. The Horizon report lists wearable computers as a technology which will find its place in education in four to five years. Wearable technologies’ relevance to education is still somewhat vague. Wearable technologies still are at an early stage of development, and no one knows how wearable technologies will be and what kind of role it will play in education in the future. From a technological perspective we see a trend where mobile media, such as smartphones and tablets, are increasingly becoming more personal. Mobile media is designed as an individual device rather than a multiuser system, which is the case with most desktop computers. These issues pose several challenges to schools. First there are technical challenges for schools in de-personalising mobile and wearables technologies to fit into the classroom context. Second, and maybe more challenging, is the issue of protecting student’s privacy. Setting up and configuring a wearable computer like a smart watch implies filling the device with personal data like height, weight, age, gender and other kinds of sensitive personal data. To get a deeper understanding of what kind of challenges and possibilities wearable computing could have for schools, I take a socio-technical-educational approach and designed a researcher-driven experimental study where we tried out the use of wearable computers to support and strengthen learning activities in mathematics for two classes in a secondary school. For a two-week period, the pupils were equipped with a smart watch which they used during their time at school. The smart watch was also used in their physical education where they tracked movement, heart rate, localisation data (GPS coordinates) such as longitude, latitude and altitude. These personal data were later on used in the mathematics class in order to learn how to interpreting tables, creating charts, and understanding mathematical concepts such as average, median, etc. Data were collected by means of observation, documented by field notes and video recordings of the pupils’ activities, as well as in-situ interviews with the pupils and teachers. The purpose of putting these learning prototypes into practice was to get a deeper understanding on how these apparent personal devices might be adopted in a concrete classroom context. To guide my analysis, I apply a domestication perspective. Preliminary findings indicate that for teachers to incorporate/implement wearable technologies in the classroom requires considerable time and effort.