Google Glass Used by Teacher to Bring Math, Science to Students

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-08-20

Google Glass Used by Teacher to Bring Math, Science to Students

When Google Glass asked prospective users to dream back in February about what they would do with Glass if they had one of the innovative, ground-breaking eyewear-mounted computers, Andrew Vanden Heuvel, a high school teacher, quickly composed his reply, which he sent off to Google's #ifihadglass Web page.

"ifIhadglass … It would transform the way I would teach science, making every moment a teachable moment," wrote Vanden Heuvel in his entry.

That intriguing description was selected as one of some 8,000 chosen submissions in the contest, which allowed Vanden Heuvel to purchase one of the Glass devices for $1,500 and use it as an early "Explorer" user of the new technology.

Google was so taken by his idea that company representatives called him on the phone, told him his entry had been selected as a winner and shared a surprise out of the blue. As part of the deal, Google offered him an all-expenses-paid trip with his newly purchased Glass device to Geneva, Switzerland, where he could capture his first lesson to his students from the site of the 16.7-mile-long Large Hadron Collider. The collider is the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator used for scientific research, according to CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which began operating it in 2008.

After notifying him of the collider trip, a Google team and accompanying film crew delivered his Glass device to him at his home in Grand Haven, Mich.

"They asked me, 'How would you like to go teach a live physics lesson from inside the Large Hadron Collider?'" said Vanden Heuvel. The trip was made in April, with Google paying his way. The Google film crew went along, capturing Vanden Heuvel's exploration of the collider, which included riding a special bicycle inside the 16.7-mile-long collider track.

Upon arriving at the collider, he used Glass to communicate wirelessly via the Internet with a high school class that his brother, Ryan, teaches at South Christina High School in Grand Rapids, Mich.

"OK Glass, hang out with Ryan's class," Vanden Heuvel told Glass, as it connected him with the 15 students in the class using videoconferencing provided by Google+ Hangouts. "Hello everybody. Welcome to CERN. We're here," he told the class after the connection was made.

Then Vanden Heuvel took a tour of the collider with Glass so he could show the class in Michigan everything he was seeing at that moment. During the tour, Vanden Heuvel pedaled the bicycle along a narrow pathway where the collider is located so he could move to different parts of the facility. "Fewer people have ridden a bike here than have climbed Mount Everest," he told the class during this tour.

The experience was an amazing one that left him knowing that Glass could be a fabulous tool for teaching students about science from anywhere, he said.

Google Glass Used by Teacher to Bring Math, Science to Students

Google Glass has been a topic of conversation among techies since news of it first arrived in 2012. The first Google Glass units began shipping in April 2013 to developers who signed up at the June 2012 Google I/O conference to buy an early set for $1,500 for testing and development, where it was the hit of the conference. Each Google Glass device includes adjustable nose pads and a high-resolution display that Google said is the equivalent of a 25-inch high-definition screen from 8 feet away. The glasses also feature a built-in camera that takes 5-megapixel photos and video at 720p. Audio is delivered to wearers through their bones, using bone-conduction transducers.

Since 2009, Vanden Heuvel has been an independent online high school teacher who works out of his home office, teaching online classes at the Michigan Virtual School under contract, he said. He previously had taught physics and astronomy in a traditional high school for three years, but he wanted to find new and better ways to engage his students.

"I'm a non-traditional guy," he said. "I'm more about trying to engage the whole child," rather than just working to bump up district test scores.

As part of that work, Vanden Heuvel started a Website, AGL Initiatives, where he develops online learning projects in science, math and technology.

Soon after his first Glass experiences, Vanden Heuvel created a video series he calls STEMbite, which he describes as "bite-size lessons in science and math from everyday life—all captured from a unique first-person point of view through Google Glass." The STEMbite lessons are posted on YouTube and include some 60 videos so far, including lessons on the physics of children's toys, the chemistry found in kitchens and the biology people can find in their own backyards.

He even held his first live STEMbite lesson this past spring for students, so that they could share his science lesson in real time using Glass.

"It's me doing what I think is fun," he said of the STEMbite lessons. "I do experiments and show students the math and science that surrounds them in everyday life, such as one day when I was eating lunch with my family and we were considering the organic molecules that we were actually consuming during the meal."

In the future, Vanden Heuvel said he hopes to continue to expand his exploration of amazing places like the collider facility so that he can share additional unique venues with his virtual students. "I'm really excited about growing STEMbite by doing more live broadcasts like I did in Switzerland," he said. "To me, what's impactful about STEMbite and Google Glass is that it's kind of changing the nation and the conversation about what learning looks like, and that learning can take place anywhere and at any age, even on YouTube. It's the most exciting time in the history of the world to be a student. The rate of discovery has never been what it is today, and the opportunities that students have to create and share their ideas with the world are astounding."

Earlier in August, another early Glass user unveiled the first video game that he built for Glass, which uses head motions to play the game. Like Vanden Heuvel, mobile games designer Sean McCracken also became one of the first Glass Explorers when his gaming idea was selected by Google as part of the #ifihadglass competition.

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