Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Final Thoughts - Glass Half Full

My time with Glass is over, for now.  In my very first post I was somewhat negative.  I wasn't totally against Glass from the start, it's just I only saw the drawbacks when compared to using a smart phone or iPad.  I stated that I would like to go back after my Glass trial was over and defend some of my initial thoughts, so...

I was worried when I first started handling Glass.  They seemed like they could get bent up and broken easily.  After three weeks I believe they are more durable than I originally gave them credit, but I was still extremely cautious with them.  I guess anyone could wreck a pair of Google Glasses fairly, if you are careless with them, just like anything else.  You are wearing a computer on your face, so they are definitely fragile to a point.  I didn't break, bend, or scratch them, so I was happy.

I'll discuss safety from two different angles.  The first discussion is using them in Tech Ed labs.  The Glasses I used didn't have clear lenses to add.  They can be purchased, but I don't know if they are a Z87+ rated lens, which is a requirement for safety lenses.  I looked at modifying a pair of existing lenses to attach to the Glass, but couldn't find a pair to make work decently.  If I continue to use Glass periodically, I will make this a priority.

The second safety issue is being safe regarding etiquette.  Some articles I've read about Glass Explorer's experience with Glass touched on some people's negative attitude toward Glass and the feeling that pictures and videos are constantly being taken.  Dave, the Glass owner, and I also talked about this.  Glass wearers need to be aware of their surroundings and make sure they are not wearing the technology where it isn't welcome.  For example, if a happy-go-lucky Glass wearer accidentally wore the device into a restroom, they could open themselves up to a very undesirable situation.  I do believe that both of the safety topics I brought up will become less of an issue the longer Glass is around.  It wasn't long ago when cell phone's couldn't take pictures (remember that?)  Now it is a daily occurrence to see "selfies" taking place, at least around high school kids.  People will get used to Glass, but users still need to be smart about where and how to use Glass.

Average Everyday Use
I have commented extensively about my thoughts that Glass is a neat, new technology that can do what most smart phones or iPads can already do.  I still believe this is true for now.  I think that as Glass continues to evolve new apps and improvement in communication with other devices will make it a useful component in both education and personal use.  I don't know if it will ever be a necessity, like a smartphone is for some people, but I think it will become more than just a novelty item, as I once described it.

To sum up, my glass is half full when it comes to the future of Glass.  I think they will become very popular with people for personal and corporate uses.  For education I think people are already getting creative with the for instructor and student use.  It is impressive to read about all the great, creative ways Glass is already being used in the classroom, certainly much more creatively than what I did with them.  They will continue to evolve and hopefully enhance education.  I, for one, will continue to look for great ways to utilize and apply Glass in my classroom.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Strong Finish

Last Friday was my last day with Glass.  At the end of the day I pulled all my pictures and videos off of the device and reset it to factory settings, and gave it back to Dave, the Tech Coach who purchased the Glass and allowed me to use it for the past three weeks.  It was hard to give up such a cool piece of technology.  I felt like I was getting more comfortable with it and was coming up with more/better ideas for using it each day.  Dave offered to let me keep it for another week, but I declined.  I didn't want to overstay my welcome, so to speak.  And, since he purchased the Glass, I assumed he was getting anxious to use it himself.

Glass note shown on the phone, all notes
taken with Glass shown on the computer.
Since the last post I've used Glass for mainly three things. I added Evernote from the Glassware Gallery and used it to take random notes.  I teach Tech Ed, and utilize a computer lab, a classroom, and a metal manufacturing lab. Between purchasing materials and supplies, curriculum planning, general teaching duties, and lately Glass ideas and thoughts I have plenty to keep track of. Evernote with Glass worked well for this. When something popped into my head all I had to do was tell Glass to take a note and my thoughts were documented.  If I was ever going to be a full-time Glass user I believe I would utilize this often.

I tried screencasting to my phone a few times during my trial with Glass. I looked into it and thought that if Glass and the paired device were on the same wireless network it would work, but I didn't have any luck when I tried it.  As with most technology devices that use apps, they occasionally need to be updated.  I updated MyGlass and from that point screencasting from Glass to my phone worked incredibly well.  All I can assume is that the MyGlass app update allowed screencasting to be done via Bluetooth instead of having to use a wireless connection, which didn't work for me anyway.  Since it was working well for me I tried an experiment with welding and screen casting.  I wore Glass under my welding helmet and screencast while I was recording a video of another student welding.  I gave my phone to another student to watch the screencast.  It worked well but was hard to see on the small screen of my phone.  It was also very choppy to view, and lagged behind slightly.  I believe the Bluetooth connection just isn't good enough for video.  It was still neat to explore that option and I think in the right circumstances screencasting with Glass could be a very effective tool in education.

I spent a lot of time the past few days with Glass recording video, mostly of welding.  This is what drew me to want to use Glass in the first place.  I recorded students welding and also myself welding.  The perspective of what it looks like inside a welding helmet is something that most people never see.  I think it will be valuable to show beginner metals students these videos before they attempt to weld themselves so they can have an idea of what to expect.  The videos turned out well, but it's hard to see while the actual weld is being made.  The video is just too dark.  I tried changing the tint settings on my helmet but it didn't improve much. Click any of the links below to see the welding videos.
Aluminum TIG Welding
Steel TIG Welding
Student Spoolgun Welding - Screencast
MIG Welding - Vertical Down

While my initial trial with Glass is over I am still thinking about how they could be used in education.  As long as Dave doesn't leave the school district I'm sure he will be open to future projects utilizing Glass.  I'm already planning on asking him if I can use Glass for a welding training I'm going to this summer.  I though it would be a great way to take some notes and document my training with pictures and videos.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Renewed Glass Attitude

I'm in my third week of experimenting with Google Glass.  One for sure observation I have is that Glass gets addicting.  A little over a week ago I was at a track meet trying to utilize Glass in some inventive way.  The battery on that device and also my phone (the network Glass was using) were just about dead and I gave serious consideration to giving up on it and handing it back to it's rightful owner.  I slept on it and, sorry Dave, decided to give it another positive, refocused week.  Since then I have just tried to keep Glass on my head more often than not and have found some neat, albeit not overly creative ways to use the technology.

One big factor in my renewed excitement toward Glass is the amount of people out there that are in the same experimental situation I'm in.  I joined a Google + Community - Google Glass in Education.  I posted a simple statement describing my situation and asking for suggestions on how to use Glass in the Tech Ed classroom.  Within hours I received feedback from several different community members, both offering suggestions and asking about my experience.  I then took it a step further and sent an email to the Wisconsin Tech Ed listserve, hoping to get some feedback or interest in Glass from people in my content area.  Again within hours I heard back from several people interested in my Glass experience or providing ideas.  It was encouraging to have people reach out and it really made me more excited to be a contributing part of this new technology, so thank you all.

So back to using Glass, I've continued to play around with different features of Glass.  I still feel like anything I can do with Glass I can do easier with my smart phone or iPad, but I'm determined to at least balance the scales.  I drove to my brother's new house, to which I haven't been to before.  I decided to utilize the turn-by-turn directions feature.  It was actually pretty great.  I was utilizing the sunglasses with Glass and when needed the screen lit up with a map and the lovely voice told me where to go.  I use the turn-by-turn feature on my phone occasionally but liked the convenience with Glass of just having it pop up just above my sight line.  I used Glass at another track meet last night and am starting to like the ease of the camera and video features. At first I found it cumbersome but after getting used to voice and touch commands taking pics and video is pretty nice (click for another example).  I still don't like how I can post a video I take on Glass to You Tube  but not directly to Twitter, but as long as my phone is charged it isn't too big of an inconvenience.  Tonight I went for a run (not a common occurrence) and utilized the Strava Run app.  It tracked my mileage, elapsed time, and mile rate.  It was going great until that lovely voice reappeared and told me my half-mile time was five minutes.  I hope none of my track athletes read this!  Actually it was great, except that info only stayed up for 5 seconds or so, so I kept having to tilt my head up to see my stats.  I need to fix that for the next run...

Through this whole experience I've thought a lot about what to write about in these posts.  (I realize that some of you are laughing right now, saying "and this is the best you came up with?")  I sit down to type and try to recall all the Glass experiences and thoughts since the last post and it hit me a few days ago.  I wish there were a Glass App for taking notes.  Or, better put, I wish I'd have thought of this earlier in my Glass experience and started using a note-taking app that I'm sure exists already.  Well, I checked and Evernote has an app for Glass and I just activated it.  I'm a huge note taker, as my phone and iPad can both prove, so I'm excited to use this over the next couple days.  My time using Glass is almost over, but I'm optimistic that between the next couple of days and hopefully, if Dave allows it, periodically when I'm convinced I have a great Glass idea, I can continue to use it.  I'll post some final thoughts in a few days.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Halfway Through Glass

Well, I'm about halfway through my trial with Google Glass, and it's been an interesting experience.  I've had Glass in my possession for about 12 days, and have logged between 12-14 hours of actual face-time with the technology.  I want to first explain how I used Glass the past 12 days and then discuss my current thoughts on it's use in education.

Since my last post I traveled with the Skills USA group down to Madison where 16 students competed in 7 different skill or leadership events.  I used Glass a little bit but not constantly.  I did add Twitter and You Tube as apps and this did allow me to utilize Glass more, but I'll expand on that later.  I also allowed my students to try Glass and they had a lot of fun with it.  Following that trip it was back to normal school days and classes and I used glass where I could, mostly to take pictures and videos.  I looked into screen casting what Glass sees, but can't seem to be able to figure it out yet.  The weekend came and I had big plans for a spring turkey hunt, which ideally would have entailed a successful hunt caught on camera by Glass. However Thursday I began feeling a bit under the weather and I continued to decline through Saturday.  So instead of calling aggressive Toms I spent most of my weekend sleeping in a recliner.  The new week came offered a great Glass opportunity in that the track team that I coach had a scheduled meet so I was able to experiment with Glass in that capacity.

So how is Glass working for me?  In my first post on the subject I commented that my initial thought was Glass is a neat way to do all of the things I already do with my smart phone or iPad.  I haven't had a breakthrough moment that has changed my mind about this.  With all of the apps available for the Android and iOS platforms (I know there are more those are just the two I use) most technology users have a pretty good routine that works for them.  For me, the two examples I can give of common technology I use are posting student activities and achievements to Google +/You Tube/Twitter and taking video of athletes to work on form/technique.  The iPad and my Droid work fairly seamlessly in doing these tasks.  For coaching I use an app called Ubersense that lets me take/edit/share videos and most importantly, view them in up to 1/8 speed slow motion.  While I can take pics and videos really easily with Glass, it is not as seamless to post to the various places I post to.  It is not impossible to do these things with Glass, just not as easy or smooth to do so.  For example, I took a video of a female long jumper and tried to post it to You Tube at around 7 PM yesterday.  I received an email saying it had been posted at 9 PM.  Then I had to go to You Tube on a different device to Tweet the link because I can't (or can't figure out how to) view my videos on You Tube on Glass (view the video here).  I also can't duplicate the advantages of the Ubersense app for iPad with anything on Glass.

A student using Glass at the
Skills USA competition.
I believe the issues I commented on above will get better as Glass gets more common.  It's just such a new technology now that it is naturally going to lag behind in certain areas.  As far as Glass itself I have two issues.  One is that the battery life seems to be really short.  I have to charge it more often than I ever would have guessed.  Another issue is that I have a hard time connecting it to my phone's network consistently. There have been three or four times since I've started using it that I cannot get Glass to recognize that it is connected.  My phone shows that the two are connected but Glass will say "Droid RAZR Disconnected". I'm still working on this issue and will hopefully get it sorted out.

On the positive side, it is always fun using something so new and unique.  I have been very tentative to use Glass out in the public.  I don't like drawing attention to myself and really found it uncomfortable, for me, to give voice commands to Glass around other people.  However, when my students at the Skills USA event saw that I had them they immediately asked to try them.  In fact, I was explaining my hesitation to wear them in public and one young lady said "I want to walk around with them.  Can I?"  She got a lot of interesting looks could hear people talking about her as she wore Glass, but had fun with it nonetheless.  I also went to Glassware and installed an app called Strava Run.  It is an app that will track thinks like MPH, distance, and mile pace when going out for a run.  I thought it would be a cool app to give our distance runners to track their practice pace/distance.  Another use that I thought was really cool was using the turn-by-turn navigation feature that's available when it's connected to my phone.

While I'm still looking for that home run idea to utilize Glass as an educator I'm definitely enjoying experimenting with it.  I still have a few days to go before I have to hand them back to Dave, so hopefully I can come up with some worthwhile classroom activities and experiments.  If nothing else maybe I can take some video of some open-water fishing this weekend (if the ice ever goes away...)