Report Explores Education Potential for Wearables, AR and VR

An intriguing whitepaper from personalized learning nonprofit KnowledgeWorks explores how wearables, augmented reality and virtual reality could play out in education. Take one example shared in the report of a fourth-grader: She's wearing a Hello Kitty "smart sleeve" and toting her tablet in a matching knapsack as she heads into the homework center after school and begins to tackle a writing assignment. After 10 minutes of staring at a blank screen and experiencing a rising heart rate, her wearable triggers a "nudge" from an app that reminds her that it's OK to ask for help. She clicks on an icon and receives a holographic image of her coach in a corner of her device, calmly and clearly offering her immediate help.

That's the kind of scenario presented in "Leveraging Digital Depth for Responsive Learning Environments."

Vignettes drill into how educators could use these technologies in and out of the classroom to add "digital depth" to physical reality to increase student engagement, enhance the personalization of learning, help people understand others' experiences and perspectives, generate greater levels of self-awareness and foster critical thinking.

The technologies mentioned in the report include the obvious ones, such as the Apple Watch, and less known offerings, such as smart insoles with haptic feedback to provide route guidance, a device that measures the wearer's stress level and uses vibrations to calm the person, and an animatronic tail that wags to show emotion.

While the report explores the optimistic possibilities inherent in the combination of wearables combined with AR and VR, it also encourages educators to develop a "critical filter" to assess their potential value. Coverage of the broad technologies assesses the implications for stakeholders to consider as they evaluate the uses for these and other emerging technologies in education.

"Often educators are given market-driven approaches to implementing technology in the classroom that end up being ineffective," said Katherine Prince, senior director of strategic foresight for KnowledgeWorks, in a prepared statement. "It is our hope that educators can use this research to think critically about how they can use emerging technologies to benefit their students' unique needs."

Although the whitepaper's examples are set in K-12, the findings are relevant to learners of all ages, including people in higher ed and in the workplace.

The report is available for download with registration on the KnowledgeWorks website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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