Five ways wearables will change education
A wearables explosion is just around the corner and education establishments need to brace themselves, says Mark Gibson
Posted by Stephanie Broad | July 30, 2015 | Technology
independent schools, education technology, wearable technology, Apple Watch, edtech, tablets

If you aren’t yet convinced by the merits of wearables, maybe take a moment to contemplate that when the iPad was launched, peopled ridiculed the idea of a tablet - now they are commonplace.

With the International Data Corporation (IDC) predicting that 72 million wearable devices will be shipped in 2015, the early signs indicate that wearables are set to drive yet another technology pace change. Whilst the corporate world may have embraced wearables, the question remains - what will their impact be in education?  Here are my five predictions:

  • Many parents are concerned about the amount of time their kids spend using their tablets, smartphones and games consoles.

With wearables, the dynamics accelerate because the device is omnipresent - on their wrist. Plus it’s not just the potential to be sent inappropriate content via picture (and in the not too distant future video) that has parents worried. There is also the highly-personal data generated by the device itself – such as heart rate readings – that is being sent to the cloud to be stored. With wearables there is an endless two-way data exchange which will undoubtedly present both opportunities and challenges.

  •  Teachers will have the ability to understand the needs of their students more rapidly.

Of the three and a half thousand apps already available for the iWatch, one example by Lexia Learning will deliver real-time student skills data to teachers so that they can understand each child and their needs better, thereby enabling them to not only better benchmark progress, but tailor the learning environment to benefit  progressive learning.

  • A lot of schools have already banned smart watches, mainly down to the two-way communication aspect enabled by the Apple watch, which has heightened concerns about the possibility of students cheating.

However, an outright ban isn’t going to solve the problem. The technology in smart watches will soon be in other items of jewellery, on clothes or even in contact lenses. Perhaps what wearables provide is an opportunity to revamp the examination system and move towards an open-book exam model where the technology can be integrated in to problem solving.

  • Wearables mean that education organisations can no longer avoid having an acceptable use policy.

As wearable adoption grows and their use integrates into everyday life, education establishments have to act now to engage students and ensure that they are part of the policy making. Acceptable use policies are critical to good data governance and ensuring that schools are not in breach of their duty of care.

  • Lastly, wearables have huge potential to revolutionise lessons.

The Youth Sport Trust in the UK is advocating their use in PE lessons, suggesting that tech is integral to tapping into the competitive spirit of the next generation and getting them moving. In addition I was reading the other day about sensors in wearables that could alert students – or teachers – if there were dangerous levels of toxic gases in a chemistry lesson.

Rather than fighting against wearables, schools need to look at how they can embrace them and transform the learning environment to the benefit of students. Such change won’t happen overnight. Like the technology itself, it will be an evolutionary process, but preparation is key to ensuring the potential benefits are realised.

Mark Gibson is Sales Director at Bloxx