Wearables in education: devices and analysis

Technological costumes are not just clothes and offer a wide range for its use in e-learning projects. Its potential is in full exploration. The projects that are being developed in the academic and corporate fields collaborate in the study and understanding of the possibilities of this emerging innovation.


(@americalearning) The secret is to connect wearable technology with a real use of it, for example involving technology in educational or training projects, as did the Association for the Development of Logistics, EXPOELEARNING-Latin America, Amazon, MIT, among others.


Google Glass in EXPOELEARNING Madrid 2014


The first five months of 2014 have been significant for the incorporation of these devices as an innovative option for education and to continue promoting the learning mobility. Here are some examples:

  • Besides its glasses, Google developed an operating system for smart watches (the system allows to show emails and answer questions, among other features) as part of Android Gear project, which could also activate shoes or bracelets as wereables.
  • Additionally, Google is launching an SDK (software development kit) based on Android - designed for wearables and smartwatches manufacturers.
  • Motorola launched its product Moto 360, the first clock to have the operating system provided by Google.
  • Telefonica (Spanish telecommunications company, leader in Latin America telecommunications sector) announced the development of a collaborative space with Sony Mobile, Samsung and LG, to integrate and make their services compatible with wearable technology.
  • In a clear reaction to the demand in progress (this commercial decision confirms market orientation, by the way) Amazon launched its wearable store ( / wearabletechnology) which has a "Learning Center" that includes product videos and detailed buying guides to help customers learn more about mobile technology."Wearable technology is an exciting category with rapid innovation and our customers are increasingly coming to Amazon to shop and learn about these devices," John Nemeth, Amazon's director of Wireless and Mobile Electronics, said in a statement.


Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) team recently conducted a pilot for its employees. The company team wanted its employees learn to design wearables (also develop an outreach program for customers and partners) to share lessons learned in building such solutions.

Supporting the evidence that shows the growth of this trend, Deloitte revealed in a recent report that in 2014 will be sold worldwide 10 million devices such as watches, bracelets and glasses with wereable technology. In the same line are the studies developed by prestigious consulting firms as Canalys, ABI Research and IHS Global Insight. Events such Mobile World Congress (Barcelona) and Consumer Electronics Show (Las Vegas) reaffirm what is happening with this phenomenon.


Some 'technology clothes': Google Glass, Reloj Galaxy Gear (Samsung), TalkBrand (Huawei), the bracelet One SmartBand SWR10 (Sony Mobile y Telefónica) that notifies you when you receive a call, message or interactions in social networks, Life Band Touch (LG), and smart watch Pebble.


Pebble smart watch


Let's see what think about this trend J.P. Medved - Editor in Chief at Capterra ( and Félix Eroles – Project Manager at ( and Personas que Aprenden (People Who Learn) blog author (


How can empower education and training the wearables devices? What added value can provide these devices to education and training?


J.P. Medved (Capterra): I think the power of wearable devices for education is tied very closely with their mobility. Much like mobile devices such as smartphones, wearable technology can be with the learner at all times, even when they're not physically present in a classroom or other formal training environment. This makes wearable technology ideal for performance support elearning content, delivered at the "point of need" out in the field. Where I think wearable technology has a leg-up over traditional mobile devices is that is allows for a lot more immersion in a learning experience and can, like Google's Glass technology, be utilized in a hands-free fashion to, for instance, allow a service tech to study a blueprint of a machine while at the same time using both hands to repair it.


Félix Eroles ( I think that as the poet Miquel Martí i Pol wrote, "everything is to be done and everything is possible." In education and training areas wearables devices are starting their first steps. We are learning on the fly using the method "trial and error". We have the case study par excellence of the Google Glass that perfectly fits the parameters of what should be an educational wearable gadget used for educational purposes. Other wearables like bracelets allow the relationship between learners and the teacher, location, group management, management of the educational process, individual and collective challenges, children surveillance in museum journeys or collaborative work.

There are some researches in progress to help and to empower especially people with disabilities but they are easily adaptable to any person too. Somehow, we are all disabled respect to some capacity (physical or mental) that other people do have to a greater extent. An use wearable example is the project of the MIT Media Lab, Mobisensus that must be able to predict the stress and emotional state of people by sensors that monitor and trace a personal journal using biomarkers. Emotional and physical training analysis can allow suggest how to learn according to each of the moments that the  individual lives, it will be able to provide healthy use patterns in his eating habits, exercise, personal relationships with closed people, possible and alternative calendars, and what to study, how to practice, what goal should reach...

It will be able to establish associative and socializing learning by gamification, in the way that it will be able to get that the data will be transferable between students and faculty, being able to compete with each other to know at any time the progress of their peers, but also, it may motivate individuals to know their past achievements and the desire to overcome them.

The wearables devices can be a certificates of authenticity if they incorporate a biometric digital signature algorithm, and it will allow to perform training distance tests with the confidence that the doer is who he claims to be.

Regarding what wearables contribute as added value I think the same way in the beginning of this response, we still do not know how far we can go, but sure it will be very far. As I have occasionally mentioned it is necessary to develop an appropriated learning methodology which suits Connectivism Theory to the wearables technological use and their ISD (Instructional System Design). But we can already know intuitively that they provide personalization, customization learning experience, bidirectionality between learners and educators, roles exchange relationships between teachers and students in the line of Paulo Freire that both the student and the teacher learn from the other.

An amazing breakthrough may be empowering of the intellectual capacity of people through a wearable device. Some years ago it is under investigation the results of stimulation by small doses of direct current in the brain. It has been observed a clear cognitive improvement and an intellectual results rise. The technique is called tDCS(transcranial direct-current stimulation) and you can build the kit yourself or buy it. You’ve got the instructions on my article of a few months ago (in Spanish).

Finally, I always like to talk about uLearning: the Ubiquitous Learning is the result of what has been called the "Internet of things" and that it allows us to get information from many wearable devices to "know" and "act" in the precise moment. The moment teaching-learning enclosed to the school disappears and it is extended in time and space, lengthening the time of the learning process to any human activity. The knowledge is out there and we can get it when we need it, because we have technology in everywhere in artifacts form and wireless.


Google Glass in EXPOELEARNING Madrid 2014 - ISIT eLearning


What are the pros and cons to using these devices for education and training?

J.P. Medved: Pros include mobility, the capability for hugely immersive learning experiences, and the ability to have a much more hands on training environment.  Cons right now include cost (though this will go down as the technology develops) and a lack of support from, for instance, content creation companies and LMSs for this technology (though that too will change as it becomes more widespread).


Félix Eroles: There are many advantages in using some of the devices that already exist, such as Google Glass, bracelets to monitor the results, tDCS devices... I’m sure that when we know how to use them more effectively we will find new ways to exploit them for education.

The communication between devices is an emerging benefit of wearable technology, which requires us an advanced computing of the Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and data transmission channels of high-speed and flow. These factors’ sum will allow teaching-learning processes from intelligent behaviors of wearables.

However, the dependence of the data transmission channels, as well as the processing and storage capacity of the Big Data is great danger. Imagine a near future in which most educational processes are related to the wearables. If, as philosopher Daniel Dennett says, Internet collapses, for whatever reason, not only our learning processes but most services and processes we daily use linked to the "Internet of things" would cease to be useful, and we would be isolated and worse than in the Stone Age. We can affirm that the network dependency is an unacceptable risk if we want to continue moving forward and progressing. We need to build alternatives, a possible solution is the connection between wearables but without the requirement of Big Data and bypassing internet.

An advantage and disadvantage is the role of teachers. Some may not fit the methodology which is arriving in the use of wearables, as happened with the introduction of ICT in schools, but others will have the opportunity to reach more students, more efficiently and with customized results for each student. The teacher will be "one more", he teacher will indicate and will help but the active agent of the learning process will be the student.

Currently it is a disadvantage the little immersion that the existing wearables have in our educational processes. Face it, the Google Glass is not very glamorous and not everyone can feel comfortable with such an intrusive technology, moreover, we can be embarrassed in front of many people. In order to be easy to use wearables must evolve towards transparency transparent and integration undetected.

Maybe because the reason given above, studies like the one of Endeavour Partners, U.S., conclude that "a third of users abandon their use at six months, and even the abandonment ratio is higher in devices such as bracelets, the order of 50%.” In the UK, a survey by Accenture indicates that "less than 30% of the population is interested in wearables devices."

Finally, the big problem is privacy, not just our data but those with whom we interact when we're recording or interacting with wearables. Information leakage, the use of these data, knowledge of our habits, behavior patterns, medical history, ideas ... all that can be exposed to the public domain without knowing how to treat it legally and how to defend ourselves.


What wearables currently being used in education and training and which you think would be the devices to be used in the coming years?


J.P. Medved: Google Glass is the obvious one: it's already got a robust app ecosystem and huge company behind it. Tools like Facebook's recently purchased Oculus Rift also have a lot of eLearning potential, especially in the immersion space of ARGs and other eLearning games.


Félix Eroles: The queens are the Google Glass since they are the most suitable for use in people’s training. From the surgeon who teaches how to operate through a streaming of their work to colleagues and students, to the climber who shows how to climb a certain wall. Any activity can be broadcast and / or recorded for others to learn and improve the teaching of others. The Google Glass is perfect for learning and teaching. If we are demonstrating our training we can do it showing our skills and abilities to the court evaluator that can be placed on the other side of the world, if we go through a museum, a neighborhood, a library, a territory, etc, they provide us with the information that they “believe” we need. The most appropriate is that the educational institution and the faculty meeting establish the goals to achieve by students, and by virtue of these goals, they implement content for Google Glass. Its scope is the Augmented Education from what has been called Augmented Reality.

Other devices that are used are the Virtual Reality gloves, dresses and glasses which are used, in the laboratories of Psychology and Neuroscience, to learn how we act towards situations caused. At the University of Barcelona, School of Psychology by EVENTLAB has a number of ongoing investigations, with which I collaborate occasionally, to analyze perceptual sensations and behavior patterns in virtual worlds:

In MIT they are working with different devices which are wearables prototypes, and almost certainly we will use them in the future between 2 and 5 years, as the one I have mentioned: Mobisensus. They also work in FingerReader, a wearable that placed on the finger acts as an assistant for people with visual disabilities because it can read the texts of a book, but it can be used to teach reading to illiterate people too.

The future is wide open and remember that "everything is to be done and everything is possible."


June 2014