What is Wearable Technology?


Wearable technology refers to devices that can be worn by users, taking the form of an accessory such as jewelry, sunglasses, a backpack, or even actual items of clothing such as shoes or a jacket. The benefit of wearable technology is that it can conveniently integrate tools that track sleep, movement, location, social media. There are even new classes of devices that are seamlessly integrated with a user’s everyday life and movements. Google's “Project Glass” was one of the earliest examples, and enabled a user to see information about their surroundings displayed in front of them. Smart watches are becoming commonplace, allowing users to check emails and perform other productive tasks through a tiny interface. A rapidly growing category of wearable technology takes advantage of the burgeoning interest in the “quantified self.” The Jawbone UP and Fitbit bracelets are two examples that track how you eat, sleep, and move. Empowered by these insights, many individuals now rely on these technologies to improve their lifestyle and health. Today’s wearables not only track where a person goes, what they do, and how much time they spend doing it, but now what their aspirations are and when those can be accomplished.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Wearables are going to be immediately useful in professional education that utilizes biofeedback and geolocational information (medical fields, law enforcement, sports and athletics), but I think they have long-range potential across a broad range of academic subjects, philosophy to physics, economics to psychology. - susanhines susanhines Aug 6, 2016 - helga helga Aug 9, 2016(- rneuron rneuron Sep 25, 2016) - DaveP DaveP Oct 2, 2016 Researchers are also exploring the possibility of using such tools to train emergency personnel, i.e., nurses
  • Wearables are probably going to be very useful in administrative aspects like taking attendance, monitoring student movement in campus etc. Also, I think that we have the technology to adopt this widely and with in a short time span. So I feel that wearables will become part of norm soon. - nacha_sockalingam nacha_sockalingam Aug 9, 2016 - helga helga Aug 9, 2016 - niki.whiteside niki.whiteside Oct 5, 2016 attendance and student movement are very interesting aspects, but a significant number of students would have to be willing to using wearables for this purpose - MarwinBritto MarwinBritto Aug 9, 2016This might be the next level after "clickers" or student response systems as a means to engage student and hold them accountable. | I think we will see pushback against these kinds of uses in higher ed, but can imagine this more in the K-12 sector. - anthony.helm anthony.helm Aug 29, 2016 I think they will also form effective tools in monitoring one's response time and decisions made during an emergency situation. So i would argue that during training, skill development, and education wearables will form constructive tools to offer simulated experiences to professionals.
  • The administrative uses in education I can imagine with wearables may more likely be around security. Wearable unique ID technology coupled with biometrics may provide access to student records systems, course registrations, student employee "time cards," and the like. - anthony.helm anthony.helm Aug 29, 2016 - niki.whiteside niki.whiteside Oct 5, 2016
  • Wearable technology, such as body cam variants, could help shed light on procedural analysis errors. It could be used to help explain lab experiment problems, analyze simulation response errors in med school courses, highlight performance issues with athletics, or help assess public speaking or mock trial appearances. - anthony.helm anthony.helm Aug 29, 2016
  • One thing we can count on, the proliferation of tech forms will also inspire new methods of academic misconduct. Gone will be the days of online as the great frontier of cheating (if that is, in fact, even true in the first place). Are classroom instructors going to confiscate eye glasses, hearing ads, bracelets and rings, smart pants and shirts? I kid, but there is some truth in this. The Internet made information ubiquitous on devices. Ubiquity of devices makes access to information even more routine. - david.thomas david.thomas Sep 9, 2016 - helga helga Sep 19, 2016 But maybe we can have a wearable that will help ensure honesty- I think there could be ethical issues in both directions, but it is highly likely to come to fruition. (- rneuron rneuron Sep 25, 2016)
  • As an early adopter of Google Glass, I was fascinated by the potential it offered and, ultimately, disappointed when it did not deliver on its early promise. However, after not wearing a watch for almost a decade, I did purchase an Apple Watch when they first came out, which I wear every day, and whilst it has not been a game changer, at least for me, in the way the iPhone or iPad were, the new Apple watch with its improved functionality may take us one step towards it becoming so. The ability to use the watch for payment for goods and services is now business as usual in the UK, and the potential for health and location monitoring is also fascinating, and once people find a way to access, utilise and link up the massive amounts of data these devices produce, I believe there may be an enormous backlash against such technologies - the first time my watch refuses to pay for my cappuccino on the basis that my heart is racing, and I was due to be in a meeting five minutes ago, it will go straight on eBay. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Sep 16, 2016It will be interesting to see if products like Snapchat Spectacles succeed where Google Glass failed. A different price point aimed at a wider audience, albeit with a narrower functionality might might be a breakthrough. - billshewbridge billshewbridge Sep 27, 2016
  • I don't see them as a mainstream tool, nor a must have for students; however, wearables certainly have the potential to provide some utility within a broad range of application contexts like campus life, communication, location tracking for safety purposes, etc.- fledezma fledezma Sep 21, 2016 - niki.whiteside niki.whiteside Oct 5, 2016 I agree, I don't see them as a mainstream tool at the moment, but with greater adoption and when more educational apps become available, I very much see them as being part of the classroom experience. From sorting students into groups, to taking responses (like clickers), to timing presentations, and taking attendance, etc. - matthew.worwood matthew.worwood Sep 24, 2016 agreed (- rneuron rneuron Sep 25, 2016)
  • In language learning and education, wearable technology is becoming very popular. Now the aim is to combine AR and wearable tech for reading, etc.
  • Smart (cell) phones can be considered wearables, we wear them in our fists everyday all the time! http://media.ofcom.org.uk/news/2015/cmr-uk-2015/ they provide tracking and profiling data, can be used to interact in class (Slido etc). Wearables are already here and ubiquitous they do not have to be attached to our wardrobe. - DaveP DaveP Oct 2, 2016
  • In some ways wearables will extend what is already being done with smart phones when it comes to tracking the locations and numbers of people in a given location. On my campus we detect the presence of cell phones at bus stops as a way to study and improve upon campus shuttle bus efficiency. Wearables offer a way to do this same sort of tracking and monitoring. We could find out how many people are in a given building or room so we can know if everyone is safe in case of a fire, for example. - doug.hearrington doug.hearrington Oct 2, 2016
  • Based upon the evolution of the Apple Watch, it looks like fitness is the "killer app" for greater adoption of wearables. Some of the more interesting uses (e.g. their role in the "device mesh" referenced by Gartner - http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3143521 ) may be dependent upon a combination of more widespread adoption, and greater interoperability between e.g. IoT devices and smartwatches.- rubenrp rubenrp Oct 2, 2016
  • One of our faculty members used fitbits to help students meet physical and mental wellness, one of our essential university learning outcomes: Mike Wasserman, Assistant Professor, Environmental Science & Policy, “Incorporating Personal Health Devices Into Environmental Science and Global Studies Courses in Angers, France: Understanding the Influence of Culture and Environment on Human Health” http://think.stedwards.edu/tltr/2015-tltr-pilot-projects
  • Like other colleagues here, I'm a huge believer in the potential of wearables in our learning landscape. When Google Glass was at its peak, I was watching with great fascination the number of instructors and learners who were effectively incorporating Glass into higher education and other learning environments. And when Google pulled the plug on Glass, I was among those (the few?) who were genuinely surprised since, in spite of the negative reaction so many people displayed toward it, it seemed to offer so much promise and demonstrate so much practical application. I'm not seeing anything at the level of interest that I saw at the peak of the attention bubble in which Glass so effectively operated, but remain convinced that the introduction of a more appealing piece of wearable technology would push this back on track toward mainstream adoption.- paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 3, 2016

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • It’s important to qualify the “quantified self,” as data requires interpretation. A cornerstone of education has always been self-reflection (as in “the unexamined life is not worth living"). Wearables provide opportunities for students (and their instructors) to think about themselves in relationship to their aspirations with reliance upon more than their own memories. Wearables assist memory with objective data (though I can see the reverse argument). The wearables with which we are most familiar are devices that track our relative fitness (counting steps, hours slept, calories burned). Recently, these have evolved not only to provide passive tracking but also to actively motivate. The original Fitbit represented an evolved pedometer that flashed and vibrated when the wearer hit 10,000 steps. It provided simple biofeedback, which was enough to inspire a relatively small group of people (see David Sedaris hilarious 2004 New Yorker article “Stepping Out”). - susanhines susanhines Aug 6, 2016 - MarwinBritto MarwinBritto Aug 9, 2016 Personal data, how it managed, where it is stored, who has access to it--will need to be addressed. Will this turn into a Big Data project where we can see trends and gather analytics about students to help them succeed academically?
  • Wearable and Internet of Things go hand in hand. What seems to be happening is this fairly rapid osmosis of hardware from a few set forms --desktops, laptops, tablets and phones--to a a variety of new formats--watches for now, glasses soon, smart pants and and hats next!. What I would like to see included in this themes is the idea that wearing technology is really no different than carrying it or it being aware of us. There is a lot of talk in IoT around beacons. But what if they only wearable I have is a beacon. The room now knows when I am in it, the desk responds to me, I am fed a customized stream of notes. The seat measures my biometrics and stores them in the cloud. What am I wearing? The room! So, to summarize, IoT and wearables are a part of the same thing. Maybe a better term is "ubiquitous computing" since we are moving into a world where everything is smart and smart things want to do know about you. - david.thomas david.thomas Aug 17, 2016 ubiquitous computing sounds very fitting - helga helga Sep 19, 2016
  • Smart hats? Splendid idea! Can they have propellers on them?! I agree that the boundaries between IoT and Wearables is increasingly blurred. What is missing for me is the ethical considerations - just because we can monitor everything does not necessarily mean we should, and should the data fall into the "wrong" hands it could be enormously damaging. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Sep 16, 2016 - helga helga Sep 19, 2016I think this is where I am too as I mentioned about the "ethics of things" will for years likely intersect warily with the IoT. (- rneuron rneuron Sep 25, 2016) - francisca francisca Oct 2, 2016Completely agree about the intermingling of wearables and IoT including VR technologies like the Oculus and Gear. The ubiquitous computing term is most fitting because of the characteristics we have come to know as IoT and its potential use. I also prefer ubiquitous computing over Internet of everything; a term Cisco and other companies have been using in the last couple of years or so. The most exciting part is that IoT presents great opportunities for us to truly reinvent the design of learning experiences beyond the bounds of a classroom, semester, LMS, etc. It would be interesting to see how “wearables” will change our lifestyles in which learning is tracked and assessed at all times; fashion preferences will influence whether we “wear” an object, carry a device, have a skin imprint, or have a subcutaneous implant. Nonetheless, issues related to security, privacy, network infrastructures, and data mining, among others will have to be addressed sooner than later.
  • Wearables (carryables) ubiquity of mobile phones already transcend the necessity or mass adoption of something extra when we have have a device which can all of the above and more designed to fit into our hands. - DaveP DaveP Oct 2, 2016

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • A wearable device that is designed to assess and motivate has considerable potential in higher ed. To follow through with my example (above, item #2): In a few short years, Fitbits have evolved and their market has expanded; they now interface with smartphones and GPS systems, connecting the human body to the Internet and 24 satellites in orbit around our planet. Wearables are poised to provide us with a great deal more than data about our physical activity. If you are wearing one of latest iterations of Fitbit, you may have noticed a change in the device's motivational strategy. The Alta, for example, nudges its wearer to move -- on an hourly basis, 250 steps. So Fitbit is now in the business of compelling you to act, not simply acknowledging your actions. I think the initial impact of this technology will be experimentation, though I hope the legal and philosophical ramifications will also be explored. I don’t think it’s too much a leap to imagine a wearable with the capability of providing biofeedback that extends well beyond calories burned. Someday our dashboards may indicate how many lies we told throughout the day or who in our lives causes us undue stress or what kinds of surroundings facilitate our best thinking.
    - susanhines susanhines Aug 6, 2016
  • If students (And staff?!) need to be motivated by their wearables, then perhaps they should be doing something else somewhere else?! I am now used to my Apple watch reminders to stand up, take a walk, and when my next meeting is, but I still find them intrusive sometimes. If it starts telling me to read a book, eat a healthy lunch or watch a documentary, I feel I would soon find it an unnecessary annoyance. I neither want, nor need to be told what to do, I just need an occasional reminder when something needs to be done. I know were are looking at using beacons for attendance monitoring at the moment, and this is being portrayed as a good thing - as with many of these advances, it all depends on what, if anything, you use the data for. As our colleagues in the biosciences might say - harm - primum nil nocere - first do no harm - should be our guiding principal as we roll out this technology.
  • Potential educative applications for wearables could be athletics (measuring performance) and medical sciences (hospital patient monitoring and management). In other contexts, universities can take advantage of wearables to use them as a Real Time Communication tool, and to interact with facility access and use (parking, gym, cafeteria, payments, library loans, etc.). - fledezma fledezma Sep 21, 2016 - niki.whiteside niki.whiteside Oct 5, 2016
  • But what if we take a different look at this.... as I was reading all of the comments I thought about all of the individuals who have learning disabilities. I do not know if there are any wearables for individuals with varying degrees of learning disabilities, BUT, the IoT has provided an opportunity for interaction and learning that has not happened before. Depending on the learning disability a wearable could potentially increase interaction, improve performance, reduce stress that currently causes individuals with learning disabilities or mental health issues that impact learning to gain access that they have not had before. (- rneuron rneuron Sep 25, 2016) We have many individuals with learning disabilities and mental health issues entering the higher education system and faculty and the system are not sure how to best deal with them. (- rneuron rneuron Sep 25, 2016) John Butterill's Virtual Photo Walks video for me remains the quintessential example of what you're discussing: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiB1NvC07_PAhUW42MKHWpwA2MQ3ywIHTAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dy1Uv7as5ZmI&usg=AFQjCNHKsO_7G_708GH9wOark1SNfg7Mdg&sig2=GQbMYFFRibJijKJvk6ckKQ&bvm=bv.134495766,d.cGc -- Think of how easy it would have been for him (or any of us) to have done that same virtual photo walk for someone who is homebound if we were using Google Glass or another piece of effective wearable technology as the transmission tool. - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 3, 2016 In my opinion, it is gaining a lot of currency in the training and skill construction in multiple fields, including training emergency personnel to respond to different emergency situations. - francisca francisca Oct 2, 2016 I am most excited about the potential to truly provide a personalized learning experience for all of us learners of different abilities.
  • Use of Brainwave cat ears might be fun in a classroom or group work http://www.necomimi.com/Default.aspx, but adoption is slow for wearables and products don't seem to engage or have sticking power, hearables may have more impact https://www.wired.com/insights/2014/10/hearables/
    - DaveP DaveP Oct 2, 2016
  • I am waiting for companies to offer tools for the use of wearables in education and educational research. For example, a year or two ago Apple came out with ResearchKit to help developers create medical research apps for the iPhone and Apple Watch and CareKit to do the same for apps to enable people to monitor their own care. I think a logical next step would be an EducationKit for gathering educational data, including biometric data, and use it for educational research, development, and improvement. I imagine apps that can track cognitive and affective states during various learning tasks for the purpose of improving learning technologies, and student learning and retention through basic and applied research. - doug.hearrington doug.hearrington Oct 2, 2016
  • Smart watches are now going into their second generations with interfaces and apps becoming more intuitive and purposeful. Insurance companies and hospitals are starting to see the Apple Watch as medical grade devices. This can bring interesting developments and questions around students/ athlethes health as well as in some areas help students with disabilities. - mayaig mayaig Oct 2, 2016
  • Brainwave devices like Muse are starting to mature and there is now more research around possible interfaces and usecases - mayaig mayaig Oct 2, 2016

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • There's quite a lot of information out there, and I wish I had more time to track it down, but here are some links to some "starter categories": Fitbit Clinical Trials | Haptics | Clothing | Implantables .- susanhines susanhines Aug 6, 2016
  • I attended a conference a couple of years ago where they gave the audience these throw-away wrist bands with LED lights, etc. The lights would change color based on the users (bio) response to the presenter, thus giving them a read on the audience. This method of quantifying the audience is slowly growing and has potential classroom use/impact. These could be the new 'clickers' - for what those are worth - something to watch. Some non-edu examples PixMob | XOX - brad.hinson brad.hinson Aug 13, 2016
  • The Poynter Institute has been doing research on the use of wearables in journalism. We also have some experimental courses now at USC Annenberg. - courtnem courtnem Sep 14, 2016
  • We already have Bluetooth beacons at the University of Leeds to monitor student attendance: - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Sep 16, 2016https://it.leeds.ac.uk/info/140/mobile_apps/1077/check-in_faqs_for_students
  • http://www.tatainteractive.com/pdf/Wearables_in_Learning_article.pdf There is a great grid in this marketing piece that depicts the wearables. (- rneuron rneuron Sep 25, 2016)
  • We are using Bluetooth beacons at the Library in De Montfort University to aid induction, signposting and pushing electronic learning resources. - DaveP DaveP Oct 2, 2016
  • Mike Wasserman, Assistant Professor, Environmental Science & Policy, “Incorporating Personal Health Devices Into Environmental Science and Global Studies Courses in Angers, France: Understanding the Influence of Culture and Environment on Human Health” http://think.stedwards.edu/tltr/2015-tltr-pilot-projects
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