This may indeed seem a strange question when neither the majority of schools nor most students have figured out how to use their smartphones for learning yet. What’s more, a quick search on the web will bring up hundreds of articles about how useless and geeky smart watches are and that they are doomed to fail. Until recently I thought the only use for smart watches in school settings ever would be for cheating. Yet, having only worn an android wear watch for a week has changed my mind and here is why.
The education category for android wear so far isn't really filled with a lot of shiny apps yet. One notable exception being the much lauded “Duolingo” (see screenshot), which lets you learn vocabulary in language and level you specify and invites you to do some casual learning on the go. The app isn't perfect though. It would be nicer if you could decide which sets of items to study yourself like in Quizlet. Even if it were perfect, it wouldn’t ignite much optimism for the use of any kind of systematic studying on watches - most people would prefer a phone or, even better, a tablet.
So, what could possibly be the use of a watch in learning? It will be most likely in more contextual and spontaneous situations. An app that excites me much more than the current version of Duolingo is musiXmatch. It shows the lyrics to any song playing on your connected device. Let’s assume I’m learning Spanish and listening to “Feliz Navidad”. I could simply read along while listening. But I don’t have to do that. Just listening to the song and occasionally glancing at the watch when I don’t catch a word would be helpful enough to use the watch as a learning tool.
Voice commands will probably turn out to be even more useful than apps. You can do quick research on the web and get instant results (like “What is the capital of Belgium”). What will be even more interesting is getting results from your personal notes and materials (Google Drive, Evernote, textbooks, etc.). While this isn’t possible yet, I suppose it won’t be far away either. I already get personalized search results now, e.g. when I ask to show me my pictures of London (I get a series of my own photos and I can swipe between them).
Like there are a lot of situations now in which students don’t really need a PC for learning, because they can be done equally well or even better on a smartphone (studying vocab being one of them), there will be situations in which students will rather use their watches than phones. Here are some obvious and perhaps less obvious ones:
- translations (you can get instant translations already now by saying e.g. “translate book into Japanese”)
- quickly checking results of exercises (e.g. math problems done with paper and pencil)
- feedback and student response systems (while not available yet, do you really need a smartphone to click yes or no?)
- getting quick information via audio (e.g. “Who was Benjamin Franklin?”)
- remote-controlling presentations, videos, etc.
- quickly taking notes and accessing them
Last but not least, smart watches will be an important organizational tool. I have my Google Calendar connected to all my lessons from my school’s online system. My watch tells me which lessons come up next and which ones have been cancelled. If I care to enter the data I even get more useful information like what I have planned for each lesson, which of my students has got a presentation, etc. So, my brief answer to the above question is: “Yes, of course”.