Mobile Computing

Tustin Unified School District Embraces Wearable Tech in Classroom

Tustin Unified School District in Orange County, CA has been experimenting with virtual reality, and the district’s senior director of technology is considering using fitness trackers and other wearable devices for future learning.

Tustin USD began exploring the impact of wearables about a year ago, according to an article in districtadministration.com. Google virtual reality devices have been used in a few middle school classes in social sciences, language arts and science — allowing students to “see” the Great Wall of China and the human heart in 3D, said Robert Craven, the senior director of technology at Tustin USD, in an interview with districtadministration.com.

Earlier this year, the technology department at Tustin bought a camera to create virtual reality video and still images, which students and teachers can view on their iPads. This past summer, teachers also integrated the camera and iPads into their language arts classes, Craven said.

“Through the Socratic seminar, students are sitting in two concentric circles discussing various points of view around a topic,” Craven said.

Based on its experiences so far, the district will begin rolling out Google Cardboard viewing devices within a year, Craven said. The fairly simple virtual reality device, which is used with a smartphone inserted into the back, could quickly make inroads in the classroom, Craven said.

Many students and staff in Tustin USD already use smartwatches or fitness trackers to count steps and calories burned, he said. But to date, little has been done to develop curriculum around those products.

On an individual basis, students do track data to improve athletic performance and daily activity, Craven said.

The director of tech envisions a day when students will be able to use the data to understand the connections between their physical state, engagement and performance in the classroom, as well as on the athletic fields.

“Imagine a campus where the data from wearables allows administrators and teachers to see the overall mood and adjust activities to the students,” he said in his interview.

Currently, the Polar GoFit Ecosystem includes a wristband or chest-based heart rate monitor and fitness assessment software. Teachers in classes such as P.E. can create courses and grading guidelines and then view student data in real time on an iPad using GoFit, according to George Centeio, the company’s manager of training and education. The students, in turn, can view their progress on a television or large screen with all the data streaming across it.

Craven also suggested utilizing an app that could create a “Pokémon-like activity to get students up and moving around the campus.”

Wearable technology is already making an impact in the classroom, according to a report issued in April by market research firm Research and Markets. In the United States, classroom wearable tech is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 4 percent over the next four years.

This year alone, global sales of wearable devices will top 10 million, up 32.8 percent over last year, according to International Data Corporation.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at rchang@1105media.com.

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