Imagine it’s 2006, and you mange to get your hands on an iPhone before anyone else has it. What would you do with access to that technology?
For Syracuse University professor Bill Ward, one of the first few thousand people selected to gain access to Google Glass as a Google Explorer, he can give his students a chance to explore a similar question. “We’re putting the future in their hands before it gets to the real world,” he says.
While the limited number of Google Glasses available, not to mention the still considerable $1,500 cost, mean that all class members share access to one device, they’re still in the enviable position of gaining hands-on experience to the technology positioned to be the next big thing. This is likely exciting enough in and of itself for the students, but the project Ward designed around the Glass sets his students up for some great experience that’s likely to translate well in their post-college job searches.
Students were encouraged to share ideas they had for Google Glass apps. Each class member was then able to choose which of the app ideas they most wanted to be involved with, and they formed groups devoted to developing those ideas further. The students have had the opportunity to discuss their app ideas with tech developers to gain a stronger sense of how they could be realized using existing technology.
As they’ve come further in the process, they’ve also now been able to pitch their ideas to a panel of professionals that includes human computer interaction experts, augmented and virtual reality specialists, wearable tech developers and people with startup experience. Once they’ve heard enough feedback from the experts to really strengthen their app ideas, they’ll turn to Kickstarter to work on funding their app ideas to potentially bring them into fruition.
Many aspects of this project equip students with the experiences and skills needed by entrepreneurs: learning to pitch ideas effectively, consult with experts, take something from the initial idea phase to reality, and try to raise funds to support its development. Interestingly enough, none of that is the focus of Ward’s course.
The main subject of the course is teaching students how to use social media effectively. At each point in the process described above, social media has played a pivotal role. Students have used it to connect with industry professionals, collaborate with each other, and share their ideas with people outside of the course.
Says Ward, “Basically the whole project in collaboration is managed using social tools in the same way they’re used in business. It just happens that the project is wearable technology, but any project could be integrated into it.”
All students in the course come away with a HootSuite certification and extensive experience using tools like Google Hangouts, Google Drive, Twitter, and LinkedIn. They also gain valuable experience using social media and technology to work together as a group.
Google Glass offered a lucky opportunity for a course already poised to evolve in a new direction each year. As social media trends and tools continue to change the way people communicate and do business, the course is likely to encounter new and unpredictable transformations in coming years. Ward’s main hope for future iterations of the course is the continued ability to give students the opportunity for valuable real-world experience.