Can We Imagine a FitBit Force for Learning?

Thinking about how the wearable computing revolution could impact edtech.

January 16, 2014

Since December 26th I’ve been wearing a FitBit Force

My FitBit Force has motivated me to be more active. Each day I have a goal of completing at least 10,000 steps. On days that I do not reach that goal I get very depressed.   My behavior is changed by knowing that I’m tracking myself. I’m more likely to get on the treadmill for a run, to choose stairs over elevators, to park a distance away from wherever I am going.

Can we imagine any scenarios where wearables do for learning what device like the FitBit Force does for health?

Where is the intersection between the wearable computer revolution (and this category is going to be huge) and our edtech world?

Try not to go right to Google Glass. Glass probably has the most immediately obvious educational applications, but also the most problematic.  (What professor would want every student recording everything that she says?).

What if FitBit did a deal with Coursera or edX?

I’m as bad at finishing the MOOCs that I start as of doing all the exercise that I plan.

What if my Force could track my MOOC progress?  Each day I could set a goal of completing 20 minutes of MOOC. Or finishing one module. The same wearable wristband that tracks my steps, calories, stairs and sleep could collect and display data about how well I’m meeting my MOOC goals. An always on my wrist motivator to devote time to learning.

Could wearables be used to track other cognitive behaviors?  The number of books read. The number of e-mails written and responded to. The number of articles. Tweets.  

You are wondering if I am serious.

I think I am serious. (Sort of).

I’d like to know how much information that I consume and how much I produce. I’d like to have my information activities and consumption patterns tracked as easily as my movement and sleep patterns.

The challenge is making sure that the individual sets her own parameters and controls her own data.   We probably would not want a wearable device tracking classroom attendance or grades, unless of course the student himself set those events and outcomes to be tracked.

The great thing about the FitBit Force is that it has a screen. I can see my activity as easily as I can check the time. How hard would it be to make the screen a bit bigger so that it could display educational content? What is the limit on screen smallness for utility in learning. I would have never guessed that the size of my iPhone screen would work well to interact with curricular content, but it does. Can we go even smaller?

Before we talk about all the reasons why this sounds like a terrible set of ideas (they might be), how about we give ourselves permission to do some wild brainstorming.   

Where do you see possibilities for the intersection between wearable technology and edtech?

How would you like to re-program my FitBit Force to help me expand my mind?

What wearable technology are you sporting?


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