Regular readers may recall my excitement about receiving my Apple Watch several weeks ago. At the time, I defended my purchase and my wife’s classification of me as a “gadget guy.” Two months into this journey, I’m ready to reflect on my interaction with the device and how I see the tool being used in education. Wearables are hot stuff right now. Most of my friends are wearing FitBits and the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was filled with wearable technology dedicated to all sorts of lifestyle improvements. While the smartwatch industry is still lagging with widespread adoption, there’s no doubt that wearable tech of some sort will have a place in society.
So, what about the Apple Watch? I purchased a Pebble Watch a few years ago and wore it regularly. The transition to the Apple Watch wasn’t difficult and I found the added interactivity really inviting. Like my Pebble, the Apple Watch provides alerts on emails, texts and other notifications that appear on your iPhone. But that’s where the similarities between the Apple Watch and the Pebble end. With its touch sensitive screen, Apple Watch users can access their calendars, Facebook and Instagram accounts and several other apps directly from the watch. The interface is pretty awesome. With a few swipes, a user can navigate a host of different apps native to the watch. For instance, I’ve been using the Lose it app to help manage my diet and the Apple Watch Lose it integration takes it to the next level. It’s really great to see all of my dietary targets by simply gazing at my wrist. The Activity functions are also great additions. While the iPhone can track the number of steps a person walks in a day, the Apple Watch collects even more data through its Activity functions. The watch will remind me to stand when I’ve sat at my computer too long and tracks how much exercise I’ve gotten during my daily activity. While I wonder how realistic the results are, the way the Activity data is visually displayed is both visually stimulating and motivating. The concentric circles show progress being made for the different measured activities. Besides the health features, the Apple Watch also supports Apple Pay (so you can pay for purchases right from the watch) and has Bluetooth capability (so you can listen to music on your headphones without lugging around you phone at the gym). Very cool stuff.
So, what about the educational opportunities for the Apple Watch? With the apps and functionality currently available, the watch would be a great support for individual students who are working to become better students and manage their time more effectively. For instance, the Apple Watch can help a student who is working on deadlines or needs motivation to keep up with tasks. By using the Momentum app, students can set a series of individual targets that they receive badges for completing. Paired with an Apple Watch, the app would be a great way to keep a busy musician or athlete on a regular practice schedule. The Apple Watch would also be great tool to help students self-regulate their learning. Research studies are currently underway at Penn State to explore how wearables like the Apple Watch can support student learning more directly.
And that’s the real lesson I’ve learned from my two months with the Apple Watch. The watch helped be easily receive information discretely and track some health information through the day. It also helped me stay on track and on schedule. But the technology is still in its infancy. Although the Apple Watch was released last year amid some fanfare, it will probably take a little more time and revising before it takes off socially and educationally, which may not be too far away. A major update is scheduled for later in 2016.