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AR glasses let profs know if students are understanding their lectures


June 18, 2013

An experimental set of augmented reality glasses allow professors to see if any students aren't following what they're saying

An experimental set of augmented reality glasses allow professors to see if any students aren't following what they're saying

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It must be hard for university professors ... they tell their students to shout out if they don’t understand what’s being said in a lecture, yet few students are likely to feel comfortable raising their hand in front of the class and saying “I don’t get it.” Scientists at Spain’s la Universidad Carlos III de Madrid are hoping to address that situation, with a set of augmented reality glasses that let profs see who’s “not getting it,” without those students having to say so verbally.

A side benefit of the system is that it gives students an excuse to fiddle with their smartphones in the middle of a lecture. Using a custom app, at any time they’re able to select one of several symbols. These symbols can indicate that they’ve understood an explanation, that they haven't understood it, that they need the professor to slow down, or that they know the answer to a question posed to the class (although if they’re bold enough to volunteer an answer, they probably also have no problem with just raising their hand).

Using their augmented reality glasses, the prof is able to see the students, but they also see each student’s selected symbol hovering above their head. Conceivably, if they saw an “I don’t get it” symbol above a particular student, they could keep refining their explanation until that turned to an “I get it” symbol.

The system also displays a diagram showing how all of the students combined are following the professor’s lecture. This could be particularly useful in large lecture theaters, where counting and comparing all the individual symbols would be too daunting.

Additionally, the prof could enter lecture notes into the system, which would appear to them at key points in their presentation.

“The hope is that this system will make for more effective lecture classes, because receiving greater feedback, continuously, will allow the professor to adapt the class based on the students’ actual knowledge and understanding, giving extra examples, varying the rhythm or skipping those parts of the lesson that the students indicate that they already know or remember,” says Prof. Ignacio Aedo, one of the scientists involved in the project.

While the prototype glasses currently look rather goofy, it is hoped that the system could ultimately be integrated into a sleeker device such as Google Glass.

Source: Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Am sure Google Google apps will change education in marvelous ways.

But this app only extends the not-cost-effective classroom model.

Slow learners slow the lecture down, fast learners are bored, and the teacher pleases only the middle third.

Instead bag the classroom.

Let the student play a lecture video anywhere on the planet with their net connected Googles.

Stop or replay any section as often as needed.


I'm a University lecturer and I think that this is a total waste of time. People need to get away from this idea of being a teacher and more towards the idea of being a facilitator. Students need to be responsible for their own learning and the more emphasis on this, the more success students gain.

This system depends on students fiddling with their phones and a lecturer trying to identify how many clued up and how many clueless students he/she has. A good lecturer can read the signs, irrespective of how many students there are. A good lecturer constantly checks by interacting in a way that reinforces the subject material. A good lecturer is constantly challenging the students and making them derive their own learning. If someone can't grasp a concept, theory or argument, then a good lecturer knows how to circumvent the subject to develop understanding.

This just makes for lazy lecturers. A lecturer's job is about communication not knowledge. I sat in a review meeting with a senior academic from a World ranked uni (we are too) who asked me, "If you don't have exams how do you keep the students interested and get them to attend lectures?" I didn't even offer a response to such an inane and damning question....yes, damning of his own inability to maintain a student's interest without the threat of exam!

I teach students who come from Spain's top universities to study with us. They cannot believe how we teach in the UK. Spain and most of the world, including the USA are stuck in the 19th Century with their teaching methods. If you are going to produce scientists, engineers and useful members of society you need to understand what industry needs. industry doesn't need regurgitators, it needs innovators, doers and practical solutions to pressing problems.

The Master

Yes, but without getting into the politics of the thing, the plain fact is that the cost of living in the Western world precludes any possibility at all of most of those graduates being able to earn a living, doesn't it?

As long as corporations are allowed to trawl the planet for the cheapest engineers, scientists and designers, while simultaneously maximising profits by selling the results in the West at inflated Western prices, that situation will not change.

I don't think the "let's have free markets at any cost" model works any more, but we're still waiting for the second shoe to drop.

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