With eGlass, featuring a web-integrated lightboard and fold-out camera, teachers need no longer to turn their backs on students when writing.
While the chalkboard has served as a classic teaching tool for centuries, the past few decades have seen teachers shifting to the tidier whiteboard or the multifaceted interactive smartboard. Still, no upgrade to the humble chalkboard has ever truly overcome one very important challenge: that teachers must turn their backs on students when writing.
However, a new device known as the eGlass is harnessing the power of technology to allow teachers to write important information on a pane of glass while still maintaining a valuable visual connection in virtual and physical classrooms.
Featuring a web-integrated lightboard and fold-out camera, the eGlass (which comes in three sizes) allows students to clearly see the teacher through a transparent writing surface at the same time they are viewing written and imported content through automatic image mirroring, so nothing appears backward to the students.
This innovative digital teaching tool is a result of a partnership between Matt Anderson, a physics professor at San Diego State University, who invented a product he called the Learning Glass, and Ji Shen, CEO of ed-tech firm Pathway Innovations, Inc. Shen applied the advanced digital imaging technologies of his company’s HoverCam product to Anderson’s transparent writing glass.
After sitting through a few demonstration sessions of the Learning Glass, Shen says, he was struck by how much it felt like the teacher was speaking directly to the students, “almost one-on-one. That social connection really changed how students responded to the teaching.”
K–12 Teachers Adapt Quickly to the New Technology
A handful of K–12 school districts across the country have already introduced the eGlass to their students as a way to increase student engagement during distance or hybrid learning.
In Pickerington Local School District in Ohio, Brian Seymour observed several math teachers successfully use the eGlass for virtual instruction. As executive director of instructional technology and innovation for the district and principal of the PLSD Virtual Learning Academy, he immediately saw the value of the tool.
“One teacher who really took to it had kids call her a wizard on the first day. They were like, ‘How are you doing that?’ They were very excited anytime she utilized it in class, and she enjoyed it a lot. She said it made things so much easier because she was able to see her students while writing. She used markers of different colors, and she could fade herself in and out by adjusting the light. With a traditional tablet, you’re not able to do that.”
The Pickerington teachers involved in asynchronous instruction were also able to use the eGlass and its built-in mic to create videos for students to watch on their own schedules.
The learning curve with the eGlass is not steep. Seymour says math teachers needed just a few minutes to figure out how to use the tool for the first time, adding that it was basically a “plug-and-play” situation when used in its basic mode.
Seymour noticed a hiccup in the process of pulling in content from the computer or browser, which shows up on the computer but not on the eGlass itself — similar to when a weatherman works with a green screen and has to point to an image that isn’t really there.
Still, he says, “I think it’s got some amazing capabilities. It’s different than anything else that’s out there right now. To be able to look at your kids and look at what you’re writing and have that projected on the board — it’s a game-changer for math teachers.”
The percentage of teachers who strongly agree that digital tools help them teach more effectively
eGlass Is Promising for K–12 Esports and Podcasting
Educators are finding the eGlass to be a great tool for math classes. Erin English, executive director of innovation at the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE), says this is because teaching math involves explaining “really deep concepts in a visual way. You’re teaching concepts and formulas — all those things lend themselves to looking right into your students’ eyes to see if they’re getting it. You know right at that moment if they’re not getting it, and you can adjust on the spot.”
She also says the eGlass holds promise in another growing area: esports. One reason the SDCOE purchased the eGlass for use at its Linda Vista Learning Labs was to experiment and find out if the esports experience would be more engaging for high school student players.
Alicia Gallegos Butters, SDCOE’s director of educational technology, explains: “The eGlass will help our esports teachers and coaches work with their students in both face-to-face and online environments. It takes what used to be a very static way of presenting information into a dynamic interaction, very similar to gaming.”
This spring, the Innovation Center will also introduce the eGlass in a podcasting course for 25 high school students, where both the teacher and the students will get to work with the digital tool. “We would definitely put it in the hands of students. That’s the fun part, when they start creating. That’s when the magic happens,” English adds.
English says she is a big fan of the eGlass. “I’ve been an educator for 31 years, and I’ve been in ed tech for 20 of those years. Every once in a while, you see something and go, ‘Wow, that’s interesting. That changes the perspective.’ The beauty of the eGlass is in live teaching. When you’re looking at your students as you’re teaching, you’re not missing anything.”