Apple Watch has a place at school with upcoming Penn State study

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Apple-Watch-stand-reminder
It might be like this, but with books and stuff.
Photo: Apple

Nobody’s really sure what to do with wearables like the Apple Watch, and we don’t just mean in the “How does this improve my life?” sense of it. Safety and cheating concerns are putting it on a lot of people’s ban radar, and laws are scrambling to incorporate the new tech as needed.

But some researchers at Penn State are about to see if the Apple Watch might find a home in the classroom, after all.

“The thing with wearables is that these are highly personal devices, even more personal than your smartphone,” said Ben Brautigam, Penn State’s manager of advanced learning projects for Teaching and Learning with Technology (via Government Technology Magazine. “We can take this customized point of view to provide recommendations to students to enrich certain aspects of their learning.”

The study will explore how the Apple Watch’s built-in tools, like the reminders that tell you when to take a break and stand up or the sensors that measure activity, might work along with established research about how learning works to make education and study more effective.

Researchers haven’t developed their app yet, but it could look like the existing Workouts app, with participants tracking study sessions instead of runs. Of course, it could also be something entirely different depending on what kind of data the scholars want to collect. The focus, however, will be on how students self-regulate rather than a more guided and strictly structured approach.

“One way that prompts can support students’ awareness of their own learning is through modeling the types of questions students should ask themselves,” said Rayne Sperling, the associate professor of educational psychology who will head up the research.

These “prompts” could include yes/no questions, status updates, mini-quizzes, or other checks to gauge how motivated and engaged participants are with their learning process. The study will collect all of this data to analyze whether or not the added functionality of wearables, smartphones, and other devices actually enhance learning and study behavior.

With some schools moving to keep wearables out of the classroom and lawmakers looking at how they might adversely affect road safety, it’ll be interesting to see if this research turns up ways that the new tech is not ruining things for everyone.

In the meantime, however, we’ll just have to keep using our Apple Watches the only way we know how: By asking Siri to play fart sounds.