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Penn State researchers to investigate Apple Watch as learning tool

An upcoming research program to be conducted by Penn State University staff is exploring the effect wearables like Apple Watch have on human behavior, with an eye on turning the device into a learning tool.




Ben Brautigam, manager of advanced learning projects at Penn State's Teaching and Learning with Technology program, told Government Technology plans are in place to run a number of experiments looking into ways Apple Watch can boost student achievement, especially as it applies to self-regulated study.

"The thing with wearables is that these are highly personal devices, even more personal than your smartphone," Brautigam said. "We can take this customized point of view to provide recommendations to students to enrich certain aspects of their learning."

Penn State associate professor of educational psychology Rayne Sperling, who is spearheading research in cooperation with TLT, is currently deciding how to integrate Apple Watch into the study. Currently on the list of potential implementations are study reminders and personal trackers, as well as interactive content for generating user success metrics.

"One way that prompts can support students' awareness of their own learning is through modeling the types of questions students should ask themselves," Sperling said. "Further, our scaffolds can prompt awareness of whether [the student] understands content and will also provide strategy suggestions."

Strapped to a user's wrist and connected to iPhone, Apple Watch is an ideal testbed for receiving said scaffolds and providing instantaneous feedback to research prompts. An exact UI design has not been fleshed out, but Brautigam said yes/no buttons, sliders and even voice messages are alternatives.

Depending on the study's results, which will pit Apple Watch against other technology platforms, wearables could one day become a staple of self-guided learning.

"If it does become prevalent, I think we'll have a leg up here because we've been sort of investing in this and exploring this since the inception," Brautigam said.