“I’m not really sure whether my dog helped me become a Glass explorer,” Dr. William J. Ward, a social media professor at Syracuse University, said. He was being serious. “In my pitch to Google to be part of its Glass Explorer program, I said I would share the social global classroom. But I also said I’d bring my dog — Ty the Wonder Dog — into it.”
Ward is making good on that pitch to Google and teaching two classes this semester, Social Media for Communicators and Social Media Theory and Practice, in which Google Glass doesn’t just augment learning — it’s the focus of the curriculum. (He’s also keeping his promise to include Ty.)
The class involves one semester-long assignment: Try out Google Glass, dream up ideas for useful apps, develop those ideas in teams and use social media to garner votes for the best concepts. The winning ideas will be developed into actual Google Glass app prototypes.
Last week, students had 10 minutes each to pitch their Glass app ideas before a panel of expert judges, comprised of startup founders and professors, who offer constructive feedback. One app promised to help children with autism learn through videos; another would interface with restaurants to find out accurate wait times; yet another would allow “time travel,” to show what an area looked like 50 years ago (“Ancestry.com meets real life,” the student developers called it).
Now, students are refining their concepts and preparing to launch them on a slew of social networks to see which ideas gain traction and which ones flop.
This feedback, from millions of strangers on Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Facebook and Google+, will be the ultimate determining factor of success. Ward puts great faith in the wisdom of the crowd.
“Companies are trying to figure out Glass and mobile, and here are students figuring out solutions and solving problems on their own,” Ward said. Glass is expected to be a $3 billion-plus market. “Hopefully, that experience helps them prepare to jump into a company grappling with those issues — or start their own business.”
The class then rallies around the “winning” apps — the ones that receive the most positive feedback, Likes and shares on social platforms — and helps to build them into prototypes, perhaps eventually launching them on Kickstarter. (At that point, Ward said, they’ll reach out to alumni to help with funding.) App development takes up the rest of the semester; a developer at the university will provide coding assistance.
But this doesn’t mean a ton of tweets equals an A for the semester. Grades aren’t based on the final product; students’ projects are scored along the way.
“They’re rated on how well they tell [their app’s] story,” Ward said. “If you can’t convince people of your idea’s merits, you’ll never get it off the ground.”
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Image: Ted Eytan