Saturday, 23 February 2013

The flipped glassroom

I've watched the Google glasses promotional video, and the Microsoft and Corning visions of a future glass world. I have a problem with the picture of the world they paint. The technology is only for the affluent, comfortable, happy, and able.

The lifestyle sold is one of freedom and happiness. I believe it is an illusion, and I want to see through the looking glass. I want Google to give away all their glasses, for free, to people who have never used technology before in their life. To a person in every country in the world, and covering every age range. To borrow the concept of the flipped classroom, I want to see the flipped glassroom

Firstly, here are some groups I identified the adverts as showing:
  • Successful business people whose life & work is deemed to be important.
  • The nuclear family with 2.4 children
  • Young extrovert thrill seekers
  • Affluent and content...
  • in spacious, clean, sunlit environments
  • Healthy and active
This is a quite a crude comparison, but since we're being hypothetical here, what would the flipside be?
  • Unsuccessful or unemployed people whose lives are deemed to be unimportant
  • Single, divorced, or childless people. 
  • Older, shyer or more introverted people
  • Poor and unhappy...
  • in cramped, dirty, dark environments
  • Unhealthy and inactive
Let's now flip the advertiser's model, and give the glasses to these people on the flipside. How would a young boy document his life who had never used a computer before? How would an old lady respond to the technology? Wouldn't we learn more about ourselves as human beings this way, rather than watch endless videos of people doing "awesome" things to uplifting piano soundtracks? Besides which, what could you do with one of these newer devices that you can't already do with your smart phone? A new device does not make you creative or awesome, professional or business like - you make yourself that way. And you can do that with a pen and paper.

I would rather this technology was put in the hands of people who had never used it, or who would never normally be able to afford or have access to it.  

How exciting would it be if for 1 month YouTube was taken off line. and in that time 5,000 Google glasses were given out and used to record life in every country of the world from people young and old who had never used technology before. After 1 month the videos were uploaded to YouTube and we were allowed to see what had been recorded. It would flip the model. Instead of another month of banal dross, we'd have a break and we'd get to see something truly different. And if the glasses were broken, stolen, left in the box, sold, or misused wouldn't that also raise a tonne of interesting questions too?

What questions will we be asking?

The technology in the videos may be super slick, but what about the people using it? How many times have you been in a meeting and thought, "this person has no idea what they are talking about". How many times have you yourself been talking in a meeting and thought, "I really don't know what I'm talking about here". My point is that we are sold the idea that these products will help us to solve problems quicker and more efficiently - but we still need to know what the problems are. "The nobel prize is not given to the person with all the right answers, but the person with all the right questions"

The technology is presented as so easy & intuitive, but life is not really like that. if it were we'd go crazy. Maybe that's why all the rooms and buildings in the Microsoft and Corning adverts are so immaculately clean. All we have left to do as humans is neurotically and obsessively clean all our glass machines.
The ideas here are fascinating and exciting (like any good advert would try and tell you), but it seems a shame that they are preaching to the converted. It made me think back to Bendito Machine from week 1. Just lots of new machines to worship. 
See also: 


  1. Hi Chris, just to say that I really enjoyed reading your post, and that I'd have as top of the flipside list people who don't have the required levels of traditional literacy necessary to get the most out of society, the ones that school did not do right by, but that's my hobby horse. Also, I really liked the two links that you added to the bottom of your article. The one relating the story of the transformation of a "quiet child" is excellent, especially seeing as I'm reading this against the backdrop of the EDCMOOC topic of humanism. The story provoked a very human response in me. Thanks for posting this piece. Helen

  2. Thanks Helen,

    I sort of dashed this post off a bit, but I needed to write something. I think it distilled what I've been thinking a lot of during the course that there are so many hopes, fears, dreams, ambitions that we dump on "technology" but the reality of life is often so completely different to what we imagine or what we are sold. And the thing that bothered me with the Google advert is that I felt I was being sold what I "should" imagine. Like if you don't have this product then you're not really living,

    Hmmm, anyway, still a bit hazy on this but thanks for your encouraging comment!


  3. hi Chris
    As usual you've written another great post. You always are the one asking the good questions.Like Helen, I read the post of "the quiet child" a feel good story that emphasizes how technology can enhance learning. Just a little note here, which is funny in a way, I have your blog posts directed to my gmail so I won't miss any, but the gmail has the noreply feature, BUT I didn't notice that. So I have responded to your blogs and they have been lost in cyberspace. I still have so much to learn :)

    1. Thanks Willa, maybe I need to send one of my digital selves out on a quest to capture those lost replies from cyberspace!