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Franklin teacher to test Google Glass


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Google Glass, the heavily anticipated new techno-toy, is still months away from being released to the general public.

Gadget junkies have been impatiently waiting for the release. But a Franklin teacher will have a first shot at using it.

Don Wettrick, who leads the innovations and broadcasting programs at Franklin Community High School, has been chosen to be a Glass Pioneer. He was one of 8,000 people in the world picked to give the wearable computer a test run.

The personal computer is worn over the eyes like a pair of glasses, combining the features of a smartphone in a hands-free, voice activated application.

Google Glass

What is it? A wearable computer with a head-mounted display that is being developed by Google.

What can it do? Connect with the Internet by voice command, take hands-free photos and video, translate languages, give directions, among other things.

When will it be available? Late 2013 or early 2014

How much will it cost? Around $1,500

SOURCE: Project Glass

Users can take video that gives their point of view, shoot voice-command photos at whatever they point their eyes at and see GPS directions projected onto the road as they drive on it.

Wettrick plans to use the tool in his classroom to help expose his students to ever-advancing technology.

“What we’re going to try to do is maximize the educational benefits of it. I know that I could go to a skate park and get some awesome action sequences. But I’m not interested in that,” he said. “I’m interested in transforming education. That’s the point of the class.”

Google Glass is a computer with a head-mounted display. The tool has the ability to recognize voice commands and do tasks such as displaying translations, shooting a photograph and showing airline arrivals and departures.

In order to market Google Glass, company officials developed an “If I Had Glass” call-out on Twitter and Google+. People, referred to as Glass Explorers, could suggest in a 140-character tweet or 15-second video how they’d use the device if given the opportunity.

“Glass isn’t the sort of technology you can develop in a conference room — we really need people to take it out into the world and see what they’d like to do with it across a wide range of hobbies, lifestyles and environments,” said Jay Nancarrow, a Google spokesman. “That’s why we’re working so hard on the Glass Explorer program. The Explorers will be the people who will help us shape the future of this technology and how it will be used.”

Wettrick and his students came up with a video showing the class in action. Over those images, Wettrick delivers his pitch.

“This would allow us to connect with Google and share our results with the rest of the world,” he says.

Submissions were accepted for a few days in late February. Celebrities such as actor Neil Patrick Harris, director Kevin Smith and politician Newt Gingrich were chosen as recipients.

But thousands of other people were chosen for simple, yet creative reasons. One woman wanted to document her trip to Beijing. Another would use it in her real estate business.

One idea was to take the tool into Veterans Affairs hospitals to allow World War II veterans to see their memorials, even if they’re too sick to travel.

Wettrick was chosen to receive the Google Glass, but it came with some conditions. He has to pay $1,500 to buy the device — which he immediately said he was prepared to do. He also has to fly to California, either Los Angeles or San Francisco, or to New York to pick his pair up.

He’s still waiting to hear when he can come to get his Google Glass. Though he’s unsure exactly what it will allow him to do, Wettrick looks forward to using it in class once he returns.

“It’s putting Franklin in the headlines. I’m excited for the school because it gives us a certain panache. We’re it for Indiana. It’s a great thing for the school,” he said.

The Innovations program was established as a one-year pilot for students to get real-world experience in emerging technologies and projects to benefit the community.

Students were able to choose a project they felt would create an impact in Franklin then encouraged to work with experts outside the school setting to make it a reality.

Students have used solar energy to help reduce electricity expenses. They have applied for grants and explored ways to buy tablets to help students in the special education program learn. One project included creating a community garden on the school grounds.

Wettrick sees Google Glass as a way to enhance future projects.

“I don’t know exactly what we’ll do, and that’s the beauty. I’ve already started compiling a list of things I think we could try, but I’m going to resist the temptation of my recommendations and go with what my students come up with,” he said.

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