Google Glass Prompts Experiments in Journalism Schools

Journalism has been late to the game with many technologies. But professors are trying to change that with Google Glass.

by / September 9, 2013
Kendall Hall at Chico State University in Chico, California Wikipedia

Journalism professors are exploring Google Glass this year to see how it works in their field.

California State University, Chico, is one of the latest journalism and public relations programs to buy the wearable technology, which allows users to shoot video, share tweets and show the latest news, among other things. The developer version of Google Glass costs around $1,500 and is currently only available to explorers that Google selected through a contest.

"As I told Google when we entered their contest, we're training students for jobs that probably don't even exist yet," said Susan Wiesinger, associate professor and department chair of the university's Journalism and Public Relations program. "We need them to think creatively. We need to think what might be ahead. And for them to even see a device that isn't yet on the market, it makes them engage with it and not ignore it."

Some feel that the journalism field has a history of ignoring technology until it's too late. For example, few journalists took desktop Internet seriously, and as a result, classified ads went to Craigslist instead of online newspapers.

"When has the journalism industry ever benefited from dismissing or ignoring emerging technology?" asked Robert Hernandez, assistant professor of professional practice at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. "In other words, I don't know how Glass can be used for journalism on either creation, or distribution or consumption, but the only way to find out is to play with it, so I've been experimenting with it."

Hernandez already plans to bring Google Glass into a new journalism class with another technology he's been experimenting with: augmented reality. He also hopes to hire a developer who will create Glass apps for existing media brands. And this year, he'll work on a pilot with a few other people that could turn into a Glass app developing course for news and information.

At Chico State, Google Glass will spark discussions around privacy issues and technology development in a media literacy class that Wiesinger teaches. A student from Tehama Group Communications, the department's public relations firm on campus, will write a first-person story on how it could be used in the industry and another story about how the department is using it. On top of that, a digital media start-up class will allow students to develop apps for the device.

But neither of these professors say that Google Glass is groundbreaking for journalism at the moment. Right now, it's a hands-free accessory to a smartphone and still needs to be tied to that phone to tweet and post pictures.

The technology does allow students to record video while keeping their hands free for other tasks, such as taking notes. And it could provide contextual information for buildings that they're looking at, for example.

Hernandez said that context is king with journalism and technology. The storytelling has to come first, and the technology comes second in these journalism programs.

"You don't have any choice anymore; you're going to do multimedia, you're going to have to be a storyteller on multiple platforms," Wiesinger said. "So the device doesn't really matter. You just need to be able to tell stories. We're not focusing on the technology as much as we're still focusing on you need to be able to tell stories in multiple ways."

Tanya Roscorla Former Managing Editor, CDE

Tanya Roscorla covered ed tech from 2009-2017.

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