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First-graders at St. James School make child's play of Google Glass

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What do you remember from first grade? Did you beam when you were able to read simple sentences or cheer when you learned to add or subtract two numbers?

Two 7-year-old first-graders from St. James Academy in Monkton have everybody's memories beat. They are the envy of their friends, parents and teachers.

Peter Eiswert and Lulu Thapa each used a pair of high-tech Google glasses to take photos and record videos on April 3. They wandered through 13 classrooms that were transformed into different countries as the lower school celebrated United Nations Day.

"OK Glass, take a video," Lulu said while looking at the food table while in the country of South Korea. And sure enough, her red glasses took a video. She saw an icon of a video camera in her eyepiece and a display of how many seconds she had recorded.

With a turn of her head, she took a video of second-grader Cate Arbaugh reading a story while dressed in traditional Korean clothing.

"Lulu couldn't believe she got a chance to do this," said her mother, Robin Thapa. "She uses an iPad, but this is way beyond that."

When Peter was visiting Australia, he told his glasses to take a photo of kids decorating boomerangs with paint. He also took photos by merely tapping the side of his glasses.

His mother, Stephanie Eiswert, said Peter took it in stride when his teacher asked him to try out the Google Glass.

"Google Glass is pretty much a computer in a pair of glasses that responds to voice commands," said first-grade teacher, Sandi Uehlinger, who was able to get Google Glasses for the school. They are not yet sold to the public.

The glasses feature one clear lens and one that holds a prism in front of the wearer's right eye. The right temple is wider than the left, since it contains a camera and a computer. Google Glass with prescription lenses is anticipated after the product's formal launch later this year.

Google established a Google Glass Explorer Program to get Glass into the hands of everyday folks in order to get feedback before they are sold to the public. There is a lengthy waiting list for anyone interested in buying a pair of Google Glass for $1,500 and joining in the Explorer Program.

Uehlinger has a friend who works for NBC Universal in Los Angeles and has a pair through the Explorer Program. He was told he could invite one person to receive a pair and picked Uehlinger, knowing she could put Glass to good use in the classroom.

Karl Adler, head of school, didn't even hesitate when Uehlinger asked if St. James would buy the Glass.

"We have a parent-run organization, the Patrons' Association, that raises money for things just like this," Adler said. "This is one of many different tools of tomorrow and we want our students to have the exposure to this unique opportunity."

The school is already pretty tech-savvy, with Smart Boards, iPads and laptops in use, as well as a 3-D printer and a radio and television studio.

The Google Glass arrived at the Monkton school last month and technology coordinator Joe Edel has already documented a recent trip to the Maryland Science Center with it.

He doesn't give much instruction when students give Glass a try. They soon learn they can ask Glass questions and the Googled answer will appear in their eyepiece. They can look at a printed word, or speak a word, and ask Glass to translate that word into another language.

"When you normally video something, both of your hands are busy with the video equipment. What is great about Glass is that you have both hands free," Uehlinger said. "We have only started to learn what it can do."

Google Glass has already sent Uehlinger a survey asking about her experiences so far.

She has started to follow a blog — 365daysofglass.com — written by a Texas teacher that shows uses of Glass in the classroom.

Within hours of Peter and Lulu's Glass experience, Uehlinger had put together a 2 ½-minute video that shows their videos and photos.

To view her video, go to http://www.saintjamesacademy.org/glass/

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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