Why the use of wearable technology in instructional teaching matters? – Fung Fun Man

As a chemistry educator in the early 2010s, I faced two difficult problems. One of the biggest challenges I faced was the disconnect that students felt with the subject-matter they were being taught. This was especially apparent in practical sessions where many of them had trouble visualizing and engaging with the techniques that they were tasked to learn and undertake. A staple of laboratory instruction is not just delivering steps textually but also repeating them in a demonstration to emphasize the importance of techniques throughout the experiment. During these periods, I find that students often paid the most attention as this would be the part of the lesson that they themselves would have to repeat later (Fung & Jeyaraj, 2017).

However, several problems made themselves known. More often than not, due to the positioning of equipment, lecturers would end up blocking their students’ views of the apparatus, preventing them from effectively making note of important techniques made known by the lecturer. Furthermore, even if students were able to get a good vantage point, they might inevitably block the fields of view of other students positioned behind them.

There have been attempted solutions to these problems, chief among them, the recording of videos of the experiment taken from the perspective of an on-looker. However, the person who records and edits the video is not likely to be chemistry-trained, and as a result they might not mirror the lecturer’s emphasis on technique throughout the experiment. This results in them focusing on apparatus or parts of the experiment that might not be as important.

Furthermore, the videos are filmed from the third person view, which means that students who witness the demonstrator from an orthogonal outlook may derive a completely different vista when they conduct the experiments individually (Fung, 2016).

Where is the realism?

In order to address these problems, I decided to adopt a solution engineered by the gaming industry in the form of “first person shooters” where gamers play from the perspective of a character in the game. Research has shown the benefits of this “reel vs real” experience, which is evident in first-person shooter (FPS) video games, whose players have shown improvements in brain functions such as cognitive abilities and learning skills (Green & Bavelier, 2006; Wu et al., 2012). In a 2006 study conducted by Green and Bavelier, nine nongamers played Medal of Honour: Allied Assault for one hour per day for ten days, while eight nongamers played Tetris for the same span. By training with the military shooter for less than two weeks, the nongamers were able to improve their scores on three tests of visual attention, a skill that is vital for activities such as reading and driving.

I adopted the use of Instructor’s Point Of View (IPOV) videos. In doing so, learners could relate much better with the subject-matter and were also more aware of where to pay special attention during the practical set-up, and at the same time, see through the lens of the lecturer. Google Glass and GoPro cameras provide a unique IPOV teaching. These wearable technology devices are especially useful in situations where a user’s arms might be otherwise preoccupied. Google Glass has been used in a variety of situations such as the filming of live surgery for use in medical training (Green & Bavelier, 2006). Before filming the IPOV videos, I strapped two GoPro cameras: One on my forehead, the other, on my chest.

Figure 1. The laboratory lecturer having two GoPro cameras strapped on his forehead and chest (inset); he wore a GoPro camera on his chest during the filming of an IPOV video.

The IPOV videos were used to orientate students with the laboratory environment. I found that this helped to facilitate learning during chemistry practicals and also minimized students’ apprehension when they were presented with new facilities or apparatus. Students can potentially remember the procedure better, as they fervently viewed the demonstration as if they themselves were carrying out the experiment. This newfound awareness was able to empower learners with an intimate knowledge of the experimental setup but more importantly, with the confidence to perform new synthesis of chemicals.

Lowering the risk of equipment damage?

Most modern scientific machines tend to be expensive, fragile and allow space for only one person to load the sample at any one time. As a result, when a third party is recording the procedure, there is the added complication of the demonstrator having inadequate space to conduct the experiment. If proper care is not taken and the machine is damaged, the replacement cost of defective parts would certainly be excessive. Through the use of alternative angles made possible using IPOV, the learner was able to know first-hand what he was expected to observe and pay extra attention to the procedure, thereby minimizing faults and any potential malfunctioning of the equipment (Fung, 2015).

Figure 2. (Left) Third Person filming VS (Right) First Person filming.

The use of IPOV videos for lab teaching was conducted over two consecutive semesters for 158 students (Fung, 2016). The findings suggest positive reception from students who appreciated how the videos aided in understanding content due to the ability to follow experiments at their own pace. The new element where a student can observe a scientific experiment through the demonstrators’ eyes is both interesting and captivating. By incorporating a combination of the IPOV and FPS technique, and wearable devices, the instructors can break out of the routine and narrow scope which is characteristic of a single recording and, in the process, make the learning process in the laboratory more invigorating.

Figure 3a. The instructor wears the Google Glass in filming IPOV videos. The device has the camera hole positioned next to the pupil of his right eye.

Figure 3b. IPOV video using the Google Glass is helpful for learning by providing First Person view of hands-on teaching


  • Fung, F.M. (2015). Using first-person perspective filming techniques for a chemistry laboratory demonstration to facilitate a flipped pre-lab. Journal of Chemical Education, 92(9), 1518–21. doi:10.1021/ed5009624.
  • Fung, F.M. (2016). Exploring technology-enhanced learning using Google Glass to offer students a unique instructor’s point of view live laboratory demonstration. Journal of Chemical Education, 93(12), 2117–22. doi:10.1021/acs.jchemed.6b00457.
  • Fung, F.M. (2016). Seeing through my lenses: A GoPro approach to teach a laboratory module. Asian Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 6(1): 99–115. http://www.cdtl.nus.edu.sg//ajsotl//article/seeing-through-my-lenses-a-gopro-approach-to-teach-a-laboratory-module/.
  • Fung, F.M., & Jeyaraj, A.R. (2017). What worked for me: Latest trends in technology-enabled blended learning experience (TEBLE). ACS Symposium Series, 1270, 99–114. doi: 10.1021/bk-2017-1270.ch006.
  • Green, C. S., & Bavelier. D. (2006). Enumeration versus multiple object tracking: The case of action video game players. Cognition, 101(1), 217–45. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2005.10.004.
  • Wu, S., Cho, K.C., Jing, F., D’Angelo, L., Alain, C., & Spence, I. (2012). Playing a first-person shooter video game induces neuroplastic change. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24(6), 1286–93. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00192.
Fung Fun Man
Fung Fun Man

Core Faculty (Education)
Institute for Application of Learning Science & Educational Technology (ALSET)
Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science
National University of Singapore

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