Google Lens is a free AI-Powered app that utilizes a smartphone camera with machine learning to identify and explain objects to users. The Google Lens app is available for both Android and iOS devices. While Google Lens has been around since 2017, the technology continues to evolve. Essentially, Google Lens has gotten “smarter” over time. Not only can Google Lens identify images, but it can also easily search, copy, and translate text. For ELS students, the real-time translation feature can be beneficial. Students snap a Google Lens picture of the desired text and utilize the Google Translate plug-in to complete the translation instantly. Google Lens can also identify people, text, math equations, animals, landmarks, products, etc. Sometimes Google Lens provides resources for further learning exploration, and other times, it gives the answers.
Some key Google Lens features that can benefit both students and instructors include:
Text Selection/Search Tool: This feature allows students to use Google Lens to take pictures and highlight text for later use on their phone or computer, using the “Copy to Computer” command.
Google Lens can capture any text, whether it is on a piece of paper, in a book, on a whiteboard, or website. Once the text is copied to a smartphone, the information can then be pasted in external sources such as Google Docs, notes, email, or a chatbox.
Today, many students use their smartphones rather than computers for schoolwork. Therefore, the text and search features enhance the phone’s usefulness. Google Lens is also useful for quick lookup activities, such as defining unfamiliar words or technical jargon. Finally, for other students who prefer audio rather than visual learning, Google Lens makes it easy for students to listen to any captured text.
Homework Assistant Tool: Students can use Google Lens as a homework assistant. Students simply scan the question(s), and the app provides resources and/or answers. For STEM courses, Google Lens combined with Socratic by Google typically includes step-by-step instructions that lead to the final answers.
Using technology as a homework assistant can be either good or bad. For students who use Google Lens as a homework assistant, the technology can help get them “unstuck,” which can be particularly helpful as students are learning a topic. Using Google Lens in this manner keeps students moving forward in their learning process.
However, a downside of Google Lens is the increased ability to cheat. Using Google Lens, students can easily take a picture of an exam question to locate the answer. Before writing this blog, sample questions were used with Google Lens. The results indicated that publisher-created questions as well as recycled instructor-created questions often quickly located the correct answer. With this type of technology, students who cheat no longer must enter a question into the search bar and then sort through resources for potential answers. Instead, they can simply snap a picture of the question, and Google Lens will rapidly search the Internet for the solution. Since Google Lens uses machine learning, it can sort through millions of sources quickly, and as our tests found rather effectively.
Productivity Tool: Google Lens can help students and instructors stay organized. Information captured by a Lens image can be sent directly to an electronic calendar. This Google Lens feature can be beneficial for students who struggle with due dates. Google Lens can also be a helpful tool for instructors attending conferences or networking events. Information collected with Google Lens (i.e., scan images, texts, bar codes, and QR codes) can be immediately transferred to a file for future reference or follow-up.
To get started or try Google Lens, download the app from your smartphone’s app store, or you can find the Google Lens icon on your Google Photos and Google Search Bar. You can also find the download instructions at https://lens.google/.
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