Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Adventures in education

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding research into the use of “galvanic skin response” bracelets to measure student engagement in classrooms. Diane Ravitch explains why we should care — and worry.

2:19 p.m.: I just remembered a precedent for this scheme. In 2008 Microsoft filed a patent application for a system to monitor employee metabolism: “at least one of heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, movement, facial movements, facial expressions, and blood pressure.” Here is the application. A January 2008 OCA post preserves parts of a now-gone Times of London article about this venture: Microsoft, innovating.

8:55 p.m.: The Washington Post reports that the Gates Foundation has changed the online description of the bracelet project by removing a reference to the use of bracelets in evaluating teachers.

[I found the patent via this January 2008 post from Microsoft Watch.]

comments: 1

Anonymous said...

Galvanic skin response mechanisms are very old indeed, of wide application and relatively crude devices. When one is asked on the street corner to try the Scientologist's stress test, it is nothing more than such a device. And since human beings are electrical in part and moist in part, the ohm measurement of conductance will always yield some kind of measurement, and it will always fluctuate over time. So what? Some students in non-GSR measures (old-fashioned questionnaires) "grade" their teachers, which should be seen as rather abhorrent. Teachers teach; students learn. Grading teachers by measuring students used to be called tests and grades and measures of the merit for skills and lessons acquired. This news places Gates alongside Hubbard, in my book. A couple of successful failures. They were/are seeking shitcuts, bypasstrophes and other brilliant schemes.