[CS-FSLUG] OT: Bill Gates bracelets

Fred A. Miller fmiller at lightlink.com
Tue Jun 12 22:26:00 CDT 2012


$1.1 million-plus Gates grants: 'Galvanic' bracelets that measure student

By Valerie Strauss

In the 'you-can't-make-up-this-stuff' category, the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation is spending about $1.1 million to develop a way to physiologically
measure how engaged students are by their teachers' lessons. This involves
"galvanic skin response" bracelets that kids would wear so their engagement
levels could be measured.

If this tells us anything, it is that the obsession with measurement and data
in school reform has reached new nutty heights.
Here's the description of the $498,055 grant to Clemson University that was
awarded in November (but that just recently became widely known by Susan
Ohanian and Diane Ravitch):

Purpose: to work with members of the Measuring Effective Teachers (MET) team
to measure engagement physiologically with Galvanic Skin Response (GSR)
bracelets which will determine the feasibility and utility of using such
devices regularly in schools with students and teachers.

And here's the description of the $621,265 grant given at the same time to the
National Center on Time and Learning:

Purpose: to measure engagement physiologically with Functional Magnetic
Resonance Imaging and Galvanic Skin Response to determine correlations between
each measure and develop a scale that differentiates different degrees or
levels of engagement.

That's more than $1.1 million that could have been spent on things that
schools actually need, such as books, teachers, librarians, etc.

The foundation gave the awards as part of its Measuring Effective Teachers
project , which is experimenting with teacher evaluation systems in seven
school districts nationwide. Millions of dollars have gone into these
evaluation experiments, which, among other things, have involved the use of
standardized test scores to assess teacher effectiveness (a bad idea), as well
as the questionable videotaping of teachers. And now, bracelets.

Ohanian notes here that the kind of technology needed to develop galvanic
bracelets is part of the "emerging field of neuromarketing," which "relies on
biometric technologies to determine a participant's emotional and cognitive
response to certain stimuli."

How, Ravitch asks, would the bracelet tell if a student is responding to a
teacher and not to something his friend whispers in his ear?

That's just one of the questions that come to mind about this enterprise,
including this one: Why would anybody spent money on this when some school
systems can't afford to pay their electric bills?

And: Is there not something a bit creepy about making kids wear something so
their reactions to learning about the War of 1812 can be measured?

I have an idea: How about simply asking students what they thought about their
teacher's lesson on the Pythagorean theorem?

In this era of data-driven education, that just won't do.

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By Valerie Strauss

Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an
intellectual could ignore or evade it. --Thomas Sowell

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