Bill Gates is getting more involved in the education system by attempting to measure how interested students are in their lessons. The Microsoft creator is trying to improve the quality of teachers even more after already sparking controversy with his initiative to put cameras into classrooms.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is spending $1.1 million to test galvanic skin response bracelets to try to measure whether students find their teachers engaging.
The bracelets measure how well the skin conducts electricity, which varies with its moisture level.
Sweat glands are controlled by the nervous system. Therefore, skin conductance can be used as an indication of emotional response.
However, many United States teachers and students are not onboard for the plan.
Education blogger Valerie Strauss wrote in the Washington Post, “why would anybody spent money on this when some school systems can’t afford to pay their electric bills? The obsession with measurement in data and school reform has reached nutty new heights.”
Teacher Anthony Cody commented: “The wonderful thing about having human beings as teachers is that we are naturally empathetic. We do not need galvanic skin sensors to detect when our students are drowsy or disinterested – we can look around the room in an instant and know!”
Others worry that the bracelets will not accurately test the teachers because students could be reacting to other things in the room.
Another concern is that the bracelets will not be able to distinguish whether a heightened response is due to excitement or anxiety, and whether a drop is response is due to relaxation or boredom.
Clemson University has been given almost $500,000 to run a pilot study “which will determine the feasibility and utility of using such devices regularly in schools with students and teachers.”
The National Center on Time and Learning was given more than $620,000 to test the effectiveness of the bracelets by comparing them with MRI scans.