Gates Foundation Testing Biosensors To Monitor Students’ Moods


Because kids have no right to hide their thoughts from adults, the Chicago Tribune reports:

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has poured more than $4 billion into efforts to transform public education in the U.S., is pushing to develop an “engagement pedometer.” Biometric devices wrapped around the wrists of students would identify which classroom moments excite and interest them — and which fall flat.

The foundation has given $1.4 million in grants to several university researchers to begin testing the devices in middle-school classrooms this fall.

The biometric bracelets, produced by Affectiva Inc, send a small current across the skin and then measure subtle changes in electrical charges as the sympathetic nervous system responds to stimuli. The wireless devices have been used in pilot tests to gauge consumers’ emotional response to advertising.

Gates officials hope the devices, known as Q Sensors, can become a common classroom tool, enabling teachers to see, in real time, which kids are tuned in and which are zoned out. To truly improve teaching and learning, Debbie Robinson, a spokeswoman for the Gates Foundation said, “we need universal, valid, reliable and practical instruments” such as the biosensors.

Skeptics call the technology creepy and say good teachers already know when their students are engaged. Plus, they say it’s absurd to think spikes in teenagers’ emotional arousal necessarily correspond to learning.

The engagement pedometer project fits neatly with the Gates Foundation’s emphasis on mining daily classroom interactions for data. One of the world’s richest philanthropies, the foundation reflects Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ interest in developing data collection and analysis techniques that can predict which teachers and teaching styles will be most effective.

16 Comments on "Gates Foundation Testing Biosensors To Monitor Students’ Moods"

  1. alizardx | Jul 6, 2013 at 3:03 pm |

    Will this be a core technology of Windows 9? (assuming there is one). This has the same kind of user demand that Clippy and Metro had.

    Another “must have” invasive innovation for the McSchools of the future, that will never be seen in the private schools which will educate the misleaders of THE FUTURE!!! Will it be used to target kids for Ritalin and Adderall? Or tag them as potential subversives?

    I don’t think I need to explain here why this is A Really Bad Idea.

    This is the kind of innovation that suggests to me that the net cap of private foundations should be limited to < $1B – to limit the possible impact of a single entity's Bad Ideas.

  2. I’m only astonished that they settled for mood recognition…I’ve expected shock collars for children to start coming into vogue anytime now. Also…orange jumpsuits to help smooth and speed the transition from civilian child to future prison slave/industry laborer.

    • marvin nubwaxer | Jul 8, 2013 at 2:02 pm |

      ridiculous. at least someone is trying to figure out how to do something about our failed education system. ignorant and uninvolved parents don’t help, neither does religious intrusion into public schools.
      try it out on private school kids first. watch the readings go off the charts when money gets mentioned at no response at all during a discussion of poverty or other social issues.

  3. Anarchy Pony | Jul 6, 2013 at 9:04 pm |

    This reminds me of Michael Parenti explaining how fascism is a highly rational system. Of course it would be highly rational to electronically monitor students’ moods and emotions, of course it’s highly rational to spy on everyone. But is it reasonable? Or ethical? Does it ever enter into the administrators’ heads to analyze the effectiveness of the current system of education? No, it only occurs to them to attempt to make the system work better. It doesn’t occur to them to actually try a different system.

  4. Hoarfraust | Jul 7, 2013 at 12:20 am |

    Monitor THIS Gates: your support of GMO is contributing to the destruction of food as we know it. May all your meals be GMO you scumbag!

  5. Totally nuts and a reflection on the idea, that a greedy and rich person with limited education is far smarter than people with doctarates and decades of education.
    For fuckity fuck fucking sake, all people are different, what excites one bores the pants of the other, what generates pleasant brains chemicals in one gives the other a headache.
    How stupid can those idiots be at the Gates Foundation and how readily can their greed motivate them into ignoring the knowledge in order to suck up to Bill Gates.
    How seriously will one fool fuck up the education system in order to feed their own ego, and to placate the subconscious and the bullying the suffered. Grow the fuck up and leave the education of children to people trained in that.
    Want to know what teachers and teaching styles are effective, align the teacher’s psychological breakdown to match the students preference and keep class size small.
    Jockstrap douches like jock strap douche coaches. Introvert computer geeks like the computer science teacher (with a doctorate in computer science).
    Idiots with computers who think computer can create perfect cookie cutter education, please, ‘FUCK OFF’, before you screw everything up even worse than it already is.

    • misinformation | Jul 7, 2013 at 1:42 am |

      ‘How seriously will one fool fuck up the education system…’

      There’s a short trip.

  6. wfzlsster | Jul 7, 2013 at 7:35 am |

    Gates is just another wealthy psychopath. We need to be wary of anything he gets involved in.

  7. Microhero | Jul 7, 2013 at 8:19 am |

    Why not go straight to a biofeedback device that not only registers their moods but adjusts them in real time by injecting them with drugs or directly stimulating nerve centers with small electrical pulses… If we make education that more efficient we can get kids to learn all they need in half the time and get them to work/buy by age 12, maybe even sooner if we just test them for career genetical predisposition and give them a targeted education right of the bat.

    LEARN little fuckers LEARN,

    WORK little fuckers WORK

    BUY little fuckers BUY

  8. Nathaniel Harris | Jul 7, 2013 at 8:44 am |

    So basically, these are E-Meters on wristwatches? Gates isn’t a Scientologist, by any chance?

  9. If utilized for good, this could be useful. If and good being the key words.

    • Microhero | Jul 7, 2013 at 12:48 pm |

      I’m sure it will, but good doesn’t have exclusivity rights on technology. One hopes the potencial consequences even out over time.
      In the end the creepyness level you experience is the result of your own imagination and optimism/pessimism.

      • Aye

        • gustave courbet | Jul 7, 2013 at 5:53 pm |

          While one single piece of technology in isolation is hard to judge as positive or negative, this innovation is just one of many technologies that are being introduced to monitor all aspects of human behavior. The next phase will be to add technologies which modify behavior via feedback from monitoring systems.

  10. Depends on what the objective of ‘teaching’ is. As far as we can see, it’s not to create critical and self-thinking individuals.

    “predict which teachers and teaching styles will be most effective”

    Brainwash perfected to an art.

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