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Gates Foundation gives $1.1M for Biometric Mood Bracelets


Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a total of $1.1 million for two grants to the National Center on Time and Learning and Clemson University to study the use of “Galvanic Skin Response (GSR)” bracelets.

The galvanic bracelets will determine the level of engagement the students have in their teacher’s lessons. Students and teachers will be part of an experiment to determine how feasible and useful the bracelet will be if regularly used in schools.

Clemson University was awarded $498,055 to “conduct a pilot study to measure student engagement physiologically with Galvanic Skin Response bracelets, which will determine the feasibility and utility of using such devices more broadly to help students and teachers.”

National Center on Time and Learning was awarded $621,265 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.”

The Gates have been active in projects that cater to school reforms. The Foundation has set up Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) in support of teachers to ensure that all students have access to high quality instruction. The use of GSR bracelets in school is just one the projects instituted by Gates.

The study of galvanic bracelets is said to be part of the “emerging field of neuromarketing,” which “relies on biometric technologies to determine a participant’s emotional and cognitive response to certain stimuli.”

In Education Week Teacher, which carried the article Wiring Our Students with Galvanic Response Bracelets, wrote that “The Affectiva Q Sensor is a wearable, wireless biosensor that measures emotional arousal via skin conductance, a form of electrodermal activity that grows higher during states such as excitement, attention or anxiety and lower during states such as boredom or relaxation.”

A lot of people agree that school reforms are needed and that teacher’s competence needs to be enhanced. However spending $1.1 million on GSR bracelets raised a lot of eyebrows, as reported by the Washington Post. There is vagueness as to how teacher’s competency can be measured by GSR bracelets considering the number of stimuli present within a classroom that could excite students. For others, it is a waste of money and translates to $1.1 million more that could have been spent for classrooms, books, learning materials for students.

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