Researcher Vic Callaghan of the University of Essex and Liping Shen of Shanghai Jiaotong University have developed a emotion tracking ring which can “analyze physical signs to keep track of a student’s attention span, their level of understanding, and even the amount of stress a certain lesson produces.” The point of this is to help with long-distance, online learning, where the teacher does not have the benefit of face to face interaction and feedback with the students. The ring uses Bluetooth technology to transmit information about the user/student to educational software which then may change the way it delivers information, for example by switching from text to video, or changing topics when the user feels bored.
While part of us wishes that something this high-tech had been around when we were kids or university students and believes that learning ought to follow closely on the heels of self-motivation and interest, we wonder if this software might not “spoil” learners by changing topics whenever they approach the limit of their attention spans. Part of what made each level of education more difficult and rewarding was the increased level of concentration and discipline it required. If there weren’t dull classics professors droning about pre-Socratic philosophers at 8:30 in the morning while you are uncaffeinated and deathly worried that you might smell worse than you think you do, you might not have gotten where you are in life. Of course, we think such programs would merely switch tactics, rather than let you off the hook, which might be OK. According to Callahan China is 300 universities short of its educational demand, which means that online and distance education can fulfill a vital need, which also implies innovations are necessary to guarantee the quality of education.
Photo of “realizing it’s not toothpaste” from emotioneric.com.