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$1.1 million-plus Gates grants: ‘Galvanic’ bracelets that measure student engagement


Valerie Strauss
Washington Post
June 11, 2012

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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.

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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.”

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