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Using EEG and wireless technology to monitor attentiveness in the classroom

  1. Jul 23, 2012 #1
    Now I'm sure many of you have wished that you were better able to pay attention in the classroom. Well, what if the teacher gained the ability to monitor the attentiveness of everyone in the classroom?

    how can this be done? simple, attach a few EEG electrodes to monitor the activity in a person's prefrontal cortex. If a person is daydreaming or dozing off, chances are, they probably aren't paying attention.

    Many kids with learning disorders struggle with paying attention in the classroom. As a result, their future is being compromised.

    Why hasn't something like this been implemented? Kids with ADD and ADHD should not have to take drugs like adderrall.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 23, 2012 #2


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    A few points;

    - Can attentiveness be measured with EEG?
    - If it can is it better than the teacher simply observing that students are innattentive?
    - Even if it can what are the secondary effects of wiring up every pupil (hint: they may not like having their mental state recorded in this manner)?
    - Is it more effective and economical than simple, known ways of dealing with less attentive children?

    For an example of the latter would it be better to have 20-30 kids in a class wired up to EEG hats so that a teacher can tell when several of them aren't paying attention or have smaller classes of <10 with both a teacher and a TA in classrooms designed to accomodate smaller groups? My money is on this scenario being much more beneficial than a high-tech non-solution.

    Where EEG technology may enter usefulness is if software based augmented learning ever takes off like it's long promised to. Being able to tell if a student responds better to specific aesthetic presentations/images over text etc would be benneficial for softare drawing from a large variety of teaching material.
  4. Jul 23, 2012 #3
    Its not always possible to have smaller classes though...

    if EEG technology ever becomes cheap enough that every kid in a class of 50 to 100 can have one, learning can become much more efficient.

    In large lecture hall situations, many kids just either sleep or play on their cellphone. There are too many students, so the professor never notices. If everyone had a EEG hat that started to beep if they start daydreaming or sleeping, I bet people would learn alot more.

    It would also be a great personal discipline builder to wear this the entire day. If you ever started daydreaming or idoling, then you would be reminded by the device. society would become more efficient as a whole.

    Many people are smart people who are simply too lazy to do anything. Having this device would help them become more mentally active.
  5. Jul 23, 2012 #4


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    That's why you invest in training more teachers and building new schools.
    I disagree, and disagree with the rest of your statement. Inattention is not something that can necessarily be trained out, certainly it isn't something that can be so simply trained out. If someone is having trouble paying attention they need to either learn to change their perception or adopt different learning styles which can involve a change in teaching. Having an embarrassing and therefore stressful alert isn't going to do much at all.

    The only use I see for this is showing which teachers are doing a bad job.
  6. Jul 25, 2012 #5
    We may have the enabling technologies for many applications but we forget the simple solutions. Smaller classes with well-trained teachers can never be substituted by devices. Indeed, their only application could be to evaluate teaching methods and teachers on how much they capture the attention of the whole classroom and NOT of every individual separately. Those that have attention problems the last thing they want to be reminded is to: "Focus harder, focus harder!". How about instead of changing them, changing the teaching methods instead? There is no one-model-fits-all in clothes, so why should there be one in education?
  7. Jul 26, 2012 #6
    This is a horrible idea. As Ryan has pointed out, the first thing one would need to be absolutely sure of is whether or not EEG can measure attentiveness effectively (in terms of specificity/sensitivity). Assuming that is all well and dandy, and the cost isn't prohibitive, you then have to ask yourself, "What do you do about the kid that just keeps dozing off?"

    What if the kid works a night shift and goes to the morning class before heading home to sleep? I'm pretty sure his/her attention will be horribly impaired. What if a certain train of thought leads to an "inattentive EEG signature?" What if the student IS paying attention...to Facebook/Twitter/a game?

    Lastly I want to address the assumption that paying attention in class is the end-all-be-all of learning. Its really not. I, and many other students who I speak with, get very little learning done during the lecture; given a really good lecturer. Most of the time, with advanced topics, the learning is accomplished by reading articles/books/blogs etc, reviewing the text/notes, speaking to others, practicing problems and so on. The lecturer facilitates the process but is more of a resource (like the ones listed above) rather than the all-knowing source whose every word must be written/heard no matter what.
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