Ready For A Sensor-Equipped Classroom?

from the watching-every-move dept

Roland Piquepaille writes “This experiment, described by the Daily Bruin Online, the newspaper of the University of California (UCLA), Los Angeles, reminds me of the famous Michael Powell’s movie, “Peeping Tom.” A UCLA professor, Mani Srivastava, wants to outfit an entire first grade classroom with minuscule sensors, from the students to the physical room. The project is sponsored by the National Science Foundation for $1.8 million. Students will wear special caps tracking their location while cameras and microphones will record their activities. And all the data gathered will be processed by a data-mining software. My overview contains some more details about the project.” Sounds a bit more advanced then just putting webcams in the classroom, and most parents found that to be too intrusive. I doubt many people want such a thing – least of all the kids themselves. It sounds like, thanks to cheap, tiny sensors, some people are trying to go back to a world of Taylor time-and-motion studies – a concept that was discredited a century ago. Constant monitoring doesn’t make people work up to their best level. It makes them feel annoyed, angry, and mistrusted.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Ready For A Sensor-Equipped Classroom?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Office Move Business Theory

Yeah, the observation many, many years ago that the only thing that “motivates” people is that they’re being watched has some interesting implications for white collar workers.

In my experience, The Office Move(tm) is the primary method of utilizing the observation motivation effect. I have been places where managers moved people as many as 5 times in one year… and I’m not talking about moving people to do growth or attrition. I’m talking about mindlessly moving people between offices in the same section, sometimes even having them move back into and office they moved out of a few months ago.

Of course, rather than instrumenting the students to the point where they even know if the kid’s got a boner, they could try evaluating homework and getting that returned to the student on time.

Bob Bechtel says:

A foolish consistency...

It’s interesting to see the slant on this article, given that I just read one before about cameraphones in which the point was made that that technology is neutral.
If you want to figure out what goes on in a classroom, the best thing to do is observe. Sure, homework is important, but homework reports, for example, that boys are “better” than girls at math and science, and fails to capture a tendency on the part of teachers to favor boys over girls in class participation, etc.
I did not understand, either from the article cited or Roland’s summary, that the intent was to “improve” the performance of the kids in the classroom under observation (though certainly there will be some degree of Hawthorne effect), but rather to leverage technology to improve data collection and analysis in the area of educational research.
While it might be possible, I doubt that NSF has funded this without requiring the usual human subjects protections, IRB review/approval, and the like. Certainly, there have historically been people who are willing, even eager, to have their children participate in “laboratory schools” – presumably thinking that there will be some benefit.
I guess that the leaps that the Techdirt report and commentors (myself included) have taken from what is a very limited description of the planned effort (I’d bet the proposal was at least 100 pages) are what trouble me — we’re all jumping to conclusions on the basis of inadequate evidence.

Roland Piquepaille (user link) says:

Some more information for Bob Bechtel 'and others)

If you need more information from the NSF about this project, you can check their Awards greater than $500K page for Information Technology Research projects.

Move to item #18 and you’ll discover this:

Technologies for Sensor-based Wireless Networks of Toys for Smart Developmental Problem-solving Environments
PI: Mani Srivastava
Institution: University of California-Los Angeles
Est. Award Amt: $1,841,143
Duration: 36mos.
State: CA

This will lead you to the NSF Award Abstract #0085773. The abstract of the project is there and you’re free to read it, even if it’s written in such a way that it’s hard to understand it: “paradigm shift,” “smart kindergarten,” “focus on highly unstructured, dynamic, and dense networks of embedded devices,” etc.

Anyway, I still think that these experiments are more dangerous than beneficial for the students involved.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...