Are Brain Scans The Future Of Education?

We’ve reported on two dangerous education trends being promoted by the U.S. Department of Education (USED): social-emotional learning (SEL) and high-tech brain-mapping to “personalize” education by probing how a child’s mind works. In its 2012 Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance report, USED enthused over the prospect of hooking children up to various other devices to measure their physiological responses to instructional stimuli. Now comes news that Stanford University researchers are combining many of these elements and using virtual reality to, supposedly, promote students’ SEL.

Just imagine what Thomas Jefferson could have achieved if he’d had access to this type of education rather than being relegated to his boring books and his unmapped brain.

Here’s how one of the Stanford experiments works. A student is fitted with an Oculus headset, headphones, and a wrist device that tracks heart rate and sweat. Through this equipment he’s connected with Emoti, a virtual-reality (VR) program that prompts him to engage in a “mindfulness exercise,” such as deep breathing, when working through a computer instructional program that gradually increases his stress levels. The idea is to train him to behave in a certain way in response to certain stimuli. Dr. Pavlov, call your office.

The graduate students conducting this experiment are trying to turbocharge social-emotional learning by making it “immersive” via virtual reality. This will be more effective, they believe, than anything teachers can do in the classroom to achieve behavior modification – or, as the researchers describe it, “SEL remediation.” Teachers can’t possibly give such personalized feedback, they say. Continue Reading