A study conducted by the Science of Learning Research Centre in Australia, is to use wearable technology to track how children’s brains learns, Teacher Magazine reports.
Professor Ross Cunnington, the study’s lead investigator, is bringing together experts in education, neuroscience and cognitive psychology, to collect data in the classroom to track children’s brain activity. He hopes to use the findings as an evidence base for education practice in the future.
The study’s first phase, which began two years ago, tracked children’s sweating response whilst they were in lessons, using an Empatics E3 wristband. The study focused on Year 6 science lessons in three schools, with eight teachers and 200 students taking part.
The wristbands used in the study have the look of a fitness tracker, the key difference is their ability to measure skin conductance (sweating response), Cunnnington explained:
“There are a few names for it – it’s electro dermal activity – but it changes with sweating of skin. It’s caused by part of the brain stem. When physiological arousal increases people sweat more; when it’s very high that’s when you’re anxious and stressed, when it’s very low that’s when you’re really bored or sleepy. The middle range is where people perform optimally – alert and engaged.”
In 2015, the second phase of the study focused on Year 7 science lessons at four schools, involving nine teachers and around 325 students. They wore the upgraded E4 wristband model and another wearable technology, called sociometric badges. Cunnington explained:
‘[The badge hangs] on a lanyard around the neck. It’s about the size of a credit card and it measures proximity to other badges. So, as people are moving around in the space you can track who they’re close to at any time. It detects their speech – it doesn’t record what they say but it gives statistics about how much time people spend talking and how much time they are talked to.’
The team is also using the SLRC’s Learning Interaction Classroom in Melbourne, collecting wristband data alongside audio and video recordings. ‘It gives us an incredible opportunity,’ Cunnington says. ‘On the wristbands we can look for events when a whole group around the table or whole class come into synchrony … and you can pinpoint that time and then go back to the video and the audio and start to investigate what really happened in the class at that time.’