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This Company Wants to Measure Your Kid’s Brainwaves

New technology lets teachers ‘see’ into kids’ brains, and that concerns student privacy advocates.

As a teacher at a no-excuses charter school, I handed out demerits to students who appeared to be disengaged. Cues could’ve been bad posture, taking too long to start a worksheet or not making eye contact with me. I had to rely on what I could see to tell whether my students were engaged or not.

But a student’s posture didn’t necessarily tell me how critically he was thinking about the subject matter. Someone sitting upright and making eye contact could be thinking about the Knicks game later that night. Someone looking out the window could be analyzing the subject matter. So how can you really tell if someone is paying attention?

BrainCo, an education technology company based in Boston, says it has a solution: Focus EDU, a headband that allegedly measures brainwaves to gather data about student engagement. Students wear the devices, which send data to a teacher’s electronic dashboard, allowing for real-time feedback. According to a recent Ed Surge report, BrainCo just received $15 million in funding from Chinese investors and are in discussions with a Long Island school district about rolling out the program.

“Our goal with the first 20,000 devices, each of which will be used by multiple students in schools, is to capture data from 1.2 million people,” BrainCO CEO Bicheng Han told EdSurge. “This will enable us to use artificial intelligence on what will be the world’s largest database to improve our algorithms for things like attention and emotion detection.”

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