Gates Foundation Responds To GSR Bracelets Controversy

Judy Hartnett's picture
Thursday, June 14, 2012

A relatively tiny donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has created quite a stir over the past several days.

News broke that Clemson U. had late last year obtained a nearly half million dollar grant from the foundation to conduct a pilot study with Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) bracelets, wireless sensors that track physiological reactions, in schools. The idea supposedly was that children would wear these biometric bracelets in classrooms to measure their engagement. What made this grant even more polarizing was the notion that the bracelets were in fact tools that would evaluate teachers’ effectiveness.

Then came the discovery of another grant, this one for $621,265, awarded to the National Center on Time & Learning Inc. to “measure engagement physiologically with Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Galvanic Skin Response,” also to be used to gauge degrees or levels of engagement.”

All of this was just too much for Diane Ravitch, a leading education expert who is now Research Professor of Education at New York University, who has been writing about the controversy on her blog. “I’m sorry. I think this is madness. Is there a mad scientist or psychologist advising the Gates Foundation? Does Dr. Moreau work in a Gates laboratory in Seattle?”

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