Schools in China are using AI headbands to monitor their students’ focus

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published Aug 27, 2023 at 08:45 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Imagine going to school where your education is guided by a personalised learning plan meticulously crafted to match your unique education profile, including past test scores and learning history. But this artificial intelligence can also convey your thoughts directly to your teacher without uttering a single word. That’s what’s currently happening in China, where teachers now have access to AI-powered classroom intelligence, functioning through advanced algorithms and extensive data analysis, allowing them to measure students’ levels of engagement, and the extent of their focus, and even detect distractions.

All the students need to do is put on an AI headband that uses facial recognition technology to automatically analyse a student’s data, and personally tailor their learning to them.

With a focus on improving academic outcomes, AI in China is creating a new landscape where students’ learning experiences are enhanced and monitored in unprecedented ways.

How is China implementing AI in its classrooms?

Incorporating AI into educational settings has yielded some really impressive results for the country. Proof can be seen in schools like Jinhua Xiaoshun Primary School in eastern China. These schools have effectively leveraged the potential of AI-powered cameras and software to keep a real-time watch over students’ behaviour as well as their attendance.

When the headband’s signal switches to white, it’s an indicator that a student might be offline or not fully engaged, while a switch to red indicates a high level of focus and intense engagement. A blue light means a student’s distracted but not completely offline just yet. This kind of technology equips teachers with the ability to closely monitor students, ensuring active involvement.

That’s not the only piece of AI-powered tech present in Chinese classrooms. Jennifer Zeng, a journalist known for sharing uncensored information from within the country, posted footage of an AI camera system present in a classroom, which could detect even the slightest movements, assigning labels such as “raising head, 0.89,” and “lowering head, 0.88” to students being monitored.

The risks and benefits of implementing AI in classrooms

The extent of surveillance and control introduced by China thanks to the help of AI technology is a genuinely daunting experience for the next generation of students. What’s even more overwhelming is that parents can be notified on the spot, through real-time app notifications. It also raises questions about how unfairly neurodiverse students could be treated because of it.

Despite how worrying China’s AI headbands are, we’ve seen a rise in AI systems like chatbot assistants become more and more commonplace in the West too. After all, these intelligent tools offer personalised guidance to students, enhancing their learning journey better than a single teacher trying to attend to 30 pupils can.

What’s even more remarkable is the role AI plays in making education more accessible. There are learning materials that cater to students with disabilities, utilising tools like text-to-speech and language translation. This inclusion of diverse needs is truly noteworthy.

Tasks such as scheduling and enrollment are streamlined, resulting in increased efficiency for educators and institutions alike. So, while there’s a legitimate concern about the potential loss of social elements that made traditional education special, the positive aspects that AI brings, especially in terms of accessibility and efficiency, are undeniably significant.

Balancing progress with privacy concerns

While the convergence of AI into fields like education and medicine undoubtedly presents a world of opportunities, it casts a shadow of concern over the realms of privacy invasion and data security. In the pursuit of refining educational experiences and healthcare services, the gathering and application of intricate data, including facial recognition details and personal health records, could potentially lay individuals bare to a realm of unforeseen vulnerabilities.

The allure of AI lies in its capacity to enhance personalised learning and improve medical diagnostics. Yet, the process demands a meticulous examination of how we use the invaluable information harvested from these digital interactions.

Navigating the future with caution

The journey towards harnessing AI’s benefits requires a cautious approach that prioritises privacy protection and ethical considerations. Striking the right balance between innovation and safeguarding personal information is essential for shaping a future where the benefits of AI are harnessed responsibly and equitably.

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