The student engagement technology, created by Intel with Classroom Technologies’ Class software, captures images of students’ faces with their webcams and combines them with computer vision technology and contextual information to predict engagement levels through emotions.
The goal is to provide educators with emotional response data they can use to customize lessons and improve student engagement. The AI might detect that students become confused during a specific section of a lesson and send that information to teachers so they can reassess how that particular subject is being taught.
projects, Intel and its collaborators abide by strict data privacy policies and adhere to ongoing oversight.” Intel didn’t specify how it would protect the privacy of students or teachers when they’re using this particular technology, nor did it address concerns of whether facial expressions can even be accurately used to assess engagement.
Researchers have found that people express themselves in immeasurable ways. As such, critics argue that emotions can’t be determined based solely on facial expressions. Assuming that a student has tuned out of a lesson simply because they look uninterested to your algorithm’s metrics is reductive of the complexities of emotion.
“Students have different ways of presenting what’s going on inside of them,”Todd Richmond, a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School, said speaking to Protocol. “That student being distracted at that moment in time may be the appropriate and necessary state for them in that moment in their life.”
There is also some concern that analytics provided by AI could be used to penalize students. If, say, a student is deemed to be distracted, they might get poor participation scores. And teachers might feel incentivized to use the data should a school system evaluate educators by the engagement scores of their students.
Intel created the emotional analytics technology using data captured in real-life classrooms using 3D cameras, and worked with psychologists to categorize facial expressions. Some teachers have found the AI to be helpful, but Chasen says he doesn’t think Intel’s system has “reached its maturity yet” and needs more data to determine whether the results the AI spits out actually match the performance of students. Chasen says Intel’s tech will be only one piece of a larger puzzle in assessing students.
Intel and Classroom Technologies claim their technology wasn’t designed as a surveillance system or to be used as evidence to penalize students, but as we so often see in the tech industry, products are frequently used in ways not intended by their creators.
We’ve reached out to Classroom Technologies for comment and will update this story when we hear back.
These criticisms arrive at a time when schools are abandoning invasive proctoring software that exploded during the pandemic as students were forced to learn remotely. Often used to discourage cheating, these tools use webcams to monitor eye and head movements, tap microphones to listen to the room, and record every mouse click and keystroke. Students around the country have signed petitions arguing the technology is an invasion of privacy, discriminates against minorities, and punishes those with disabilities, as Motherboard reports