Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

A week of student electrodermal activity

Obviously, this is just one student and doesn't necessarily generalize, but I love that the electrodermal activity is nearly flatlined during classes. ;-) (Note that the activity is higher during sleep than during class...)

"Changes in skin conductance at the surface, referred to as electrodermal activity (EDA), reflect activity within the sympathetic axis of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and provide a sensitive and convenient measure of assessing alterations in sympathetic arousal associated with emotion, cognition, and attention."


Poh, M.Z., Swenson, N.C., Picard, R.W., "A Wearable Sensor for Unobtrusive, Long-term Assessment of Electrodermal Activity," IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, vol.57, no.5, pp.1243-1252, May 2010. doi: 10.1109/TBME.2009.2038487 PDF


I'm off to read the article, but the question is what kind of class and what was the curriculum? Lectures or labs.

For over 100 years psychologists have tried to understand the human mind. One part of that has been understanding how we (and some of the other animals that evolved on this planet) learn. In that process we have learned a great deal about how people learn, and since the 1920, the vast majority of our worlds educational institutions have utterly ignored that information and gone plodding along like a surgeon refusing to admit that "germ theory" has any merit.

Once developmental psychology stopped being driven by social prejudice and religious dogma, we made massive leaps in our understanding of how people learn. Medical imaging is helping this along. We know (for instance) that :

* our kids are all sleep short and it is harming their health in the long term.
* cramming the night before an exam does not work well.

and the big one...the least effective method of education is the lecture.

Yup..during all of the time that various learning/teaching methods have been compared for effectiveness, the result of the research again and again has been to show that the standard method of teaching (ie *the lecture* - with a teacher up front, and everyone else silent and taking notes) is the WORST way to get the extreme majority of people to learn. So the lecture is the least effective method of education; aside from just sleeping with the book under your head which is NOT a method. Yet in a demonstration of the definition of insantythat says that insanity is trying the same thing again and again and expecting a differetn result...we still use the lecture. I suppose we could try something equally as irrational as the (constantly failed) lecture system. Perhaps the flat worm method coud be attempted, but the faculty would not like the idea and it would be quite hard for professors to ever get tenure if we ground them up and ate them.

Despite all this proof that the lecture method sucks, it is still what is done every day in nearly every school (K-12 to University). Perhaps we need to impart this information to our educators in a manner that is NOT IN A LECTURE so that they will manage to LEARN it, instead of having less brain activity during the presentation than they have while sleeping.

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Obviously, this is just one student and doesn't necessarily generalize, but I love that the electrodermal activity is nearly flatlined during classes. ;-) (N...
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