Brain-wave sensors: The answer to student engagement?

New technology could help educators monitor student engagement in real time, allowing them to adjust their teaching accordingly

brain-student-engagementA Florida-based start-up firm called Nervanix is working on an idea that, if successful, could help educators find the “sweet spot” to effective teaching: maintaining active student engagement.

What if you could tell whether students really were engaged in a lesson or activity, rather than just pretending to be interested or going through the motions?

Furthermore, what if you had a tool that could measure a student’s brain-wave activity in order to develop a profile for the type of content that most engages that student? And what if this tool then could suggest specific content to match the student’s engagement profile?

This might sound like science fiction, but it’s entirely possible, Nervanix says—and the company is about to launch a suite of products that will put this concept to the test for education.

Nervanix was founded by Adam Hall, an entrepreneur who’s no stranger to education. A former investment banker, Hall was the co-founder and CEO of Impact Education for 10 years prior to its acquisition by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2010. Hall then ran HMH’s SkillsTutor division as its president for the next two years, before leaving to pursue his current interest.

He calls the concept behind Nervanix “attention adaptivity,” or the ability to optimize learning by monitoring students’ attention levels—and then interceding or adapting one’s methods when their engagement lags.

This is done with the help of headsets that can measure brain-wave activity.

(Next page: How the technology works)