Local educational authorities have halted the use of electronic headbands at a primary school in Jinhua, Zhejiang province, that were said to detect students’ brainwaves to help them focus, according to Beijing News. The headbands had aroused controversy and heated discussions among netizens, parents and education professionals.
The manufacturer, Massachusetts-based BrainCo Inc, a provider of cognitive training technology products, released a statement on Thursday in response to growing concerns, stating that their headbands are aimed at helping build students’ abilities to concentrate instead of monitoring their thoughts and endeavors.
Jinhua Xiaoshun Primary School was using BrainCo headbands embedded with devices to detect brain activity in some of its classes to ensure students concentrated during classes, The Wall Street Journal reported in September.
Phone calls made to the school were not answered on Thursday.
The headbands, according to BrainCo’s website, are able to measure brain states such as depth of focus, relaxation and meditation, and are applied in the fields of education, cognitive training, fitness and wellness.
“The products were designed based on the electroencephalogram (EEG) technology with the aim of improving people’s focus and executive functioning through self-training,” Han Bicheng, founder and CEO of BrainCo and a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Center for Brain Science, said on Thursday.
“Also, they can help teachers improve their on-site classroom tactics to make their teaching more appetizing to students,” added Han. According to the product instructions, teachers and parents can be informed if students are focused on their studies through different colors shown on the headbands.
Han said their products have been sold in 15 countries including the United States, Spain, Mexico and Brazil. So far, thousands of headbands, each priced 3,499 yuan ($497) at its Taobao online shop, have been sold in China.
“I think it is good to try as it will help train and monitor the good studying habits of kids in class,” said Fu, mother of a student at the Jinhua school.
“It all depends on whether the headband can help wearers improve their study scores. Sometimes even adults fail to pull ourselves together due to the lack of good habits,” she told Shanghai-based news website ThePaper.cn.
Others, however, have different ideas concerning the use of such products in classrooms.
A professor in cognitive neuroscience, who has been studying the science of childhood development and learning for over 10 years, told that a person’s cognitive capability is determined by the activity of the whole brain. The headband, which only detects part of the brain through several electrodes, is far from enough, she said.
The professor, who preferred to be anonymous, also raised doubts about the accuracy of the data collected. “Such devices may help teachers in improving and revising their teaching methods, but may pose extra annoyances and burdens to students as individuals,” she said.
“Advanced technologies should be applied as tools to complement and improve educational qualities, instead of interfering and hampering students’ individual characters and potentials,” the professor remarked.