Over in China, one school decided to measure the gestures of their students to assist their learning. Surely this system can’t be abused, right?
There’s a scene in 1984’s 1984, where our protagonist Winston Smith slacks off on his forced daily callisthenics, and is bollocked by the woman on the telescreen.
The shock forced him to touch his toes, and the rest of us to clutch at our left ventricle. However, George Orwell’s most aerobic paranoia is now a reality in mainland China, as their Ministry of Love has invented an all-seeing eye that targets students who are phoning in the curriculum.
Back in March, Hangzhou Number 11 High School installed a smart eye (or to use its full name: a smart classroom behaviour management system) The eye of snore-on uses facial recognition technology to monitor students, and by this summer, administrators plan to make it uniform in every classroom, and from that classroom, the world, pinky.
So, how does it work? Well, every thirty seconds three cameras scan each student’s face to determine their expression, with the eye qualifying gestures of surprise, sadness, antipathy, angry, happy, afraid, or nada.
The system also records each student’s actions throughout the class, noting whether they are reading, listening, writing, standing up, raising hands, or leaning on the desk.
This electronic snitch then notifies the teacher in real-time if it notices that a student appears distracted. The teacher can also view a report at the end of the class that provides an average of each student’s expressions.
But, it’s not about surveillance, it’s about an arbitrary grading system. The school’s headmaster, Ni Ziyuan, told Chinese-government-run news site Hangzhou that the goal was to help teachers improve, based on student reactions. Which is all well and good, but the students are also graded according to how well they’re perceived to be paying attention.
With the gap between an A and a B a rather heinous/toxic reality in the extremely demanding Chinese education system, it might push some closer to excellence, and others to the ledge. One student told Hangzhou that he believed the new system adds to the pressure, stating: “I don’t dare be distracted since the cameras were installed in the classrooms. It’s like a pair of mystery eyes are constantly watching me.”
Mao help you if you do what I do, and search the blank spaces above my head and over my shoulders for the answer.