the neuronal activity of your audience

Imagine a classroom where students are hooked up to a system tracking their neuronal activity. This system is able to accurately detect the specific moments when a student looses the connection to what the lecturer is teaching – in a sense of no longer being able to follow because of a lack of understanding, mental overload or any other reason. These moments of disconnection are visible either only for the lecturer or also for all on a dashboard. However, strictly anonymized. It should not be possible to know or even to guess who or which group of people just lost connection. I have no idea if this would technically and especially algorithmically be possible (yet). So as a “backup-scenario” let’s think of a more active setup where students have to press some sort of tiny hidden button to anonymously signalize when they don’t get something.
The point is to have a mechanism where moments of disconnections can surface without any social patterns (too shy and showing off would be too extremes of such patterns) overlaying.
I would imagine this could be extremely annoying for a lecturer because all the time people drop off (and might or might not get back on track without asking questions). But as challenging it might be, the task would be to stop immediately and explain again, explain differently, use other analogies, give examples etc. as long as it takes to keep on going forward with all green lights. Of course confident strategies on the side of the lecturer might emerge where a few red lights are accepted in the belief that they would naturally be collected back onto the boat a little later in the flow of the lecture…
A stoic continuous inquiry into the best approach to explain something would be the resulting attitude I would hope this stimulates in lecturers once they are over the part of being annoyed about constant interruption though red lights. Also I would think very careful attention will have to be given to thematic bridges, jumps or shortcuts of any sorts. It becomes obvious when things that made complete unquestioned sense in the lecturers mind don’t resonate with the students….
I don’t necessarily post this scenario as a criticism of lecturers, rather as a potential tool to help any kind of educator, communicator, or indeed anyone who intends to explain something to someone else, to become more sensitive to the neuronal activity within their audience :)


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Benjamin Aaron Degenhart

Currently pursuing a Masters in Computational Science and Engineering at TU Munich.

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