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Part of our Blurring the boundaries (2): how technology is changing the way we learn series

Time to take a look at technologies that may still seem to be ‘science fiction’ but which are already making an impact.  

Companies are developing ever more sophisticated methods of gathering personal data.

Microsoft has applied for a patent for a system of sensors that gathers information about customers when they are in a shop, then analyses that data and generates targeted ads to those customers.  

The Times Online reported a similar technology where a surveillance mechanism tracks shoppers’ behaviour by monitoring the signals produced by their cell phones. The system has already been installed in two shopping centres in the UK with three more planning to use it. One of the malls introduced signs in German after discovering that a higher than expected percentage of its visitors were German.

Perhaps the most invasive methods for gathering personal data are the brain scanning technologies developed by NeuroFocus (http://www.neurofocus.com/) and EmSense Corporation (http://www.emsense.com/), which monitor brain activity, skin temperature and other physiological factors to assess how people react to adverts, computer games and other stimuli. Both companies are at an early stage of development.  

In Our View

At present much effort is expended in finding ways to attract disengaged young people to return to or remain in education, to increase their skills and improve their life chances.

A positive interpretation of the application of this technology could be to imagine the opportunities the brain scanning technologies could offer to develop effective messages to encourage these young people to re-engage with learning? Could it also be used to establish the best ways of learning and retaining information?

On a negative note - imagine the effect of this kind of advertising on young people generally, already subjected to a high-level of exposure to advertising. How can young people be best equipped to deal with this kind of remorseless pressure?

Also in our Blurring the boundaries (2): how technology is changing the way we learn series

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