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Education Programming Technology

How Facial Analysis Software Could Help Struggling Students 90

Posted by samzenpus
from the turn-that-frown-upside-down dept.
moon_unit2 writes "Tech Review has a story on research showing that facial recognition software can accurately spot signs that programming students are struggling. NC State researchers tracked students learning java and used an open source facial-expression recognition engine to identify emotions such as frustration or confusion. The technique could be especially useful for Massive Open Online Courses — where many thousands of students are working remotely — but it could also help teachers identify students who need help in an ordinary classroom, experts say. That is, as long as those students don't object to being watched constantly by a camera."
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How Facial Analysis Software Could Help Struggling Students

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  • by gl4ss (559668) on Monday July 01, 2013 @02:21PM (#44156711) Homepage Journal

    beers given as treatment? or is crack more in vogue?

  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Monday July 01, 2013 @02:30PM (#44156861)

    ...to get everybody in the class to show up wearing one of these. [charlessizemore.com]

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      ...to get everybody in the class to show up wearing one of these. [charlessizemore.com]

      "excellent mr robinson, everyone in your class was extremely pleased with your teaching according to the auto-stats!"

  • by The Cat (19816) *

    A teacher could help struggling students.

    I remember when technology was fun. It's getting really sour and ominous, and I am starting to fear for future generations.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, I could kinda understand it being used in a mooc, but in a normal class? Isn't it your teachers job to spot people that need extra help? And if they can't do that, aren't they really lacking a very valuable skill and may have to rethink their career path? A big part of teaching seems to be knowing when and who needs a bit more help.

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Monday July 01, 2013 @02:36PM (#44156965) Homepage

    "NC State researchers tracked students learning java and used an open source facial-expression recognition engine to identify emotions such as frustration or confusion. "

    Unless it identified almost all of them it wasn't working ;-0

    I would be more interested in the ones who don't show that emotion, since they are the ones so lost and confused that they have abandoned all hope and given up. If you are trying to learn Java, and you aren't frustrated and confused, you're doing it wrong.

    • This is not necessarily true. Emotional states can be picked up via computer, and are correlated significantly with learning outcomes. See "Affect and learning: An exploratory look into the role of affect in learning with AutoTutor" (2004) for some more information on the subject.

  • I did a lot of that in my time. Although I can see why one would automate some parts (like getting a sample to analyze the facial from), but I really don't see any fun in letting the software do everything.
  • It's only metadata, isn't it?

  • You have Teacher and Professor ego to deal with. Will the students care, probably less so than the teachers, whose goal is to make them look like a better person than the rest of society. If you were to show that kids are struggling in their class and it isn't due to their own laziness, will make them look like a less of the perfect person. Off to complain to the union about this. Screw if kids are missing out in a good education it is always about the teachers, If they are teachers they must be trying

  • by Taibhsear (1286214) on Monday July 01, 2013 @02:45PM (#44157085)

    Nice try NSA...

    • by s.petry (762400)

      ^THIS^! Any excuse they can find to make it a "normal" will be given, no matter how many people tell them that it's dangerous. I think people are finally starting to catch on to the game, but they are slow to waken. The more people nudging them the sooner they awake.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That is, as long as those students don't object to being watched constantly by a camera.

    I don't meant to sound like a card-carrying member of the Fringe Lunatic Association, but after the multiple recent revelations that the LEO's ride around photographing cars and license plates [aclu.org], USPS photographs all mail [thesmokinggun.com], the NSA collects metadata on all phone calls [newyorker.com], the FBI and NSA together mine data from social networks [guardian.co.uk]—in short, that the US government in fact does all those things that the fringe lunatics warned about for years—it's hard to trust a university, whether state-run or private, wit

  • Were they testing the "facial expression recognizing software" by training the camera on themselves as they were developing the software?

    One of my friends did his masters thesis project in code quality metrics. As part of it he wrote some code that will find the average LOC per function, code/comment ratio etc etc and spit out a letter grade. His thesis guru was a fiend. He fed the source code of this analysis code into itself. Poor guy graded himself a C-minus or something.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Monday July 01, 2013 @02:48PM (#44157139) Homepage Journal

    Assignment 12-A is designed to require an average student approximately 20 minutes to solve.

    Student #001A solves the problem in 3.5 minutes - Too easy for his skill level

    Student #312Q solves the problem in 42.3 minutes - he is struggling and needs further assistance

    Problem solved, and you didn't have to spend a dime placing spy-cams at every workstation. You're welcome.

    • by dgatwood (11270)

      No, that's a worthless metric. People take different amounts of time for wildly varying reasons. When I was in school, it often took me a ridiculous amount of time to actually solve problems, not because I was struggling, but because the problems were so freaking boring that I would spend ten seconds working on a problem, then five minutes daydreaming, then ten more seconds working on it, then five more minutes daydreaming, etc.

      And the more bored I was, the more distracted I was. The lowest grade I ever

      • No, that's a worthless metric. People take different amounts of time for wildly varying reasons. When I was in school, it often took me a ridiculous amount of time to actually solve problems, not because I was struggling, but because the problems were so freaking boring that I would spend ten seconds working on a problem, then five minutes daydreaming, then ten more seconds working on it, then five more minutes daydreaming, etc.

        Then you would fall into the "further assistance" category.

        Unfortunately, this means that your overly simplistic time-based metric would have predicted that I needed extra tutoring, extra practice work, and needed to be placed in a remedial class

        Not necessarily; presuming ideal circumstances, it would actually mean that the teacher would need to take you aside for a few minutes to determine what further assistance you needed. If, in fact, the problem was that the class was too slow paced for you (and the teacher were competent enough to notice this; again, we're assuming an ideal system), then they would take the appropriate action.

    • If you know the student has been struggling for the last 30 minutes, do you continue on this instructional vector, or adjust course? If you adjust course, how do you do so? If you are going to adjust course, what to you base it on? That the student is taking too long? That their facial responses indicate confusion? Frustration? Anger?

      There is a field of educations and computer science research behind these decisions, which you have conveniently ignored.

      • See http://iaied.org/about/ [iaied.org], http://www.educationaldatamining.org/ [educationa...mining.org], http://its2012.teicrete.gr/ [teicrete.gr], and others for more information.

        • See http://iaied.org/about/ [iaied.org], http://www.educationaldatamining.org/ [educationa...mining.org], http://its2012.teicrete.gr/ [teicrete.gr], and others for more information.

          ...

          ^ Serves to reinforce my assumption that you make your fortune selling overpriced computerized "tutoring" crap...

          What does all that fancy tech do, that a properly trained human can't?

          • Serves to reinforce my assumption that you make your fortune selling overpriced computerized "tutoring" crap...

            First: I don't recall that you made that point.
            Disclaimer: I work with intelligent tutoring systems daily.
            Full disclaimer: I work for a non-profit.

            What does all that fancy tech do, that a properly trained human can't?

            The big thing is: be replicated.

            Human tutoring on a one-to-one basis is remarkably effective. In fact, it is approximately 1-2 letter grades better than classroom instruction (depending on the source*). There are obvious limitations on these educational gains (28 person classroom needs 28 teachers!). A good portion, if not the majority, of people are trying

      • Seems an intentional over complication of what should be a trivial matter to me; speaking of which... what do you do for a living? Sell fancy computerized "education enhancement" equipment?

        FWIW, if you need computers and software to tell you what emotion another person is expressing, you fail as a human; reading body language is a basic skill we all (should, anyway) learn as infants.

    • No, no, no!

      They have to have the cameras using facial recognition to HELP people who are confused. Even if using a timer is very straightforward - this is SO IMPORTANT that they've got to spend every effort to get the last confused person.

      Kind of like how the NSA spends billions of dollars to track everything, so we can get the last person who doesn't like America.

      And the XBox One doesn't want you to turn off the Kinect camera because otherwise Al Qaeda might get training by playing Black Ops 2.

      Just helping

  • Java is a horribly convoluted mess and completely unsuitable for learning programming of any kind. Hence every student struggles and that makes detecting it quite trivial.

  • Rather than dealing with the privacy issues and with the inevitable plethora of false positives, wouldn't it make more sense to have a button called "Raise Hand" or "Express Confusion" or "I'm lost"? In fact, very much like the buttons that already exist on distance learning interfaces?

    Is this supposed to handle the case where users are confused but can't make themselves ask for help? Or is this setting up a framework to later require that all distance learning students have a camera trained on them? I

  • The Slashdot post says "open source facial-expression recognition engine", but the article links to a commercial web site that makes no indication that their product is open-source.

  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Monday July 01, 2013 @03:34PM (#44157831) Homepage Journal

    The problem with this type of innovation is that it's a shot in the dark.

    We haven't the first clue for the most effective way to teach people. We study things in HS because the subjects are "classics", not because they are useful (Geometry versus Probability, for instance). The "walk around lecturing in front of passive students" model doesn't fit with the need to be rambunctious. The fixed, level-based scale of achievement: "all children should be at this level of achievement at this age, else they are disabled" doesn't take into account variations in maturity or birth date. (Be born a day earlier, get put into a class where you're competing with class mates a year older.)

    For reference, check out redirect [amazon.com]. The author carefully details a large number of education techniques and social services which have no scientific basis whatsoever. Predictably, when actually studied, many of these ideas do more damage than good; for instance, regarding teen pregnancy, government teaching initiatives tend to increase the teen pregnancy rate.

    There's simply no evidence that a) this system works to the degree of accuracy needed, b) doesn't have a high false-positive rate due to unforseen factors such as drapes waving in the background, c) can be used to any good effect (double-blind studies anyone?) as a teaching aid.

    Our track record for using technology to help education is not good.

    It makes for a good story, though. "We don't know the best way to teach, but here's something that should work!"

    Here's another thought problem for you. Recall the 2009 Star Trek movie which shows a young Spock standing in a pit while a computer presents audio and video lessons. (I don't think the pit model works, but a student in front of a screen seems natural enough.)

    Assume that you have control over this content, and can do double-blind studies of minor changes. Each video is a computer program, so any small piece can be redone without retaping the entire lesson. The program allows student interaction.

    What features would your ideal teaching machine have, what sorts of things would you teach, what sorts of experiments could you do to home in on the optimum teaching method?

  • Using phone apps that do much more make more sense than trying to scan a room full of faces trying to detect the difference between constipation and consternation.. Students can run an iPhone/Android app that let students answer questions from their instructors... the quiz results can be used to get immediate feedback on the learning process..
  • To quote Sugata Mitra, any teacher that can be replaced by a computer should be.
  • In a real class, spotting the struggling student is obvious. Teachers already do what the proposed system acheive

    It is interesting for a MOOC. But if MOOC teachers have to handle struggling students, I fear it will destroy MOOC viability

  • CERT looks really cool, but it doesn't appear to be open source; at least there doesn't seem to be a download link anywhere. It looks as if there's a company called "Emotient" that's commercializing the tech. It might have been open source at some point but it looks proprietary now.

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