Mindflash Makes Sure You Pay Attention With New "Look-Away” Feature

Palo Alto Company Takes Technology Down the Wrong Road

Industry News, Pedagogy and Learning Comments (2)

The modern classroom was designed in Prussia in the 1770s to immobilize learners so that they only paid attention to the teacher, who could scan the faces looking for those eyes that had wandered somewhere else. Monitorial education took educational surveillance even further with human monitors watching every body movement.

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Now, Mindflash of Palo Alto has automated this function, with its new “Look Away” feature that stops an online presence when a person looks away from the screen.

According to the press release from Mindflash, if a trainee “get(s) distracted while training, we don’t have to worry that valuable training material is being missed.”

I think that this is an oppressive use of technology. It would only take one more step to give a person a shock or other punishment it orders to get their eyes back in line. This is technology going down the wrong road.

Judy Katz Unrein immediately wrote a scathing review of this technology on her blog, which is well worth reading, along with many negative comments by a number of learning industry professionals that reinforce her points. Here is a quote:

Since when does staring at a screen increase effectiveness of the training experience and understanding of the content — both claims that are made in this press release? C’mon, folks. We know better than that. We know that measuring the time people spend in training is about as meaningful as weighing them, and this is just a high-tech way to make sure they’re “in training” every second that they’re supposed to be.

What do you think of this technology? Tell us whose side you’re on by leaving a comment.


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Gary Woodill is a senior analyst with Float, as well as CEO of i5 Research. Gary conducts research and market analyses, as well as assessments and forecasting for emerging technologies. Gary is the co-editor of "Mastering Mobile Learning," author of “The Mobile Learning Edge,” and the co-author of “Training and Collaboration with Virtual Worlds.” He also presents at conferences and is the author of numerous articles and research reports on emerging learning technologies. Gary holds a doctor of education degree from the University of Toronto.

» Industry News, Pedagogy and Learning » Mindflash Makes Sure You Pay...
On August 27, 2013

2 Responses to Mindflash Makes Sure You Pay Attention With New "Look-Away” Feature

  1. Lee Graham says:

    Overall I like the Mindflash product, especially compared to what it used to be. IMHO this new “feature” seems to defy one of the major principles of Adult Learning Theory: Adults are internally motivated and self-directed.

    Forcing learners to pay attention is a terrible concept, and based on my experience may even lead to them resenting the tool.

    If you are having issue keeping learners’ attention the first place you should look is at your instructional design. A good instructional designer will keep learners engaged by integrating frequent activities, knowledge checks, etc…

    My $0.02

  2. Rick Blunt says:

    A bit too Orwellian for me.

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