Future of Learning Top Reads for week of November 27 2017

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This week's Top Reads focuses on the future of learning x AI.

As someone who taught English Literature full time for 15 years, I have tended to be skeptical that artificial intelligence could do much to improve on human instruction. Perhaps you feel the same way about the work you do, too.

These articles may prompt you to see things differently.

As we know from experience, technology advances slower than we expect before it accelerates faster than we thought possible. It may not be long before AI is part of the teacher team.


"How Artificial Intelligence is Shaping the Future of Education," by Ben Dickson / @bendee983, in PC Mag

"But AI might also become a facilitator in collaborative learning. Intelligence Unleashed, a joint research paper by UCL and Pearson, which Luckin coauthored, explains that AI can support collaborative learning by comparing student learner models and suggesting groupings in which participants are at a similar cognitive level or have complementary skills and can help each other out. AI can also take part in learner groups as a member and help sway discussions in the right direction by providing content, posing questions, and providing alternative viewpoints."

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

It's not unusual to for design workshops to be led by one primary facilitator and multiple co-facilitators. Perhaps teachers--primary facilitators of learning--should think of AI as a co-facilitator.

Those who experiment now with AI as a co-facilitator will have a competitive advantage over those who wait-and-see, and even more so over those who refuse to imagine that an AI could make them a better teacher.

Human + machine > Human vs. machine.


"Want to be a better writer? Try letting a robot tell you what to do," by Derek Newton, in Quartz

"[I]f Revision Assistant spots a section that seems as though it should include supporting examples but doesn’t have any, it highlights the area and encourages the writer to expand. 'We want to focus the writer’s attention on things but leave the creative work to them,' Mayfield says. [...] 'We’re not comparing these students to Shakespeare or trying to turn them into that,' he says. 'But we are helping amateurs learn to be experts in their craft. At this level, writing is a precision craft, not art'. "

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

Teachers struggle to return writing assignments quickly because there is no quick way to assess them with care. The challenge is complicated by the need to offer different kinds of feedback: Should the teacher comment on structure and organization? Evidence and argument? Grammar and usage?

When AI provides real-time feedback on elements of craft, the teacher is liberated to focus on more important elements of the writing. It's like a head coach having multiple assistant coaches... who never get tired and who are willing to respond even when essays are submitted at 1 am!

Human + machine > Human vs. machine.


"Artificial Intelligence Is Now Your Coworker," by Miranda Katz / @mirandakatz, in Wired

"That labor shift is unfolding across industries. The Washington Post’s in-house AI, Heliograf, published some 850 stories last year, with human reporters and editors adding analysis and colorful details. In graphic design, AI tools can now generate a first pass at designs, leaving the final execution to human designers. In film and publishing, new tools promise to weed through slush piles in search of the next great hit, freeing up editors from the never-ending submissions queue. These AI tools are like plucky young assistants on steroids: They’re highly competent and prolific, but still need a seasoned manager to do the heavy intellectual lifting. And, of course, that manager has to get on board with working alongside machines to reap the benefits."

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

If we are entering a "first pass" world--that is, a world in which AI makes the "first pass" at tasks we may review later--then teachers should see AI as part of their team.

What tasks do teachers regularly perform that AI could take a first pass at?

Human + machine > human vs. machine.


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Christian Talbot