The following is a summary or highlights of a workshop I participated in. It is based on notes taken during the workshop, so any errors will be on my part.
There are a number of technologies available for ADST learning in the classrooms.
Micro:bit and Makecode allow for science experience and robotics and can be used up to the high school level. They are powerful options as you can code and simulate experiments online. The best part is the price: less than $30.
Scratch is a powerful tool for coding. It is based on block-based coding, a great starting point for young kids, which leads into script-based coding in high school and beyond. There are numerous tutorials available and the ecosystem for Scratch is vast. The best part for a classroom is that students can share their work and other classmates can learn from and modify or "remix" their programs. Essentially, Scratch can be used in ways only limited by the understanding of the coding language and one's creativity. Cross-curricular activities include telling a story, narrating, making music, showing science and socials understanding.
Tinkercad allows for 3-D design, circuit design and coding. There is an online classroom, lesson plans and tutorials. Examples of some items include First Nations pieces, math manipulatives, geometric math shapes, gears, car wheels and PPE ear savers.
Source: Eric Bankes, Sept. 1, 2020, Summer Institute workshop
Language-processing problems constitute the largest proportion of learning disabilities. These include hearing sounds and words, understanding meaning, remembering verbal content, and communicating clearly.
The following are just a few examples:
Speech and Language Comprehension
Students tend to process information more slowly than usual. Sometimes teachers move on when they feel a response is not forthcoming. Often these students may be considered unmotivated or lazy. Also, language-processing disabilities affect their thinking. Language (words) are necessary to name people, places and things. Social development is influenced with this disability as they struggle with speaking, so they become fearful, shy and withdrawn; some deal in the opposite manner and become bullies. Others prefer to spend time with younger kids, using simpler language.
Word usage and comprehension is found in the left cerebral cortex. Inefficient neural "networking" can also result in processing issues. Some areas are underworked while others are handling too much. There also appears to be a genetic or heredity link with family members, as well.
The best way to intervene is with early recognition and appropriate and intense instruction. Special education is essential. They can use audio materials or simplified texts to handle the information overload. Extra time is often needed for tests and assignments. Test questions may need to be read to them. Teachers may need to speak slower and with simpler one-step instructions. Technology can assist in many ways with reading texts aloud, dictation, voice-to-text recognition, along with spelling and grammar checking.
Despite reading, writing or verbal problems, students with this language-processing disability can end up achieving amazing things, especially in professions that do not rely on advanced language skills: medical technology, architecture, finance, photography, engineering, mechanics, TV production, fine arts and computer programming, to name a few. The key thing is to maintain understanding and encouragement in order to maintain their self-confidence and enthusiasm for learning.
Source: Learning Disabilities: A to Z; Corinne Smith and Lisa Strick, 2010
Joel Hellermark, 21, the founder of Swedish edtech startup Sana Labs believes so. And he’s not the only one: Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, apparently are intrigued with Hellermark. There are three good reasons why: the education industry is worth $6 trillion worldwide; only 2% of education is digital; and AI learning in education is in its infancy.
Instead of the traditional rules-based AI, Sana Labs is using deep neural networks, a strand of machine learning. Continuously analyzing historical data, it is a more efficient and effective form of AI. Recently it won Duolingo’s Global AI competition in language learning. Now Hellermark believes his company is ready to use its AI-learning platform for all types of learning, not just language, and believes students will finish their studies in half the time, or be 25 to 30 percent more engaged.
Whether or not Sana Labs will be an AI leader in education remains to be seen, but AI in education will definitely continue to grow at an accelerated rate in upcoming years.
Source: Tom Turula, Business Insider Australia
Most movers and shakers, visionaries and thinkers in the technological field--past and present--generally hold an overall positive standing in people’s eyes. Think Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg, Musk, Brin and Page, Bezos, to name a few. Sure, they have all had moments in their lives where people have given pause or raised an eyebrow or even outright questioned their actions. But for the average person, I am quite certain that most of them would gladly switch places with these renowned individuals in a heartbeat.
Evgeny Morozov is not of those people. In fact, he is quite the opposite--a contrarian, with strong opinions, analytical skills, and solid, well-developed arguments filling up his dense book. As an educator and writer, I feel it is critical to keep an open mind to all sides of an issue, especially one that has so much current and future impact on our global society.
It is interesting that he describes himself as a “digital heretic,” a solitary, whispering voice in the desert, trying valiantly to spread his message over the sounds and shouts of this juggernaut that never sleeps.
Morozov’s premise: “Silicon Valley’s quest to fit us all into a digital straightjacket by promoting efficiency, transparency, certitude , and perfection.” He goes on to say that their evil twins--friction, opacity, ambiguity, and imperfection--may not so “evil” and should deserve a place in our society. Humans, after all, are imperfect.
Source: To Save Everything click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism by Evgeny Morozov, 2013
Richard Watson works at Imperial College London. His main thesis in the chapter Education and Knowledge is that technology and education don’t play well together. I will highlight some of the research and evidence he uses to support his thesis.
According to a 2015 OECD study of students in 70 countries, the high-achieving schools use less technology, and those who do receive lower results.
He feels the recent focus on STEM only creates employees with a narrow interest that meets the goal-driven, economy-serving nature of education.
Former CEO of Lockheed Martin, Norman Augustine, said his most successful employees were those who could read and write clearly, and think broadly. Watson worries that devices keep young minds from being reflective and thinking deeply.
A study by the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the University of Waterloo says a smarter curriculum would eliminate grades and exams and move towards portfolios of projects.
Patricia Greenfield, a psychology professor at UCLA, led a study of pre-teens (10-12 years old) who spent five days at a nature camp with no screens compared to a control group who had the usual amount of available technology. She found those at camp were much more adept at understanding others’ emotions and reading nonverbal cues.
Slow education stresses more inquiry-led and reflective learning. It involves more calm, attentive ways of thinking, along with deep reading and listening. Time is an important element, as kids learn at different rates and adults continue to participate in lifelong learning. Slow education is about interest and understanding, not memorization and facts. It is primarily people-centric and relationship-centered.
Sleep is critical for young minds and bodies. With TVs and computers and devices in the bedroom, screen time can barely be monitored, especially for teenagers. A study in Norway found using cell phones before bed doubles the change for teens to have a bad night’s sleep. Many teens sleep only five hours, checking their social media at all hours of the night. Some high schools are experimenting with later start times with improved results.
Ultimately, Watson feels that ideal students need the following qualities and values (not technology-based): resilience, empathy, compassion, honesty, humility, hard work, understanding, synthesizing and communication.
Source: Richard Watson, Digital vs Human, 2016
Futurist Ray Kurzweil feels that technology is always a double-edged sword; a fire warms us, but it can also burn down the house. He thinks that the most powerful ones--biotech, nanotech, and AI--are potentially extinction-level risks. (Tesla's Elon Musk agrees with that AI could lead to disastrous results.) Nonetheless, Kurzweil feels technology has done more good than harm overall. Besides, it's probably impossible to put the genie back in the bottle anyways.
In terms of job loss to technology and AI, Kurzweil responds by saying that all jobs have been eliminated several times in human history. In 1900, 38% of people worked on farms and 25% in factories. By 2015, only 2% work on farms and 9% in factories. So there has always been widespread job loss, but new job creation has offset all of those losses. The only uncertainty is what many of these "future" jobs will look like.
Source: Fortune, October 1, 2017, Michal Lev-Ram
According to Frey and Osborne, in 10 to 20 years, the landscape of jobs will change dramatically.
Jobs with 90% or more of being replaced by automation/computers in the near future include telemarketers (#1), library technicians, most clerks, loan officers, models, restaurant cooks, animal breeders, nuclear power reactor operators, manicurists, couriers/messengers, accountants, retail salespeople, tour guides, many technicians, among others.
The top 10 jobs least likely to be replaced by technology/computers are the following:
1. Recreational therapists
2. First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers
3. Emergency management directors
4. Mental health and substance abuse social workers
6. Occupational therapists
7. Orthotists and prosthetists
8. Healthcare social workers
9. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons
10. First-line supervisors of fire fighting and prevention workers
Fortunately, for elementary school teachers, we're ranked #20 with less than a 1% chance of being replaced by a robot in the next 20 years.
An important thought we need to consider as teachers is this: Are we supporting our students to be able to reach their full potential and wholly participate in our future society, with the requisite skills and knowledge?
Source: Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Volume 114, January 2017, Pages 254-280; Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne
The July 22 issue of the Economist covered the wide-ranging and fascinating issue of edtech and machine learning. This revolution is spurred on by advances in artificial intelligence (AI), as well as cognitive science. I will attempt to summarize and highlight the salient points.
What’s interesting is that “adaptive learning” software has been around since the 1970s, but it hasn’t come to a level of usefulness until now with the advancements in computing power. Momentum has built and now there are many schools, software, systems and people all over the world trying to use edtech to improve teaching, learning and schools.
Are teachers about to be replaced by edtech? At the moment, no. Teachers, students and schools are all being augmented by this new wave of technology. As well, there are limitations to edtech: improving the argument in a history essay or finding humour in drama class is still a challenge for machines. And as the 2015 study shows, teachers still play the most critical role in student learning. Having said that, as technology becomes more pervasive, cheaper and especially intelligent (AI), it is probably only a matter of time until teachers may need to consider a career change or early retirement.
Nicolas Carr wrote a fabulous essay in the Atlantic in 2008, which is still, or even more, relevant today. It was entitled, "Is Google Making us Stupid?" Having access to the "world's information at your fingertips" at first glance seems like a great idea--the more you know and all that good stuff.
However, media theorist Marshall McLuhan noted in the 1960s that the "medium is the message." The internet is beginning to change how we think, simply because of its addictive, hyperlink structure. Although it may be a boon for a writer or researcher--being able to find resources, quotes, facts in seconds--as a reader, it sends people on wild (but often fun) goose chases all over a virtual landscape.
Scholars at University College London conducted a five-year research program and found that people using the British Library and a U.K. educational consortium of journals, ebooks and other resources, found most people only read a page or two before jumping to another resource. They were skimming or "power browsing," seemingly trying to find quick answers to their questions.
Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University, described our internet reading
style as efficient and immediate; people are now "mere decoders of information." Deep reading that creates rich mental connections are nowhere to be found.
What's powerful about the medium of the internet, a computer system, is its all-consuming nature. It has swallowed up all the old technologies and reshaped and reformed them in its unique image: it is now a map, clock, printing press, typewriter, calculator, phone, radio and TV, according to Carr.
Interestingly enough, even Socrates (in Plato's Phaedrus) bemoaned the development of writing. He worried that the information that previously was stored in their heads would now remain only in written form. People would "cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful." Although some of his fears were founded, other wonderful benefits, such as expanding human knowledge and spreading ideas, made up for that loss. Similarly, the Gutenberg printing press in the 15th century brought along similar concerns: books would lead to intellectual laziness and weaken their minds, as well as "undermine religious authority, demean the work of scholars and scribes, and spread sedition and debauchery." Of course, much of that did come to pass, but as did a myriad of benefits to society.
So in the end, are fears concerning the internet as unfounded as writing or the printing press? Perhaps. But Carr warns us, using Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, by saying that as we rely more on computers to understand the world, the more our intelligence becomes more robotic and artificial. Our humanity may be at stake the more we strive to achieve this superior or artificial intelligence. And wouldn't you know it, Larry Page told scientists at a convention that Google is "really trying to build artificial intelligence and to do it on a large scale."
Source: Utopia is Creepy and other Provocations, Nicolas Carr, 2016
Scott Gilmore wrote an interesting article on manufacturing. The good news is manufacturing jobs are returning to North America. The bad news is that the work is being done by robots.
As we continue to make machines smarter with machine learning and artificial intelligence, they're able to do the jobs that at one point we thought could not be doable. But then again, we live the era of computers that have beaten the world chess champion, Jeopardy champion, and the Go champion.
Autonomous transport trucks are hitting the highways shortly, which could replace over a quarter of a million drivers in Canada (the 2nd most common job for men) and about 9 million jobs in the US.
Henry Siu, professor at UBC specializing in automation has an interesting solution to these future losses, which I found fascinating as a teacher. He suggested avoiding STEM-related disciplines. In other words, these graduates are only contributing and speeding up the process of their own future demise. Instead, a more open-ended arts degree might be the way to go. Students need to be able to think laterally, creatively, and outside the box. That is the kind of thinking that computers will not be able to do for quite some time.
Source: Macleans, February 2017
Daniel H. Lee
This blog will be dedicated to sharing in three areas: happenings in my classroom and school; analysis and distillation of other educators' wealth of knowledge in various texts; insights from other disciplines and areas of expertise that relate and connect with educational practices.