Posted by: crudbasher | July 1, 2014

More Automated Content Creation

According to Wikipedia, of the 7.1 billion people on Earth, approximately 26%, or 1.82 billion of them are under the age of 15. Assuming a student teacher ratio of 30:1 (which is too high), we would need 60 million teachers to educate them all.

Obviously that is not very practical. So how do you do it?

The only way I can see to do it is to have automated content creation tools. You give a piece of software information about a topic and it can generate multiple lessons. Ideally, it could generate a lesson that is geared towards each individual student based on a profile that is built as they learn.

I have therefore been watching for automated content creation stories. Here is a recent one.

H/T benzinga

A vast amount of reporters’ time and resources is spent on producing approximately 300 earnings reports each quarter, AP Managing Editor Lou Ferrera said in a company blog post. Automated technology, on the other hand, could produce 4,400 short earnings stories (150-300 words) in the same time period.

[...]

Automated Insights Vice President of Sales & Marketing Adam Smith told Benzinga that the algorithm takes data sets and mines it for patterns, trends and correlations. It also looks at the user and the user’s history.

The algorithm then pulls those insights out and organizes them based on what’s most important for the user.

“What makes Automated Insights different from other code-deciphering services is that it has the ability to tell a story like a human, using narrative prose,” Smith said.

Quite impressive and only the beginning. The education market is much too large for these sorts of technologies to not be tried there too.

Posted by: crudbasher | June 27, 2014

An Internet Connected… Toilet?

Yesterday I wrote about how there will be 2.4 billion devices on the net in the next few years. I have also said that the Internet will benefit creative people the most.

Here’s an extreme example.

H/T Instructables

It’s a toilet that sends events to the Internet. Think about that. You can wire a toilet to send events to the Internet. Now what this tells us is it is so cheap and easy to do this that somebody did.

What will students do outside of class in the future? Is it possible that we are entering an age where we undo mass production? Nobody knows.

Still, this is awesome!!

Posted by: crudbasher | June 26, 2014

2.4 Billion Connected Gadgets By 2018

I haven’t written anything about the recent Google and Apple tech shows where they unveil new things. Mainly this is because nothing really revolutionary happened. Apple is continuing to tweak their software and added support for health tracking devices. Bah, that’s borning.

Google announced a bunch of tweaks to it’s software, and some wearable device support. Gosh I feel like I’m repeating myself. I did however find a nugget of useful news in the Google stuff. They are making a stripped down Android phone called Android One that will be a basic low cost smartphone. I heard it will be sold for less than $100 and won’t be offered in the US yet, just in India.

These low cost devices will still be much more powerful than the original iPhone. This sort of technology will transform the world, especially the developing world. That will lead to this forecast that 2.4 billion devices will be only by 2018.

 

H/T Campus Technology

Smart connected devices are growing at an unprecedented rate and are expected to hit 2.4 billion units per year by 2018. According to new research, that growth will be driven by smart phones and cheaper (sub-$500) gadgets, which will begin to push traditional PCs into the margins.

It’s a race to the bottom driven by Google. They make their money based on how many people are using Google search, not how many phones they sell. In my opinion that gives them an advantage over Apple.

The implications for education are profound. Imagine a billion people in the developing world looking for learning online! Some company is going to create an online learning platform that will teach them all, and that will transform the educational landscape. Keep in mind, Facebook has 600 million users and only about 2000+ employees…

Posted by: crudbasher | June 25, 2014

Video Of Don Tapscott – What Is The Net Generation Like?

There are some people who I pay attention to but don’t usually agree with. Don Tapscott is one of them. He is a big name in education but while I find his research interesting, I don’t think he is a radical enough thinker. Even so, I still watch what he says.

I came across this video from his website where he talks about the Net Generation. This is the generation now hitting college. This is the first generation to grow up with the Internet.

Here’s the video.

I want to draw your attention to two sections in particular.

First is from time 6:38 where he talks about brain development. I am encouraged to see this work. My son is in the 0-3 year old range (16 mo) and I can attest to how fast he is learning things. The other day he took my iPad, unlocked the home screen (I don’t have a combination on it), flipped through the pages of apps and launched Netflix by carefully pressing the icon. (the red icon is where he can see Curious George). Now I have taught him NONE of that. He just watched me a little and then has been experimenting himself. It is completely remarkable how fluid and adaptive his brain is at this age.

The other section I liked starts at 10:25 where he talks about how his son read one of his books and started a Facebook page for it. This tells me several things about Internet technology.

  1. Internet technology is not limited by age.
  2. The cost of entry is essentially zero so anyone can use it.
  3. The power of the Internet is to allow aggregation and organization of resource by idea not by location. He talks about this and calls it self-organization. (time 11:50)
  4. The risk of creation is also essentially zero so many people try it.
  5. There can be rewards for doing this but they are actually pretty rare.
  6. If the material reward is low, then people are creating online for different reasons.

It’s a good video and worth watching. Like I said, I don’t agree with him on everything but he’s a valuable resource for education thinking.

Posted by: crudbasher | June 23, 2014

Kerbal Space Program Is Like Minecraft In Space

I used to play video games quite a bit. Heck, I taught a class on how to make them for 10 years. Playing video games was research. :) Still, once I got married I played a lot less. Once we had our first child last year, I pretty much stopped playing completely.

This past month though I have found a new game. It’s called Kerbal Space Program by an indy game company called Squad. It’s a strange game. You don’t really have missions or a particular purpose. Instead, you get to control a race of cute green aliens called Kerbals. They have a spaceport and a collection of rocket parts. You then build rockets and send them to explore the solar system. You can also build space probes, and even aircraft.

Beneath the hood though, you will find out there is a strong physics engine. To navigate to other planets you need to understand a bit about orbital mechanics. In fact, it’s a bit of a steep learning curve. I’ve been playing for a month and while I can do navigation, I’m still not perfect at it. You have to manage your resources carefully. Fuel is a precious commodity. As you build your craft, you have to balance weight and thrust in order to be able to perform your mission. I think a game like this could be useful for teaching a number of concepts to students in a fun way! The company has even created something called KerbalEdu where schools can get discounts to let students experiment with physics in the game.

There is a large and active community of players out there who post tutorials on how to do things. There are also a large number of mods you can install to either make it easier, or to increase the challenge.

Now I am a space fan and have been for my whole life, but this game can be a lot of fun for anyone who likes problem solving. It’s not easy, but when you successfully touch down on another planet it is a very satisfying feeling. :)

 

Posted by: crudbasher | June 20, 2014

NanoDegrees – The Next Step In Learning?

I wrote a post a few years ago about The Most Dangerous Man In Higher Education. In it I talked about how Sebastian Thrun is creating a software system to enable the whole world to learn higher education concepts at low or no cost. He was one of the pioneers of the MOOC concept at Sanford. He is  not in it for the money, he’s in it to solve a problem. This makes him very dangerous to the traditional university model.

His company Udacity did not disrupt higher education yet but their latest idea may help do that.

From the Udacity blog:

[W]e are launching nanodegrees: compact, flexible, and job-focused credentials that are stackable throughout your career. And the nanodegree program is designed for efficiency: select hands-on courses by industry, a capstone project, and career guidance. Efficient enough that you can get a nanodegree as you need it and earn new ones throughout your career, even if you need to switch paths since a career isn’t always a straight line.

This is a model that is life long, focuses on skills, not basic knowledge and is do it as you need it. All of these are characteristics of what I think learning will be like in the future. This splitting up of the degree into pieces follows my Disaggregation model exactly. Learning is not tied to a building or a place. People who leave that behind will find their options opened up a great deal.

This last part of the blog post really caught my attention.

We know we still have a long road ahead, but today is the first step on a new path for education by industry. This will be a way for companies and students to stand out in their field and embrace modern vocational and lifelong learning. Nanodegrees have industry backing, valid credentials, compelling courses, and relevant career guidance. Most importantly, we’re dedicated to making them work for every single student. 

This is education by the people who will be hiring students in the future. It will be very relevant and carry with it the weight of industry experience. Will it have more weight than a class taught by a professor who is 20 years removed from their industry? Perhaps. If this model works, I see it being copied and moved into other fields too. If it doesn’t work then at least it’s another iteration along the path towards something that does.

Awesome!

Posted by: crudbasher | June 19, 2014

Lego Fusion – Blurring The Line Between Real And Virtual

This is amazingly creative.

You can build a lego building on a special flat brick, then use a smart device to take a picture of it. It then converts the construction into a virtual representation which you can then use in a virtual world.

H/T Engadget

Each Lego Fusion set consists of 200 bricks along with a special “capture” brick building plate that’s meant to be paired with a corresponding app. To play the Town Master game, for example, you would build a two-dimensional facade on the base plate, say the front of a house with a door, two windows and a roof (buildings can be up to 16 bricks high and 16 bricks wide). You’d then launch the app’s camera function to focus on the printed pattern, which is used as an identification tag. This essentially lets the app figure out exactly the size and colors of the Lego bricks you’ve built on the plate, enabling it to import and translate that physical creation into the digital realm. The app is then intelligent enough to transform the two-dimensional front of a house into a three-dimensional virtual building to be placed in the game. 

Just wow. I have to say, Lego has just really stepped up it’s game in the last 10 years.  They could have just kept making brick sets but they into everything. I did see the Lego movie and really liked it. They have MindStorm robotic sets, and now this new tech. I can only see what they will be making in 5 years time!

The next step to this is to use bricks to build an object but have that object show up as something else, then pop it into a game. Instead of looking like a Lego house then why not have it look like a real building?

Just awesome!

Posted by: crudbasher | June 19, 2014

Websites Blocked In High School…

This is a very small sample size so I’m not sure how much weight to give to it. We all know that schools are blocking many websites from their students. The administration says this is to protect students from harmful websites. Ok I can see that point of view. Trouble is, who determines what is harmful?

H/T IJReview.com

Andrew Lampart, a senior at Nonnewaug High School in Connecticut, made an unsettling discovery while doing research for a class debate on gun control.

When he couldn’t access the NRA’s homepage, he decided to check what other sites the school had blocked. Lampart said, “I went over on sites such as Moms Demand Action or Newtown Action Alliance and I could get on these Web sites but not the others.”

Here’s a list of sites that were blocked.

Protect Marriage
Debate.org
Second Amendment Foundation
Paul Ryan for Congress
Right Wing News
Family Institute of Connecticut Action
Red State
Teaparty.org
National Right To Life Foundation
Vatican.va

These sites were accessible.

Newtown Action Alliance
Moms Demand Action
LGBTQnation.com
Pro Choice America
American Progress
World Socialist Website
HillaryClintonOffice.com
Dan Malloy 2014
National Grassroots Coalition
BanHandgunsNow.org

There is a clear political bias demonstrated here. In my opinion this goes way over the line and is straight up political censorship.

This is why I laugh when “educators” say they are trying to create students with critical thinking skills. How can you do any critical thinking when you are only exposed to one point of view?

Posted by: crudbasher | June 17, 2014

Some Thoughts On Amazon.com’s Impending Phone

Apparently Amazon.com is going to launch their own smartphone.

H/T theverge

There’s been speculation that Amazon could be interested in a new shopping interface with the phone’s 3D effects — and the New York Times today speculated that Amazon feels it needs something like a phone to bolster its shopping experience. The device could aim “to close any remaining gap between the impulse to buy and the completed act,” notes the Times.

It seems Amazon.com has put a 3d interface in the device. That’s interesting but I have yet to see a compelling reason to have 3d in an interface. 3d tvs still aren’t selling well nor do I expect them to until you can watch them without glasses.

Two more thoughts about this. First, Amazon.com has gotten into hardware in a big way the last few years. They aren’t the only ones either. It used to be hardware companies made hardware but that has changed that a bit. It is easier to develop and sell these devices than it used to be. That’s how the Internet empowers the creative. I would imaging within the next few years we will be seeing individuals designing and creating their own devices. Actually you can couple that idea with Kickstarter for financing and you will see people are already doing it. (see Oculus Rift)

The other thought is Amazon is doing this because they want to make sure they control the platform people use to access their site. If people use an iPhone for example, they are at the mercy of whatever Apple decides to do to them. This way, a user will always be directed to Amazon.com first. The downside is, it creates even more walled gardens on the Internet. Still, that is a form of Disaggregation too so it fits my model of the Internet effect.

I wonder if we will see a learning company like Pearson create their own device? Oh, wait, that already happened.

 

Posted by: crudbasher | June 13, 2014

Tuition Prices Are About To Spike

Why do politicians think that they can make policy that somehow overrides economics?

With an executive order, the Obama administration just created a new policy that says that student loan payments are going to be capped to 10% of a person’s income. Now I do sympathize with graduates who can’t find a good enough job to pay back their loans. Money problems are horrible problems to have. You can make an argument that students took on this debt willingly so should have to live up to their obligations. Actually that isn’t just an argument, it’s legally true. Our society seems to be moving away from the rule of law though so this latest act doesn’t surprise me.

Ok so let’s forecast what happens next.

  1. Once you cap the payments required to 10% of your salary, the actual amount borrowed doesn’t matter anymore. If I am making $3,000 a month, my payments would be $300, regardless if I borrowed $10,000 or $100,000. You can bet that colleges are going to start marketing on that immediately.
  2. Because the total amount borrowed no longer matters, tuition costs will go up rapidly as many colleges are struggling to make budgets work with lower enrollments. They will also roll more of their fees into their tuition rates. They will say they are slashing fees or some kind of b.s. phrase.
  3. Because the Federal Government is the one providing the money (via taxation), they have no incentive to make sure this makes economic sense. We are already borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend. The idea of balanced budgets went out the window in the 1970s.
  4. The irony is these same students are the ones who will inherit a country that is the brokest in the history of the world. 17+ trillion in debt so far and adding to it over a trillion a year. (and this is at record low interest rates on that debt).
  5. This will lead to a situation where people can keep going to school and never actually pay for any but a tiny fraction of their total costs.

There is no such thing are a free lunch. There is no such thing as a free education. Government has no money, it all comes from the citizens. Eventually you run out of other people’s money.

Unfortunately, our country tends not to look very far into the future. Well I am. I’m not starting a college fund for my son because I can’t possibly save enough money to make even a dent in the cost of college in 18 years time. Instead I’m going to spend that money now on experiences for him as he grows up. I predict though that alternatives will emerge to traditional college.

Economics dictates that too.

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