Posted by: crudbasher | February 16, 2011

Computer Wins Jeopardy; Teachers Should Take Note

On several occasions I have speculated whether a computer can replace a teacher. Right now the answer is no. I believe in the future the answer will be yes in many cases. In fact I think students will prefer their own personalized computer tutor to a human teacher who doesn’t really know them.

Those days are a big step closer now.

A few days ago a computer named Watson beat two former Jeopardy champions at their own game. It was able in real time to listen to the question, and then quickly furnish the correct answer. It did not know the questions ahead of time and had to make connections like a human player would. This is a big step forward towards artificial intelligence.

So is this ready for the classroom? Not yet, but it’s not too far away. The big problem search services like Google is they give you a huge amount of results. Part of the trick on searching is knowing what to ask for. It doesn’t really work well to ask questions in plain English. Imagine though a system like Watson where you can ask questions by voice and it can reply to you.

How much of a teachers job is spent doing exactly that? What if each student had their own smartphone where they can ask questions anytime? Imagine this kind of technology for a 2 year old. Adults can get frustrated when kids ask too many questions, especially when they don’t know the answers. This system won’t get tired and almost always knows the answers. How will that shape a child’s development?

I’m not saying this can replace a teacher. It can though supplement what a teacher does and eventually replace that part of the teachers job. I believe a technology like this is an essential part of a personalized learning system which I think is necessary and inevitable to bring out the best in each student.

I predict the first version of this on smartphones within two years. Welcome to your AI Agent.

(cc) PhotzOnline

Any thoughts or comments?

(There is a video about Watson in the link below)

  • Computer wins Jeopardy

    tags: technology futurist watson

    • A computer system called “Watson” just beat the two human champions of Jeopardy at their own game.
    • Is it silly to ask if Watson’s Jeopardy win is The Singularity? Maybe.
    • But the answer may depend on how you define the Technological Singularity. A simple definition of Singularity is “that point at which greater-than-human intelligence arises.”
    • But don’t worry. That thing is just an automaton. Roger Ebert asks: “Does Watson feel happy when it wins? Does it even know it has won? How stupid is that?”
    • @stephentgo: Repercussions of IBM’s Watson unknown, but any job that involves answering questions by phone will soon be at risk.
    • It won’t matter that the computers that replace the knowlege workers can’t be happy when they land jobs (or feel bad for the humans that lost them). They’ll get the jobs anyway.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by jmlpetersen, Andrew Barras. Andrew Barras said: New Post: Computer Wins Jeopardy; Teachers Should Take Note #edchat #edtech […]

  2. Okay, sure Watson can spit out answers. But that is not the role of the teacher. If that is what a teacher is doing, sure bring in Watson.

    Can Watson help a student make a connection between the bombing of Pearl Harbor and who are allies in the war? Can Watson work with a student to create a video documentary of a field trip?

    Learning is doing and Watson isn’t doing, he’s spitting out facts.

    • Hey Ben thanks for commenting!

      I agree with everything you said and want to add a bit. During this process of creating a documentary of a field trip or learning about Pearl Harbor there will be questions the student will come up with. Can’t Watson help answer those? Especially if each student is working independently, don’t you think it would be better than the students waiting for the teacher to come around? As I pointed out in my post, I don’t think this can replace a teacher but it can assist.

      Does that make sense?

  3. It will certainly change the role that teachers play! It will definitely mean that those teachers who work soley from the scripted curriculum will be replaced.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: