Posted by: crudbasher | January 12, 2015

Automated Content Is The Key To Custom Education

When you really look at what the school system does, you would have to conclude that one of it’s primary purposes is to graduate students who have internalized certain pieces of information and know how to apply them to their lives. It is of course very debatable as to the level of success the system does this, but that seems to be a primary goal. This information can take many forms; books, videos, lectures, websites, etc… but all of it has to be created by a person. Because this takes a great deal of time, the material has to be written in such a way as to be usable for most students. It’s not customized in any way.

The Internet also runs on content. Rapid production of new content is the main goal of many websites, especially the ones who are trying to gain a daily audience. Technology is rapidly advancing in the area of content creation and may soon allow automatic creation of materials.

Robot Journalist Finds New Work on Wall Street

Software that was first put to work writing news reports has now found another career option: drafting reports for financial giants and U.S. intelligence agencies.

The writing software, called Quill, was developed byNarrative Science, a Chicago company set up in 2010 to commercialize technology developed at Northwestern University that turns numerical data into a written story.


Quill is programmed with rules of writing that it uses to structure sentences, paragraphs, and pages, says Kristian Hammond, a computer science professor at Northwestern University and chief scientist at Narrative Science. “We know how to introduce an idea, how not to repeat ourselves, how to get shorter,” he says.

Companies can also tune Quill’s style and use of language based on what they need it to write. It can accentuate the positive in marketing copy, or go for exhaustive detail in a regulatory filing, for example.

Quill can also take an “angle” for a piece of writing. When writing about sports for an audience likely to favor a particular team, for instance, Quill can write a story that softens the blow of a loss.


Systems like this are improving rapidly. If you noticed in that quote where they talk about being able to tune the “style” of the content, you may realize that you can use that feature to customize the content for different learning styles. So systems like this may be able to create lessons for students in real time, customized for each student and building on what a student as previously learned.

This also scales to a global size with the other article I wanted to mention.

Language Translation Tech Starts to Deliver on Its Promise

Last month, Skype, Microsoft’s video calling service, initiated simultaneous translation between English and Spanish speakers. Not to be outdone, Google will soon announce updates to its translation app for phones. Google Translate now offers written translation of 90 languages and the ability to hear spoken translations of a few popular languages. In the update, the app will automatically recognize if someone is speaking a popular language and automatically turn it into written text.

The Internet is transforming the world because it allows much more rapid communication of ideas between people. A current limiting factor is that content only works with people speaking the same language. Imagine what will happen when the whole world gets put into the same chat room. Take the amount of information available today and increase it by an order of magnitude. That is what is happening soon. The effect on education should be dramatic because you will be able to access classes and resources from anywhere in the world. The third world will be able to learn from the first world.



  1. I agree that computer technology is quickly enabling Third World citizens to learn from First World citizens. However, I think this technology may also be changing the meaning of First World, Second World, and Third World to the following:

    First World: People who are excellent computer programmers.

    Second World: People who are mediocre computer programmers.

    Third World: People who are unable to program a computer.

    • Hey Ted nice to hear from you again!

      That is an interesting concept. Does the Internet change the meaning of First World vs Third World? I don’t think it has yet but once you can put your content into any language automatically, then the Third world can provide content to the First. In fact it won’t matter where that content is coming from.

      As a computer programmer though I wouldn’t put too much weight on programming. Maybe what we can say is the difference is if you are a content producer or content consumer. What do you think about that?

      • Its good to see you are writing again! I was starting to think you might have stopped writing just before things were about to get interesting 🙂

        I agree it won’t matter where the content is coming from because the Internet significantly reduces the limitations of distance. However, I think it will matter who the content is coming from. The following quote is one of the main quotes I use as a guide when I try to predict the future of education:

        “Science is knowledge which we understand so well that we can teach it to a computer; and if we don’t fully understand something, it is an art to deal with it. Since the notion of an algorithm or a computer program provides us with an extremely useful test for the depth of our knowledge about any given subject, the process of going from an art to a science means that we learn how to automate something.” –Donald E. Knuth

        According to this idea, if a person does not understand a given subject well enough to teach it to a computer, they don’t really understand the subject. Any content related to a given subject that is generated by a person who does not understand this subject is not very valuable. I think a person who doesn’t understand a given subject should not be teaching this subject to other people. Therefore, I have concluded that people who are unable to program a computer will not be generating very much valuable content in the future.

        I think many people who agree with your ideas on the radical changes which are coming to education (and I am one of them) wonder what area of education will be disrupted first. It is usually the most vulnerable part of a system which breaks first when the system is attacked. What part of the education system is currently the most vulnerable? I think it is the area of mathematics education.

        According to Knuth’s idea, if a mathematics teacher cannot teach a computer how to perform mathematics the way a human typically does, then this teacher does not understand mathematics. If a mathematics teacher does not understand mathematics, they should not be teaching mathematics. I estimate that currently over 95% of mathematics teachers don’t know mathematics well enough to teach it to a computer.

        I think the time is right for a small group of programmers who are able to teach a computer how to perform mathematics the way humans typically do to start replacing human mathematics teachers with AI software. An organization which is similar to Khan Academy comes to mind, except the programmers who run this new organization will actually know how humans perform mathematics.

  2. Hi Ted,

    I think I know what you are talking about now. Programming is not essential to create content on a computer. Indeed you can use tools like Photoshop or iMovie and make many things. What I think you are talking about is programming a computer to teach. It is indeed very true that you have to master a subject in order to teach it to students. It seems you need an even higher level of understanding in order to teach a computer to teach the subject. The good thing about computers though is once you have that first computer math teacher, it can teach millions of students. There is quite a high rate of return so I think this will be done fairly soon. I had not heard of Knuth’s quote. It’s a good one thanks for sharing it with me!

    I’m glad you think my writing is of value. I’ll keep going as long as I keep having observations I want to share! 🙂 Have a great day and thanks for commenting!

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