Posted by: crudbasher | February 26, 2015

Technology As Lego

I used to assemble my own computers when I was in High School. Back then (late 80s) it took a lot of tinkering. For example, when you put in a hard drive, cd drive and floppy drive you had to make sure they didn’t conflict with each other by setting their IRQ address. After a few years of that though a new standard called Plug and Play  was created which allowed the devices to set their own address. Today, making a computer is much easier than it used to be.

In software the trend is the same. Developers are using a technique called Application Programming Interface, software developers can specify ways that other pieces of software can interact and exchange data. You see this all the time on the net when you have the option to login to a site using Facebook or Google logins. This also allows Apps on your smartphone.

A side effect of all these interfaces is a creative person can put them together as modular pieces of a new technological solution. I think of it as building Lego. 🙂 So here are some technological pieces I have read about lately that might be used for learning.

A big push right now in technology is direct human to computer interactions. H/T MSDN Blog

Silicon Valley-based is working to bring a human face to telemedicine. The company’s Kinect-powered “nurse avatar” provides personalized patient monitoring and follow-up care—not to mention a friendly, smiling face that converses with patients in an incredibly lifelike manner. The nurse avatar, affectionately nicknamed Molly, has access to a patient’s records and asks appropriate questions related directly to the patient’s past history or present complaints. She has a pleasant, caring demeanor that puts patients at ease. Interacting with her seems surprisingly natural, which, of course, is the goal.

This takes advantage of two other technologies, computer vision and natural speech recognition. We have seen phone assistants such as Siri but overall they are fairly limited. As I have predicted though they are getting better fast. Meet Viv. H/T Techcrunch

But Siri today is limited. While she’s able to perform simpler tasks, like checking your calendar or interacting with apps like OpenTable, she struggles to piece information together. She can’t answer questions that she hasn’t already been programmed to understand.

Viv is different. It can parse natural language and complex queries, linking different third-party sources of information together in order to answer the query at hand. And it does so quickly, and in a way that will make it an ideal user interface for the coming Internet of Things — that is, the networked, everyday objects that we’ll interact with using voice commands.

Wired article about Viv and its creators described the system as one that will be “taught by the world, know more than it was taught and it will learn something new everyday.”

Most significantly Viv will keep a record of all interactions with each user. So you will be able to ask it questions like “when was the last time I was at this restaurant?” and it will know. This will make these systems much more useful than Siri is now.

So now tie this sort of technology to an adaptive learning system. The system can watch how you learn, what you know and then suggest lessons to fill in caps. H/T Slate

A computer system picked this lesson for this group of students based on a quiz they’d taken a day earlier. Similar targeted lessons were being used by other teachers and students working together, in small groups, in an open classroom the size of a cafeteria. The computer system orchestrates how each math class unfolds every day, not just here, but for about 6,000 students in 15 schools located in four states and the District of Columbia.

As more schools adopt blended learning—methods that combine classroom teachers and computer-assisted lessons—some are taking the idea a step further and creating personalized programs of instruction. Technology can help teachers design a custom lesson plan for each student, supporters say, ensuring children aren’t bored or confused by materials that aren’t a good fit for their skill level or learning style.

Teachers are still present but only to help students individually. I don’t see why this can’t be done remotely though via telepresence. So how will these lessons be determined? Well, there will be a vast number of career paths that professionals will signal to the workforce. H/T Chronicle of HE

On Wednesday, Coursera, one of the largest MOOC platforms, announced that it had teamed up with more than half a dozen companies that will help create capstone projects for its course series. The companies include the tech giant Google as well as Instagram and Shazam—all names likely to entice students looking to get a start in Silicon Valley.

Nineteen colleges now work with Coursera to offer what amount to microdegrees—it calls them Course Specializations—that require students to take a series of short MOOCs and then finish a hands-on capstone project. The serialization approach has proved an effective way to bring in revenue to support the free courses—to get a certificate proving they passed the courses, students each end up paying around $500 in fees.

Learning will be lifelong, and user directed into areas where the student has aptitude and interest. Note though that lifelong learning means starting at a very early age. So how do you get this sort of technology into the playroom with toddlers? I have been prediction smart toys for a while now and they are getting closer. H/T Gizmodo

Using just their imaginations kids have been having conversations with their toys for years, but an upcoming version of Barbie will finally talk back to them. And we’re not just talking a handful of catch phrases spewed forth after a string is pulled, but a legitimate back and forth conversation powered by advanced voice recognition, and a wireless connection to the internet.

Hello Barbie will be available later this year, and will certainly be one of the most sought after toys this holiday season. Using speech recognition and conversational intelligence technology developed by San Francisco’s ToyTalk, Barbie will finally actually listen to what kids are saying to her, and respond with appropriate answers or questions of her own.

So tie this all together in the future and you get a toy that can talk to you, remember what you say, and can suggest lessons with an eye towards a future career. Oh, and also throw in some computer vision technology. H/T gigaom

Microsoft researchers claim in a recently published paper that they have developed the first computer system capable of outperforming humans on a popular benchmark. While it’s estimated that humans can classify images in the ImageNet dataset with an error rate of 5.1 percent, Microsoft’s team said its deep-learning-based system achieved an error rate of only 4.94 percent.

Now this is only in a restricted test but it’s only a matter of time because computers can see as well as humans in most cases. Then they will become more aware of the world around them.

Phew. Now these article are all within the last month. This sort of thing is happening all the time. It is unrealistic to expect that this creative explosion will have no effect on the classroom.


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