The rise of human-computer cooperation

I recently started going through some TED talks I had saved up and came across this fantastic talk by Shyam Sankar on ‘The Rise of Human Computer Cooperation’

I thoroughly recommend watching the talk.  In it Sankar explores the  differences between the concepts of Artificial Intelligence and Intelligence Augmentation.

As very much a layman when it comes to AI I am reliant therefore on common definitions and interpretations of what AI means.  I do think though that much of the clickbait (and sometimes more normal) tech news does seem to think that AI has already arrived.  I would absolutely agree that we are living now with incredibly powerful software such as Google Deepmind and the like but these systems are simply very good at doing a limited set of things.

I would struggle to play Deepmind at Go and Deepmind would certainly beat me hands down but once we had finished I would be able to go and have an intelligent discussion with my daughter about fairies (whilst washing the dishes) and then discuss politics with my wife.  Deepmind would still be an incredibly skilled piece of software which crucially isn’t aware it exists in the same way we are aware of our own existence.

Intelligence augmentation on the other hand is the use of technology based systems to support our own deductive reasoning as humans.  As I don’t think we will ever truly have proper AI, at least not for many decades, this is a more likely use of powerful computer systems which reflects how we use technology at the moment. Hey Alexa?

Where am I going with this and education?  I’ve recently started reading an excellent book by Michio Kaku called ‘Physics of the future’.  He doesn’t have a specific section on education (and he may cover it later in the book) but what he is writing about certainly makes me wonder about the future of education and AI.

In education I therefore think we are also likely not going to see any true AI for many years to come.  Instead the most likely scenario is that powerful systems like Google Deepmind, Alexa and Siri are going to become more pervasive in the classroom and the wider school environment.

I foresee an example of how this is going to become a problem for schools.  A maths teacher, in as little as about five years from now, is going to set a complex maths problem in class and although pupils may not be using mobile phones in class the class is going to walk outside, snap a picture of the equation with their phones and have an intelligent assistant not only solve it but probably show the working out and even include links to pages which explain the processes involved.

From one point of view this could be a bad thing.  The pupil has in essence had their work done for them but in another way this could be a good thing.  The pupil has immediate access to a wealth of knowledge which they can draw on again.  As a more old school teacher I feel they would certainly gain the most benefit from being able to analyse that process with the assistance of a normal teacher but ultimately they still have access to an incredible wealth of data.  Compared to the older ways of having to sort through a load of internet ‘guff’ to find what you want, intelligence augmentation systems are going to do the hard work of parsing this data and presenting it in ever better ways for pupils to understand.

Dealing with this as teachers is going to be hard (and may be the subject of a follow-up blog post as well).  My initial purpose in writing this post was to outline my thoughts as to where we are going in education and that being a destination which is likely unavoidable.  The next question will be how do we design our curriculum to deal with pupils who, even if they don’t have access to the technology in their pockets during lessons, will definitely have access to incredibly powerful intelligence augmentation outside of normal lesson times.

Could it be the end of normal schools as we understand them?

I’ll hopefully be following this one up …



Intelligence augmentation source

Source for image is public domain from here

Using #Yammer in school #office365

At my current school we use the Office365 platform for a range of things.  It certainly has improved over the last couple of years as a platform for delivering a number of software tools and services.  Do we use everything? Not really but that in itself is not a bad thing.  I’ve never been the sort of educator and learning technologist who, just because they have a wonderful idea regarding a tool or service, decides to then mandate it for use across the staff body.

However it is always a good idea to be looking constantly at other tools and services to see what could work within your school environment.  I’m sure other schools probably use tools like Yammer or Slack (I might write a separate blog on Slack) and I would certainly look at what they do but I will also explore the site myself to examine some of the ways in which it could be used.

For a very specific list of uses of Yammer in the classroom I found this really nice list from a South African Microsoft Partner – click here.  I will therefore look at more general issues.

To me Yammer is essentially Twitter on steroids with the added security of knowing that communication can only take place within your school environment.  This deals with the issue of staff not having to worry about little Jonny talking with dodgy people online as their messages will be contained within the school silo.

I also like the way Yammer enables you to set up groups within your school environment.  This is great for small groups of pupils to communicate with each other on a project.  I’ve used it before in helping a group of computing pupils work through some problems for a coding competition.

The messaging features work really well for setting questions in a small group setting and for getting pupils to respond.  I like the potential for pupils who lack that confidence in class to feel that they can contribute more effectively online.

I also like the idea of the file sharing feature but what I have noticed in my own school setup is that pupils can directly share files themselves (whereas they are blocked from doing so on Sharepoint).  Pupils could share files they have created and stored on OneDrive.   Although it is very easy to see who has shared a file the potential for this to be abused remains high.  This is an issue which can hopefully be addressed through back-end administration.

In addition there is a note taking feature which again could be really good for sharing thoughts and ideas among team members.    As well as the polls, praise feature and hashtags it is possible to create quite a dynamic and hopefully engaging communication environment for schools.

My recommendation would be if you have access to Office365 in your school and you are not using Yammer yet do so by all means as it does offer some distinct advantages.  You will need to keep an eye on potential abuse but as messaging is done in the clear with easy access to name of users this theoretically shouldn’t be an issue.



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