I recently read an interesting article (see weblink above) by Jonathan Rochelle. Mr Rochelle is the head of the product management team for Google’s education outreach arm, called Google for Education.
Expert machine programming/AI development helps machines learn and machines (increasingly) help students learn. The question is, will conventional teaching cope?
Without doubt, machine learning is high growth off a low base. With a good deal more investment-return uncertainty, machine-assisted student learning is high growth off a low installation base.
Meanwhile, in the land of traditional education methods, the effectiveness of human teachers in fostering high learning growth from students is experiencing far more sluggish improvement. Some of the reasons arguably include the following (in no particular order):
(1) a lack of agreement inside schools on what’s causing the attainment gap problem. Is it a shortage of the best teachers, or the best teaching practices? Is it the poor parent-school partnership or the lack of school boundaries?
(2) resistance to learning from the students. Students and their parents may have a different view from the school about the best teaching style, or the best learning style for the student. Are teachers, who are passionate about their subject, making it relevant enough to the students’ future lives?
(3) the need to build suitable physical facilities to support student learning. Will far more conventional classrooms need to become computer suites, perhaps with virtual reality apparatus?
(4) budget funding constraints
(5) confusion on the institutions’ own goals (too many targets?).
As online education software increasingly provides a more complete teaching solution in the classroom, what can human educators do? Start planning now for the changeover (move to a variable cost workforce and shorter shelf-life classroom facilities), immerse students in the online systems world (so student graduates can partner with it later) and offer school curriculum choices in subjects that will be slowest to become obsolete i.e. subjects that remain valued by future employers who hire student graduates.
Lastly, how long before the Chinese equivalent of Google matches Google’s audacious plans for transforming global education?
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math skills are undergoing a period of increased emphasis in our schools. Some might argue it’s at the expense of Art subjects. Does it have to be a zero-sum game?
Science hypothesises, experiments and interprets. Art creates directly, with no underlying rules or logic to adhere to. Science is structured simulation. Art is role play and improvisation. To reach human markets (voters or buyers) needs emotion, not just product features. Art and Science should therefore be seen as a partnership.
Secondly, at school, can we engage more students in STEM subjects, by emphasising it as a means to an Art end? Invite students to come on the STEM journey to empower Art.
Thirdly, great science discoveries utilise Psychology and thought experiments. Or sudden leaps of insight (realisations). Great thinking is arguably as much an art as utilising the science.
Are people basically divided into two broad camps – the ‘fake it til you make it’ (the marketers & promoters) and the ‘keeping it real’ camp’?
‘Fake it til you make it’ is about projecting confidence, whether real or illusionary. It’s downside is arguably in making our social groups less cohesive and less real. ‘Fake it til you make it’ can be spectacularly successful – politicians, singers/rappers and A-list movie actors being examples of this. Ironically though, politicians campaign to solve real problems, rappers rap about their gritty own life struggle to success, whilst successful actors choose to star in movies that often have themes of real strength from overcoming adversity of some kind.
Some pioneering cultures have a phrase about ‘keeping it real’. Others talk about ‘keeping your feet firmly on the ground’ (unless you work for the weather service, the airlines, the navy, NASA or Virgin Galactic).The ‘keeping it real’ camp includes support groups, social workers, therapists, counsellors, teachers, coaches, trainers and assessors of all kinds. This camp arguably advocates that ‘struggling to succeed is simply walking the journey’ is what life is about and that being honest about this struggle helps us to build important bridges with fellow human beings. In the world of entertainment, reality shows are in theory about ‘keeping it real’, although programme directors inevitably choose hyping the truth over the reality, if if means improving the viewer ratings in a competitive industry.
What about in the field of design – which camp do designers fall into? Steve jobs said ‘Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.’ In product design, great and successful designers don’t tolerate fake. They are obsessed with building amazing, perfection and excellence. In contrast, fine artists can excell at illusion in their art, folling the viewer’s eye into almost believing the two dimensional is actually the three dimensional. Or that the World shown within their art reveals a far more beautiful perspective on the World outside. Musical artists and actors generally want to create real. It’s the marketing staff of their companies that want auto-tune, edit and airbrush.
Whichever of the two camps a person falls into, perhaps real performance is still the key goal and ambition the driving force. Oscar Wilde famously said ‘all of us are in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars.’ Life arguably isn’t about ‘suffer in silence’, ‘know your place’ and ‘mustn’t grumble’. It is about ‘be the best that you can be’, ‘dare to dream’, ‘give yourself a break’, ‘learn from your mistakes’, ‘recognise the perfect parent does not exist’, ‘respect yourself’ and ‘strength through adversity.’
Lastly, somewhere along the line, as we switched from selling the products of our labour to selling the services of ourselves, the ‘fake it til you make it’ mantra started to dominate, in business, in our romantic lives (as singles) and increasingly, everywhere else. How do we jolt ourselves out of that mantra?
Life’s journey is best experienced with those you love, but has to be walked alone. You can carry children in your arms some of the way. And hold hands with your partner as you walk. As you walk, you can reflect on the advice your parents gave you, high-five your friends, give directions to strangers, dry people’s tears, wave to rivals and onlookers alike. And keep checking if the money in your pockets is growing or shrinking.
As you walk, what you cannot do is retrace your steps. To take back what you said to someone at the last crossroads. Or retrace your route, to spend more time with the people you loved in your life, who are no longer walking their journeys. Time is the steady companion, that keeps a solid beat to the marching rhythm of your journey. Learn to enjoy and take strength from the journey as best you can. That’s the essence of being human…
In my experience, it’s the small tributaries of the river, the overlooked pockets, and the unexpected that offer the most value. Whether you’re a traveller, a student, an explorer, a researcher, or an investigator, what is fresh, what’s genuine and what is original, is the stuff outside the mainstream and off the beaten track. Another aid is in joining up our unexpected insights from one ‘tributary’ with those of another. And by holding two opposing ideas or concepts in your head (as a traveller, reflecting on what you see through local values and through your own cultural values is an example of this). In some ways, stating all this is blindingly obvious, but in others, it’s revealing a pathway to the sublime & subtle.
We make progress as a species, as a culture and as individuals, by pushing our buttons. By pushing our boundaries, making improvements and gathering new insights. So far, we’ve done this faster than any other species, except perhaps viruses. And it’s been high-growth-off-a-high-base too.
Is human love more advanced than the love shown in other species? It’s hard for us to see, even when as researchers and nature filmers, we’re looking hard. The love an animal mother shows for its offspring, given its mental and sensory capabilities, is probably just as valid as human love for other people, given our own mental and sensory capabilities. And arguably, we’re more prone to cruelty and indifference than other species too. Especially since our awareness of the World (and the Universe) is so much greater.
Finally, is it wrong to let our children get bored? On the list of wrongness towards children, I doubt it figures in the top ten, although you may disagree. However, given the direction the World is going, we’re going to need to maximise human creativity like never before.
Like for many things, the earlier you start, the more proficient you can become. Perhaps already, we provide:
-too much of too few types of entertainment and
-entertainment without mental challenge,
to the younger generations (and ourselves). As an aside, we arguably produce too much content that simply feeds our basic emotions and prejudices too.
Technology that encourages people:
-to screen out the complexities of life that we should not ignore,
-to screen out the information we need, to make informed decisions with, as parents, as voters and as citizens,
isn’t something to be applauded and worshipped. Instead, we should be critical of it and demand better. All of us, including our kids need to become those critics.
In the dead of the city night, the people out walking are those running out of time, or those running out of hope. Watch out for the people carrying both burdens.
Resisting change in the workplace versus upskilling is the difference between treading water and swimming to safety.
Insight includes seeing a professional presentation, when you already have the personal connection with the presenter.
Gregory Porter sang about water under bridges that have already burned. Is that the state of UK politics at present (fading memories of the stream of wreckage caused by the Scottish referendum, the UK general election first-past-the-post system and the MP expenses scandal)?
Picture this. In my mind’s eye, the eye of the hurricane has the best view.
Developing a shared vision in advance (even if not completely clear), beats having the group having 20/20 vision in hindsight.
You have to stand back to see the wood for the trees. But if you don’t know where you’re going, any path will do.
The best things and the worst things are often hidden in plain sight. So reach for the stars instead.
Social media relies on visual screens and filter screens alike.
Life isn’t measured by the breaths we take, but by the images (and moments) that take our breath away. That’s probably why we take so many photos.
The best way for a human designer to be inspired, is to see the beauty of nature first.