“ Innovation in education : the algorithm for meta-learning “
Aide de memoir for my presentation in session 6 of the 49th NPSC annual conference on 5th March 2022.
- The overarching theme is “ Bridging the gap for sustainable and inclusive learning”. The SDGs ( sustainable development goals) which were set up in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly (UN-GA) and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030. Goal 4 of these, pertaining to education is to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. SDG 4 has ten targets which are measured by 11 indicators. The slow progress in achieving SDG Goal 4 so far is reminiscent of another important target, about 140 years back.
- The U.S. Constitution requires that a population count be conducted at the beginning of every decade. This has been happening since the year 1790. As the country grew, each new census required greater effort than the last, not merely in collecting the data but also to compile it into usable form. For the processing of the 1880 data, it was realised that it was nowhere near completion until 1888. It was then that a new technology of Hollerith punched card was introduced and the count then proceeded so rapidly that the work was completed very soon. This later evolved into the famous IBM company. IBM led the way in perfecting card technology for recording and tabulating large sets of data for a variety of purposes.
- The topic for this session is “ Innovation in education : the algorithm for meta-learning “. And such algorithms are ‘ learning algorithms’, that drive Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
- A learning algorithm is best defined in the book “ Machine Learning” by Thomas Mitchell: “A computer program is said to learn from experience E with respect to some class of tasks T and performance measure P, if its performance at tasks in T, as measured by P, improves with experience E.”
- Tom Mitchell’s quote is well-known and time-tested in the world of machine learning, having first appeared in his 1997 book. The quote also features prominently in Chapter 5 of the much more recent (2015) “Deep Learning” by Ian Goodfellow, Joshua Bengio & Aaron Courville.
- The SDGs were set up in the year 2015. In January 2016, Prof Klaus Schwab chief of the WEF drew attention to the arrival of the 4th Industrial revolution driven by AI and machine learning. And Andrew Ng said that AI is the new electricity.
- In the year 2018, Sir Anthony Seldon in his book “ The fourth education revolution” pointed out that there have been only 3 education revolutions so far and the 4th one is unfolding right now, driven by AI and machine Learning, in which educators must take an active role and not just be passive observers.
- The futurist Thomas Frey (https://youtu.be/McV9AMV2LiI ) said that “ If we continue to insert a teacher between ourselves and everything that we want to ( or need to) learn we cannot possibly learn fast enough to meet the demands of the future.”
- The future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed, said William Gibson: The Economist, December 4, 2003”
- It is inevitable that what was once the distant future will become the present, very soon, whether we are prepared for it or not.
- To achieve the desired goal of a high quality education for all, we have to first move from the art of teaching to the Science of learning. And the Science of learning is best built upon neuroscience. To scale the solution we need to use intelligent automation, or Artificial Intelligence as it is more popularly called.
- There was a time when long tedious calculations were done by humans, who were formally designated as computers. This is no longer so. Similarly human teachers standing in front of a class, delivering lectures to a prescribed syllabus will be automated and the erstwhile educators will move up to the more important role of cognitive development facilitators.
- Today there are over six billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide, and for every one person who accesses the internet from a computer two do so from a mobile device. Given the ubiquity and rapidly expanding functionality of mobile technologies, UNESCO is enthusiastic about their potential to improve and facilitate learning, particularly in communities where educational opportunities are scarce. AI powered language learning Apps such as Duolingo, Thinkster Maths for Maths and Gradescope for assessment would help in scaling. AI powered Chatbots as personal tutors and Ecole 42 as communities of learning would evolve to the new learning ecosystem that can help achieve the targets of SDG Goal 4, like the Hollerith punched cards did for the US Census, about 130 years ago.
- The future of education is AI empowered self-directed learners in a community of chatbots and cognitive development facilitators, preparing to meet future challenges in a rapidly evolving world.