Reflections on “Inside Amazon’s artificial intelligence flywheel” [Levy]

Inside Amazon’s artificial intelligence flywheel — from wired.com by Steven Levy
How deep learning came to power Alexa, Amazon Web Services, and nearly every other division of the company.

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

Amazon loves to use the word flywheel to describe how various parts of its massive business work as a single perpetual motion machine. It now has a powerful AI flywheel, where machine-learning innovations in one part of the company fuel the efforts of other teams, who in turn can build products or offer services to affect other groups, or even the company at large. Offering its machine-learning platforms to outsiders as a paid service makes the effort itself profitable—and in certain cases scoops up yet more data to level up the technology even more.

It took a lot of six-pagers to transform Amazon from a deep-learning wannabe into a formidable power. The results of this transformation can be seen throughout the company—including in a recommendations system that now runs on a totally new machine-learning infrastructure. Amazon is smarter in suggesting what you should read next, what items you should add to your shopping list, and what movie you might want to watch tonight. And this year Thirumalai started a new job, heading Amazon search, where he intends to use deep learning in every aspect of the service.

“If you asked me seven or eight years ago how big a force Amazon was in AI, I would have said, ‘They aren’t,’” says Pedro Domingos, a top computer science professor at the University of Washington. “But they have really come on aggressively. Now they are becoming a force.”

Maybe the force.

 

 

From DSC:
When will we begin to see more mainstream recommendation engines for learning-based materials? With the demand for people to reinvent themselves, such a next generation learning platform can’t come soon enough!

  • Turning over control to learners to create/enhance their own web-based learner profiles; and allowing people to say who can access their learning profiles.
  • AI-based recommendation engines to help people identify curated, effective digital playlists for what they want to learn about.
  • Voice-driven interfaces.
  • Matching employees to employers.
  • Matching one’s learning preferences (not styles) with the content being presented as one piece of a personalized learning experience.
  • From cradle to grave. Lifelong learning.
  • Multimedia-based, interactive content.
  • Asynchronously and synchronously connecting with others learning about the same content.
  • Online-based tutoring/assistance; remote assistance.
  • Reinvent. Staying relevant. Surviving.
  • Competency-based learning.

 

The Living [Class] Room -- by Daniel Christian -- July 2012 -- a second device used in conjunction with a Smart/Connected TV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re about to embark on a period in American history where career reinvention will be critical, perhaps more so than it’s ever been before. In the next decade, as many as 50 million American workers—a third of the total—will need to change careers, according to McKinsey Global Institute. Automation, in the form of AI (artificial intelligence) and RPA (robotic process automation), is the primary driver. McKinsey observes: “There are few precedents in which societies have successfully retrained such large numbers of people.”

Bill Triant and Ryan Craig

 

 

 

Also relevant/see:

Online education’s expansion continues in higher ed with a focus on tech skills — from educationdive.com by James Paterson

Dive Brief:

  • Online learning continues to expand in higher ed with the addition of several online master’s degrees and a new for-profit college that offers a hybrid of vocational training and liberal arts curriculum online.
  • Inside Higher Ed reported the nonprofit learning provider edX is offering nine master’s degrees through five U.S. universities — the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Texas at Austin, Indiana University, Arizona State University and the University of California, San Diego. The programs include cybersecurity, data science, analytics, computer science and marketing, and they cost from around $10,000 to $22,000. Most offer stackable certificates, helping students who change their educational trajectory.
  • Former Harvard University Dean of Social Science Stephen Kosslyn, meanwhile, will open Foundry College in January. The for-profit, two-year program targets adult learners who want to upskill, and it includes training in soft skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. Students will pay about $1,000 per course, though the college is waiving tuition for its first cohort.

 

 

 

What K-12 and higher education can learn from each other — from edweek.org by Ethan Ake-Little

Excerpts:

In 1952, three prep schools—the Lawrenceville School, Phillips Academy, and Phillips Exeter Academy—and three universities—Harvard, Princeton, and Yale—came together to participate in a bold experiment which ultimately introduced the radical concept of allowing high school seniors the chance to study college-level material and take achievement exams for college credit. Thus, the Advanced Placement program was born. More than six decades later, the program continues to offer students an opportunity to pursue college-level content with greater individualized instruction than many first-year college courses.

While the AP program has helped to bridge the gap between K-12 and higher education, both institutions remain largely unaware of how the other operates.

 

Despite stark differences in structure and philosophy, K-12 and higher education cannot avoid the fact that they need one other to serve all students’ educational needs. But to bridge their divide, both K-12 educators and higher education instructors must move outside their comfort zones and immerse themselves in each other’s world. Only then can both sides truly innovate in much the same way they did in 1952 to develop a program that is the hallmark of this partnership today.

 

 

 

 

U.S. students spend more time working paid jobs than going to class — from bloomberg.com by Riley Griffin
Facing mounting debt, U.S. college students spend double the time working paid jobs than in the library.

Excerpts:

Haunted by costly degrees and insurmountable student debt, American college students now spend more time working paid jobs than in lectures, the library or studying at home.

The vast majority of current students—85 percent—work while enrolled, according to an HSBC survey published Thursday. Students spend an average of 4.2 hours a day working paid jobs, which is more than double the time they spend in the library, nearly two hours more than they spend in class and 1.4 hours more time than they spend studying at home.

Haunted by costly degrees and insurmountable student debt, American college students now spend more time working paid jobs than in lectures, the library or studying at home.

The vast majority of current students—85 percent—work while enrolled, according to an HSBC survey published Thursday. Students spend an average of 4.2 hours a day working paid jobs, which is more than double the time they spend in the library, nearly two hours more than they spend in class and 1.4 hours more time than they spend studying at home.

 

“The economics of the debt crisis have become a major distraction to students’ education,” said John Hupalo, founder and chief executive officer of Invite Education, an education financial planner. “Students’ first priority should be to get value out of their education, not squeezing out hours at a job in order to make money to sustain that education.”

 

 


From DSC:
Obviously, this could be a major problem for many students — depending upon whether their work experiences are paying off in terms of other kinds of learning/experiences/skills development/obtaining jobs later on. But this need to work to get through school is also why I think online education needs to be more prevalent in higher ed. If students need to work to obtain a degree, then they need the flexibility to make their class schedules jibe with their work schedules. As with healthcare, I’d also like to see us find ways to bring the costs down.

 

Also see:

One HBCU Hopes Its ‘$10,000 Degree Pathway’ Will Win Over Students Considering For-Profit Alternatives — from edsurge.com by Jeff Young

Excerpt:

A public university in North Carolina has teamed up with six community colleges to offer a program that promises students they will pay no more than $10,000 out of pocket for their four-year degree.

Participating students will attend a two-year college in the state to get their Associate’s degree, then transfer to an online program at Fayetteville State University to finish their bachelor’s. The students will continue to have access to mentors and resources at the local community college to help them stay on track.

 

Making College Affordable Remains a High Priority in Washington — from campustechnology.com by Sara Friedman
More states are providing free college tuition, but equity concerns remain when it comes to the costs of textbooks, transportation and housing.

 

 

 

To higher ed: When the race track is going 180mph, you can’t walk or jog onto the track. [Christian]

From DSC:
When the race track is going 180mph, you can’t walk or jog onto the track.  What do I mean by that? 

Consider this quote from an article that Jeanne Meister wrote out at Forbes entitled, “The Future of Work: Three New HR Roles in the Age of Artificial Intelligence:”*

This emphasis on learning new skills in the age of AI is reinforced by the most recent report on the future of work from McKinsey which suggests that as many as 375 million workers around the world may need to switch occupational categories and learn new skills because approximately 60% of jobs will have least one-third of their work activities able to be automated.

Go scan the job openings and you will likely see many that have to do with technology, and increasingly, with emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, deep learning, machine learning, virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, big data, cloud-based services, robotics, automation, bots, algorithm development, blockchain, and more. 

 

From Robert Half’s 2019 Technology Salary Guide 

 

 

How many of us have those kinds of skills? Did we get that training in the community colleges, colleges, and universities that we went to? Highly unlikely — even if you graduated from one of those institutions only 5-10 years ago. And many of those institutions are often moving at the pace of a nice leisurely walk, with some moving at a jog, even fewer are sprinting. But all of them are now being asked to enter a race track that’s moving at 180mph. Higher ed — and society at large — are not used to moving at this pace. 

This is why I think that higher education and its regional accrediting organizations are going to either need to up their game hugely — and go through a paradigm shift in the required thinking/programming/curricula/level of responsiveness — or watch while alternatives to institutions of traditional higher education increasingly attract their learners away from them.

This is also, why I think we’ll see an online-based, next generation learning platform take place. It will be much more nimble — able to offer up-to-the minute, in-demand skills and competencies. 

 

 

The below graphic is from:
Jobs lost, jobs gained: What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages

 

 

 


 

* Three New HR Roles To Create Compelling Employee Experiences
These new HR roles include:

  1. IBM: Vice President, Data, AI & Offering Strategy, HR
  2. Kraft Heinz Senior Vice President Global HR, Performance and IT
  3. SunTrust Senior Vice President Employee Wellbeing & Benefits

What do these three roles have in common? All have been created in the last three years and acknowledge the growing importance of a company’s commitment to create a compelling employee experience by using data, research, and predictive analytics to better serve the needs of employees. In each case, the employee assuming the new role also brought a new set of skills and capabilities into HR. And importantly, the new roles created in HR address a common vision: create a compelling employee experience that mirrors a company’s customer experience.

 


 

An excerpt from McKinsey Global Institute | Notes from the Frontier | Modeling the Impact of AI on the World Economy 

Workers.
A widening gap may also unfold at the level of individual workers. Demand for jobs could shift away from repetitive tasks toward those that are socially and cognitively driven and others that involve activities that are hard to automate and require more digital skills.12 Job profiles characterized by repetitive tasks and activities that require low digital skills may experience the largest decline as a share of total employment, from some 40 percent to near 30 percent by 2030. The largest gain in share may be in nonrepetitive activities and those that require high digital skills, rising from some 40 percent to more than 50 percent. These shifts in employment would have an impact on wages. We simulate that around 13 percent of the total wage bill could shift to categories requiring nonrepetitive and high digital skills, where incomes could rise, while workers in the repetitive and low digital skills categories may potentially experience stagnation or even a cut in their wages. The share of the total wage bill of the latter group could decline from 33 to 20 percent.13 Direct consequences of this widening gap in employment and wages would be an intensifying war for people, particularly those skilled in developing and utilizing AI tools, and structural excess supply for a still relatively high portion of people lacking the digital and cognitive skills necessary to work with machines.

 


 

 

Experiences in self-determined learning — a free download/PDF file from uni-oldenburg.de by Lisa Blaschke, Chris Kenyon, & Stewart Hase (Eds.)

Excerpts (emphasis DSC):

An Introduction to Self-Determined Learning (Heutagogy)

Summary
There is a good deal that is provocative in the theory and principles surrounding self-determined learning or heutagogy. So, it seems appropriate to start off with a, hopefully, eyebrow-raising observation. One of the key ideas underpinning self-determined learning is that learning, and educational and training are quite different things. Humans are born to learn and are very good at it. Learning is a natural capability and it occurs across the human lifespan, from birth to last breath. In contrast, educational and training systems are concerned with the production of useful citizens, who can contribute to the collective economic good. Education and training is largely a conservative enterprise that is highly controlled, is product focused, where change is slow, and the status quo is revered. Learning, however, is a dynamic process intrinsic to the learner, uncontrolled except by the learner’s mental processes. Self-determined learning is concerned with understanding how people learn best and how the methods derived from this understanding can be applied to educational systems. This chapter provides a relatively brief introduction of the origins, the key principles, and the practice of self-determined learning. It also provides a number of resources to enable the interested reader to take learning about the approach further.

Contributors to this book come from around the world: they are everyday practitioners of self-determined learning who have embraced the approach. In doing so, they have chosen the path less taken and set off on a journey of exploration and discovery – a new frontier – as they implement heutagogy in their homes, schools, and workplaces. Each chapter was written with the intent of sharing the experiences of practical applications of heutagogy, while also encouraging those just starting out on the journey in using self-determined learning. The authors in this book are your guides as you move forward and share with you the lessons they have learned along the way. These shared experiences are meant to be read – or dabbled in – in any way that you want to read them. There is no fixed recipe or procedure for tackling the book contents.

At the heart of self-determined learning is that the learner is at the centre of the learning process. Learning is intrinsic to the learner, and the educator is but an agent, as are many of the resources so freely available these days. It is now so easy to access knowledge and skills (competencies), and in informal settings we do this all the time, and we do it well. Learning is complex and non-linear, despite what the curricula might try to dictate. In addition, every brain is different as a result of its experience (as brain research tells us). Each brain will also change as learning takes place with new hypotheses, new needs, and new questions forming, as new neuronal connections are created.

Heutagogy also doesn’t have anything directly to do with self-determination theory (SDT). SDT is a theory of motivation related to acting in healthy and effective ways (Ryan & Deci, 2000). However, heutagogy is related to the philosophical notion of self-determinism and shares a common belief in the role of human agency in behavior.

The idea of human agency is critical to self-determined learning, where learning is learner-directed. Human agency is the notion that humans have the capacity to make choices and decisions, and then act on them in the real world. However, how experiences and learning bring people to make the choices and decisions that they do make, and what actions they may then take is a very complex matter. What we are concerned with in self-determined learning is that people have agency with respect to how, what, and when they learn. It is something that is intrinsic to each individual person. Learning occurs in the learner’s brain, as the result of his or her past and present experiences.

 

The notion of placing the learner at the centre of the learning experience is a key principle of self-determined learning. This principle is the opposite of teacher-centric or, perhaps more accurately curriculum-centric, approaches to learning. This is not to say that the curriculum is not important, just that it needs to be geared to the learner – flexible, adaptable, and be a living document that is open to change.

Teacher-centric learning is an artifact of the industrial revolution when an education system was designed to meet the needs of the factories (Ackoff & Greenberg, 2008) and to “make the industrial wheel go around” (Hase & Kenyon, 2013b). It is time for a change to learner-centred learning and the time is right with easy access to knowledge and skills through the Internet, high-speed communication and ‘devices’. Education can now focus on more complex cognitive activities geared to the needs of the 21st century learner, rather than have its main focus on competence (Blaschke & Hase, 2014; Hase & Kenyon, 2013a).

 

 

 

Report: Accessibility in Digital Learning Increasingly Complex — from campustechnology.com by Dian Schaffhauser

Excerpt:

The Online Learning Consortium (OLC)has introduced a series of original reports to keep people in education up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of digital learning. The first report covers accessibility and addresses both K-12 and higher education. The series is being produced by OLC’s Research Center for Digital Learning & Leadership.

The initial report addresses four broad areas tied to accessibility:

  • The national laws governing disability and access and how they apply to online courses;
  • What legal cases exist to guide online course design and delivery in various educational settings;
  • The issues that emerge regarding online course access that might be unique to higher ed or to K-12, and which ones might be shared; and
  • What support online course designers need to generate accessible courses for learners across the education life span (from K-12 to higher education).

 

 

Experts say we’re approaching a third wave of higher-ed reform — from ecampusnews.com by laura Ascione

Excerpt:

As the global economy changes and demands more highly-skilled workers, some experts are tracking what they call a third wave of postsecondary education reform focused on making sure graduates have career-long alignment between their education and the job market.

The new report from Jobs for the Future (JFF) and Pearson notes that a career path won’t have a single-job trajectory, but instead will require a lifetime of learning. Higher education will have to experience significant reform to create graduates equipped for such a workforce, the report’s authors claim.

 

Demand driven education and lifelong learning

 

 

To think about the future of work, first imagine a highway. 

Take Route 66 in the US, connecting Chicago to Los Angeles. Or, in the UK, the 410 miles of the A1 from London to Edinburgh. There are defined endpoints, directional signs, entrances, and exits. Millions reach their destinations via these roads. Route 66 and the A1 were fit for purpose.

Traditional routes to employment have functioned much like these roads. Conventional credentials, university degrees, and vocational training have offered defined entrances and exits for individuals looking for jobs that lead to careers. But the world of work is changing fast. The future of work will require a more flexible, dynamic, and equitable system of preparation. A map of this system may look less like a highway and more like the iconic web of circles and intersections of the London Underground.

This report, Demand-Driven Education, concludes that we are on the cusp of a new wave of postsecondary education reform. The first wave focused on access — getting more people to enter higher education. The second wave focused on improving academic success — getting more students to earn certificates and degrees. These waves served as the traditional highways to employment.

Now marks the transition to a third wave — which we call “demand driven education” — where programs focus more strongly than ever on ensuring graduates are job-ready and have access to rewarding careers over the course of their lifetimes. Demand-driven education adapts to the needs of the learner and the employer. It responds to signals from society to ensure alignment between desired qualifications and available training.

This wave represents the convergence of the worlds of education and work, creating new intersections, pathways, and possibilities for advancement. Much like the London Underground connecting its 32 boroughs via line, train, and bus, this new wave enables learners to take multiple routes throughout their lives to multiple destinations.

 

 

 

 

Reimagining the Higher Education Ecosystem — from edu2030.agorize.com
How might we empower people to design their own learning journeys so they can lead purposeful and economically stable lives?

Excerpts:

The problem
Technology is rapidly transforming the way we live, learn, and work. Entirely new jobs are emerging as others are lost to automation. People are living longer, yet switching jobs more often. These dramatic shifts call for a reimagining of the way we prepare for work and life—specifically, how we learn new skills and adapt to a changing economic landscape.

The changes ahead are likely to hurt most those who can least afford to manage them: low-income and first generation learners already ill-served by our existing postsecondary education system. Our current system stifles economic mobility and widens income and achievement gaps; we must act now to ensure that we have an educational ecosystem flexible and fair enough to help all people live purposeful and economically stable lives. And if we are to design solutions proportionate to this problem, new technologies must be called on to scale approaches that reach the millions of vulnerable people across the country.

 

The challenge
How might we empower people to design their own learning journeys so they can lead purposeful and economically stable lives?

The Challenge—Reimagining the Higher Education Ecosystem—seeks bold ideas for how our postsecondary education system could be reimagined to foster equity and encourage learner agency and resilience. We seek specific pilots to move us toward a future in which all learners can achieve economic stability and lead purposeful lives. This Challenge invites participants to articulate a vision and then design pilot projects for a future ecosystem that has the following characteristics:

Expands access: The educational system must ensure that all people—including low-income learners who are disproportionately underserved by the current higher education system—can leverage education to live meaningful and economically stable lives.

Draws on a broad postsecondary ecosystem: While college and universities play a vital role in educating students, there is a much larger ecosystem in which students learn. This ecosystem includes non-traditional “classes” or alternative learning providers, such as MOOCs, bootcamps, and online courses as well as on-the-job training and informal learning. Our future learning system must value the learning that happens in many different environments and enable seamless transitions between learning, work, and life.

 

From DSC:
This is where I could see a vision similar to Learning from the Living [Class] Room come into play. It would provide a highly affordable, accessible platform, that would offer more choice, and more control to learners of all ages. It would be available 24×7 and would be a platform that supports lifelong learning. It would combine a variety of AI-enabled functionalities with human expertise, teaching, training, motivation, and creativity.

It could be that what comes out of this challenge will lay the groundwork for a future, massive new learning platform.

 

The Living [Class] Room -- by Daniel Christian -- July 2012 -- a second device used in conjunction with a Smart/Connected TV

 

Also see:

 

What teaching that lifts all students could look like — from kqed.org by Kristina Rizga

An initial comment from DSC:
I recently ran across this article. Although it’s from 12/24/15, it has some really solid points and strategies in it. Definitely worth a read if you are a teacher or even a parent with school age kids.

Excerpts (emphasis DSC):

…his comments in class about the substance of her ideas, his feedback on her writing, the enthusiasm in his voice when he discussed her thinking. Over the course of a year, that proof solidified into a confidence that couldn’t be easily shaken anymore. It was that pride in her intellect that gave her the fortitude and resilience to cut through many racial stereotypes and negative myths as she made her way through high school and then Boston University.

For McKamey, the most important value driving her teaching and coaching is her conviction that being a good teacher means hearing, seeing, and succeeding with all students—regardless of how far a student is from the teacher’s preconceived notions of what it means to be ready to learn. When teachers are driven by a belief that all of their students can learn, they are able to respond to the complexity of their students’ needs and to adjust if something is not working for a particular individual or group of students.

 

 

The best way to improve teaching and reduce the achievement gaps, McKamey argues, is to allow teachers to act as school-based researchers and leaders, justifying classroom reforms based on the broad range of performance markers of their students: daily grades, the quality of student work and the rate of its production, engagement, effort, attendance, and student comments. That means planning units together and then spending a lot of time analyzing the iterative work the students produce. This process teaches educators to recognize that there are no standard individuals, and there are as many learning trajectories as there are people. 

 

 

 

From DSC:
I just found out about the work going out at LearningScientists.org.

I was very impressed after my initial review of their materials! What I really appreciate about their work is that they are serious in identifying some highly effective means of how we learn best — pouring over a great deal of research in order to do so. But they don’t leave things there. They help translate that research into things that teachers can then try out in the classroom. This type of practical, concrete help is excellent and needed!

  • Daniel Willingham and some of his colleagues take research and help teachers apply it as well
  • Another person who does this quite well is Pooja Agarwal, an Assistant Professor, Cognitive Scientist, & former K-12 Teacher. Pooja is teaming up with Patrice Bain to write a forthcoming book entitled, Powerful Teaching: Unleash the Science of Learning!  She founded and operates the RetrievalPractice.org site.)

From the LearningScientists.org website (emphasis DSC):

We are cognitive psychological scientists interested in research on education. Our main research focus is on the science of learning. (Hence, “The Learning Scientists”!)

Our Vision is to make scientific research on learning more accessible to students, teachers, and other educators.

Click the button below to learn more about us. You can also check out our social media pages: FacebookTwitterInstagram, & Tumblr.

 

They have a solid blog, podcast, and some valuable downloadable content.

 

 

 

In the downloadable content area, the posters that they’ve created (or ones like them) should be posted at every single facility where learning occurs — K-12 schools, community colleges, colleges, universities, libraries of all kinds, tutoring centers, etc. It may be that such posters — and others like them that encourage the development of metacognitive skills of our students — are out there. I just haven’t run into them.

For example, here’s a poster on learning how to study using spaced practice:

 

 

 

 

Anyway, there’s some great work out there at LearningScientists.org!

 

 


Also relevant here, see:

 

 

 

 

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