Virtual digital assistants in the workplace: Still nascent, but developing — from cisco.com by Pat Brans
As workers get overwhelmed with daily tasks, they want virtual digital assistants in the workplace that can alleviate some of the burden.

Excerpts:

As life gets busier, knowledge workers are struggling with information overload.

They’re looking for a way out, and that way, experts say, will eventually involve virtual digital assistants (VDAs). Increasingly, workers need to complete myriad tasks, often seemingly simultaneously. And as the pace of business continues to drive ever faster, hands-free, intelligent technology that can speed administrative tasks holds obvious appeal.

So far, scenarios in which digital assistants in the workplace enhance productivity fall into three categories: scheduling, project management, and improved interfaces to enterprise applications. “Using digital assistants to perform scheduling has clear benefits,” Beccue said.

“Scheduling meetings and managing calendars takes a long time—many early adopters are able to quantify the savings they get when the scheduling is performed by a VDA. Likewise, when VDAs are used to track project status through daily standup meetings, project managers can easily measure the time saved.”

 

Perhaps the most important change we’ll see in future generations of VDA technology for workforce productivity will be the advent of general-purpose VDAs that help users with all tasks. These VDAs will be multi-channel (providing interfaces through mobile apps, messaging, telephone, and so on) and they will be bi-modal (enlisting text and voice).

 

 

 

 

A Space for Learning: A review of research on active learning spaces — from by Robert Talbert and Anat Mor-Avi

Abstract:
Active Learning Classrooms (ALCs) are learning spaces specially designed to optimize the practice of active learning and amplify its positive effects in learners from young children through university-level learners. As interest in and adoption of ALCs has increased rapidly over the last decade, the need for grounded research in their effects on learners and schools has grown proportionately. In this paper, we review the peer-reviewed published research on ALCs, dating back to the introduction of “studio” classrooms and the SCALE-UP program up to the present day. We investigate the literature and summarize findings on the effects of ALCs on learning outcomes, student engagement, and the behaviors and practices of instructors as well as the specific elements of ALC design that seem to contribute the most to these effects. We also look at the emerging cultural impact of ALCs on institutions of learning, and we examine the drawbacks of the published research as well as avenues for potential future research in this area.

 

1: Introduction
1.1: What is active learning, and what is an active learning classroom?
Active learning is defined broadly to include any pedagogical method that involves students actively working on learning tasks and reflecting on their work, apart from watching, listening, and taking notes (Bonwell & Eison, 1991). Active learning has taken hold as a normative instructional practice in K12 and higher education institutions worldwide. Recent studies, such as the 2014 meta-analysis linking active learning pedagogies with dramatically reduced failure rates in university-level STEM courses (Freeman et al., 2014) have established that active learning drives increased student learning and engagement across disciplines, grade levels, and demographics.

As schools, colleges, and universities increasingly seek to implement active learning, concerns about the learning spaces used for active learning have naturally arisen. Attempts to implement active learning pedagogies in spaces that are not attuned to the particular needs of active learning — for example, large lecture halls with fixed seating — have resulted in suboptimal results and often frustration among instructors and students alike. In an effort to link architectural design to best practices in active learning pedagogy, numerous instructors, school leaders, and architects have explored how learning spaces can be differently designed to support active learning and amplify its positive effects on student learning. The result is a category of learning spaces known as Active Learning Classrooms (ALCs).

While there is no universally accepted definition of an ALC, the spaces often described by this term have several common characteristics:

  • ALCs are classrooms, that is, formal spaces in which learners convene for educational activities. We do not include less-formal learning spaces such as faculty offices, library study spaces, or “in-between” spaces located in hallways or foyers.
  • ALCs include deliberate architectural and design attributes that are specifically intended to promote active learning. These typically include moveable furniture that can be reconfigured into a variety of different setups with ease, seating that places students in small groups, plentiful horizontal and/or vertical writing surfaces such as whiteboards, and easy access to learning
    technologies (including technological infrastructure such as power outlets).
  • In particular, most ALCs have a “polycentric” or “acentric” design in which there is no clearly-defined front of the room by default. Rather, the instructor has a station which is either
    movable or located in an inconspicuous location so as not to attract attention; or perhaps there is no specific location for the instructor.
  • Finally, ALCs typically provide easy access to digital and analog tools for learning , such as multiple digital projectors, tablet or laptop computers, wall-mounted and personal whiteboards, or classroom response systems.

2.1: Research questions
The main question that this study intends to investigate is: What are the effects of the use of ALCs on student learning, faculty teaching, and institutional cultures? Within this broad overall question, we will focus on four research questions:

  1. What effects do ALCs have on measurable metrics of student academic achievement? Included in such metrics are measures such as exam scores, course grades, and learning gains on pre/post-test measures, along with data on the acquisition of “21st Century Skills”, which we will define using a framework (OCDE, 2009) which groups “21st Century Skills” into skills pertaining to information, communication, and ethical/social impact.
  2. What effects do ALCs have on student engagement? Specifically, we examine results pertaining to affective, behavioral, and cognitive elements of the idea of “engagement” as well as results that cut across these categories.
  3. What effect do ALCs have on the pedagogical practices and behaviors of instructors? In addition to their effects on students, we are also interested the effects of ALCs on the instructors who use them. Specifically, we are interested in how ALCs affect instructor attitudes toward and implementations of active learning, how ALCs influence faculty adoption of active learning pedagogies, and how the use of ALCs affects instructors’ general and environmental behavior.
  4. What specific design elements of ALCs contribute significantly to the above effects? Finally, we seek to identify the critical elements of ALCs that contribute the most to their effects on student learning and instructor performance, including affordances and elements of design, architecture, and technology integration.

 

Active Learning Classrooms (ALCs)

 

 

The common denominator in the larger cultural effects of ALCs and active learning on students and instructors is the notion of connectedness, a concept we have already introduced in discussions of specific ALC design elements. By being freer to move and have physical and visual contact with each other in a class meeting, students feel more connected to each other and more connected to their instructor. By having an architectural design that facilitates not only movement but choice and agency — for example, through the use of polycentric layouts and reconfigurable furniture — the line between instructor and students is erased, turning the ALC into a vessel in which an authentic community of learners can take form.

 

 

 

 

Reflections on “Are ‘smart’ classrooms the future?” [Johnston]

Are ‘smart’ classrooms the future? — from campustechnology.com by Julie Johnston
Indiana University explores that question by bringing together tech partners and university leaders to share ideas on how to design classrooms that make better use of faculty and student time.

Excerpt:

To achieve these goals, we are investigating smart solutions that will:

  • Untether instructors from the room’s podium, allowing them control from anywhere in the room;
  • Streamline the start of class, including biometric login to the room’s technology, behind-the-scenes routing of course content to room displays, control of lights and automatic attendance taking;
  • Offer whiteboards that can be captured, routed to different displays in the room and saved for future viewing and editing;
  • Provide small-group collaboration displays and the ability to easily route content to and from these displays; and
  • Deliver these features through a simple, user-friendly and reliable room/technology interface.

Activities included collaborative brainstorming focusing on these questions:

  • What else can we do to create the classroom of the future?
  • What current technology exists to solve these problems?
  • What could be developed that doesn’t yet exist?
  • What’s next?

 

 

 

From DSC:
Though many peoples’ — including faculty members’ — eyes gloss over when we start talking about learning spaces and smart classrooms, it’s still an important topic. Personally, I’d rather be learning in an engaging, exciting learning environment that’s outfitted with a variety of tools (physically as well as digitally and virtually-based) that make sense for that community of learners. Also, faculty members have very limited time to get across campus and into the classroom and get things setup…the more things that can be automated in those setup situations the better!

I’ve long posted items re: machine-to-machine communications, voice recognition/voice-enabled interfaces, artificial intelligence, bots, algorithms, a variety of vendors and their products including Amazon’s Alexa / Apple’s Siri / Microsoft’s Cortana / and Google’s Home or Google Assistant, learning spaces, and smart classrooms, as I do think those things are components of our future learning ecosystems.

 

 

 

logo.

Global installed base of smart speakers to surpass 200 million in 2020, says GlobalData

The global installed base for smart speakers will hit 100 million early next year, before surpassing the 200 million mark at some point in 2020, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

The company’s latest report: ‘Smart Speakers – Thematic Research’ states that nearly every leading technology company is either already producing a smart speaker or developing one, with Facebook the latest to enter the fray (launching its Portal device this month). The appetite for smart speakers is also not limited by geography, with China in particular emerging as a major marketplace.

Ed Thomas, Principal Analyst for Technology Thematic Research at GlobalData, comments: “It is only four years since Amazon unveiled the Echo, the first wireless speaker to incorporate a voice-activated virtual assistant. Initial reactions were muted but the device, and the Alexa virtual assistant it contained, quickly became a phenomenon, with the level of demand catching even Amazon by surprise.”

Smart speakers give companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, and Alibaba access to a vast amount of highly valuable user data. They also allow users to get comfortable interacting with artificial intelligence (AI) tools in general, and virtual assistants in particular, increasing the likelihood that they will use them in other situations, and they lock customers into a broader ecosystem, making it more likely that they will buy complementary products or access other services, such as online stores.

Thomas continues: “Smart speakers, particularly lower-priced models, are gateway devices, in that they give consumers the opportunity to interact with a virtual assistant like Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant, in a “safe” environment. For tech companies serious about competing in the virtual assistant sector, a smart speaker is becoming a necessity, hence the recent entry of Apple and Facebook into the market and the expected arrival of Samsung and Microsoft over the next year or so.”

In terms of the competitive landscape for smart speakers, Amazon was the pioneer and is still a dominant force, although its first-mover advantage has been eroded over the last year or so. Its closest challenger is Google, but neither company is present in the fastest-growing geographic market, China. Alibaba is the leading player there, with Xiaomi also performing well.

Thomas concludes: “With big names like Samsung and Microsoft expected to launch smart speakers in the next year or so, the competitive landscape will continue to fluctuate. It is likely that we will see two distinct markets emerge: the cheap, impulse-buy end of the spectrum, used by vendors to boost their ecosystems; and the more expensive, luxury end, where greater focus is placed on sound quality and aesthetics. This is the area of the market at which Apple has aimed the HomePod and early indications are that this is where Samsung’s Galaxy Home will also look to make an impact.”

Information based on GlobalData’s report: Smart Speakers – Thematic Research

 

 

 

 

Gartner: Immersive experiences among top tech trends for 2019 — from campustechnology.com by Dian Schaffhauser

Excerpt:

IT analyst firm Gartner has named its top 10 trends for 2019, and the “immersive user experience” is on the list, alongside blockchain, quantum computing and seven other drivers influencing how we interact with the world. The annual trend list covers breakout tech with broad impact and tech that could reach a tipping point in the near future.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 
 

Blackboard, Apple mobile student ID has arrived — from cr80news.com by Andrew Hudson
Mobile Credential officially goes live at launch campuses

Excerpt:

We’ve officially reached the kickoff of Blackboard’s long-standing vision for the mobile student ID. Starting today on the campuses of the University of Alabama, Duke University and the University of Oklahoma, Blackboard with the aid of Apple is enabling students to use mobile credentials everywhere their plastic ID card was previously accepted.

[On 10/2/18], for the first time, iPhones and Apple Watches are enabling users to navigate the full range of transactions both on and off campus. At these three launch institutions, students can add their official student ID card to Apple Wallet to make purchases, authenticate for privileges, as well as enable physical access to dorms, rec centers, libraries and academic buildings.

 

 

 

Skype chats are coming to Alexa devices — from engadget.com by Richard Lawlor
Voice controlled internet calls to or from any device with Amazon’s system in it.

Excerpt:

Aside from all of the Alexa-connected hardware, there’s one more big development coming for Amazon’s technology: integration with Skype. Microsoft and Amazon said that voice and video calls via the service will come to Alexa devices (including Microsoft’s Xbox One) with calls that you can start and control just by voice.

 

 

Amazon Hardware Event 2018
From techcrunch.com

 

Echo HomePod? Amazon wants you to build your own — by Brian Heater
One of the bigger surprises at today’s big Amazon event was something the company didn’t announce. After a couple of years of speculation that the company was working on its own version of the Home…

 

 

The long list of new Alexa devices Amazon announced at its hardware event — by Everyone’s favorite trillion-dollar retailer hosted a private event today where they continued to…

 

Amazon introduces APL, a new design language for building Alexa skills for devices with screensAlong with the launch of the all-new Echo Show, the Alexa-powered device with a screen, Amazon also introduced a new design language for developers who want to build voice skills that include multimedia…

Excerpt:

Called Alexa Presentation Language, or APL, developers will be able to build voice-based apps that also include things like images, graphics, slideshows and video, and easily customize them for different device types – including not only the Echo Show, but other Alexa-enabled devices like Fire TV, Fire Tablet, and the small screen of the Alexa alarm clock, the Echo Spot.

 

From DSC:
This is a great move by Amazon — as NLP and our voices become increasingly important in how we “drive” and utilize our computing devices.

 

 

Amazon launches an Echo Wall Clock, because Alexa is gonna be everywhere — by Sarah Perez

 

 

Amazon’s new Echo lineup targets Google, Apple and Sonos — from engadget.com by Nicole Lee
Alexa, dominate the industry.

The business plan from here is clear: Companies pay a premium to be activated when users pose questions related to their products and services. “How do you cook an egg?” could pull up a Food Network tutorial; “How far is Morocco?” could enable the Expedia app.
Also see how Alexa might be a key piece of smart classrooms in the future:
 

Can we design online learning platforms that feel more intimate than massive? — from edsurge.com by Amy Ahearn

Excerpt:

This presents a challenge and an opportunity: How can we design online learning environments that achieve scale and intimacy? How do we make digital platforms feel as inviting as well-designed physical classrooms?

The answer may be that we need to balance massiveness with miniaturization. If the first wave of MOOCs was about granting unprecedented numbers of students access to high-quality teaching and learning materials, Wave 2 needs to focus on creating a sense of intimacy within that massiveness.

We need to be building platforms that look less like a cavernous stadium and more like a honeycomb. This means giving people small chambers of engagement where they can interact with a smaller, more manageable and yet still diverse groups. We can’t meaningfully listen to the deafening roar of the internet. But we can learn from a collection of people with perspectives different than ours.

 

 

What will it take to get MOOC platforms to begin to offer learning spaces that feel more inviting and intimate? Perhaps there’s a new role that needs to emerge in the online learning ecosystem: a “learning architect” who sits between the engineers and the instructional designers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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