Intelligent tutors and education 3.0/4.0: How can (should) machines teach, to meet  the needs of 21st century learners and a global society?

The idea of intelligent tutors is not new, nor is the technology. From the 1940’s, Alan Turing and other early innovators of computing systems envisioned these intelligent machines would be used to teach humans, with personalized learning being a specific pedagogical affordance of the technology (Ferster, 2014, 2017; Shute, 1994; Woolf, 2010). Historically, development and implementation of intelligent tutoring systems (ITS) has aimed towards mimicking or substituting for what has been considered the “gold standard” in education: one-on-one learner-teacher interaction (Baker, 2016; Ferster, 2014, 2017; Roll & Wylie, 2016; Woolf, 2010). This “gold standard” remains a persistent challenge within distance education (DE) contexts, though recent Internet communications technology (ICT) has helped solve some of these challenges, enabling more direct learner-teacher (and learner-learner) interaction (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2010; Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012; Woods & Baker, 2004). How might ITS build on this progress?

An important question that has shaped inquiry regarding the role of ITS and machine intelligence (MI)[1] in education and learning is, “Can machines teach?”, followed closely by the question “Should machines teach?” (Ferster, 2014, 2017). Challenges in answering these questions may stem from the embedded assumption: “Can (should) machines replace teachers?”. If we ignore this hidden question, and deal with the explicit question alone, the answer is conceptually straightforward: Yes, machines can and do (and, within the 21st century context, should) teach. Consider the question from a basic behaviourist perspective: Working one-to-one with an ITS, a student inputs an answer to the question/problem the ITS generates, and receives immediate feedback from the ITS, which leads the student to modify his/her actions (Ferster, 2014, 2017; Laurillard, 2012) In this scenario, the teacher (and teacher intervention) is not eliminated, but rather repositioned, and how the ITS is implemented will impact to where (i.e. what point in the learner-ITS-teacher interaction cycle (Laurillard, 2012).

The important question then becomes: “HOW can/should machines (ITS) teach?” (Baker, 2016; Ferster, 2014, 2017; Roll & Wylie, 2016; Woolf, 2010). This is the question I will attempt to answer in this paper. I will pay particular attention to how ITS might solve some important problems for DE, while simultaneously challenging the idea of “distance” (historically considered to be any separation of learner and teacher) (Simonson, et al., 2012). For instance, can the separation inherent in learner-ITS-interaction actually mediate “distance” and improve immediacy and teacher presence, if the integrated technology and pedagogy afford teacher interventions that reach each learner and are tailored to their individual needs? (Buckreus, 2017; Garrison, et al., 2010; Rizzotto, 2017; Wolf & Baker, 2004). Widespread integration of ITS across learning environments may render the historic distinctions between face-to-face (f2f) and DE contexts immaterial, with “distance” utilized to enhance learning in both contexts.

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SITUATED COGNITION: Learning theories map & networked bibliography

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November 19, 2018 · 7:04 pm

My presentation on cyber-ethnography

The slides I created for my EDDE 802 seminar presentation on cyber-ethnography. Sorry, I do not have the AdobeConnect recording link:

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Open Learning & OERs

A short video I made to introduce clinical faculty to the open learning movement and Open Educational Resources (OERs):

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A Different Significance: Actualizing Pedagogical Potential through Technology and New Media

Abstract

Since our Australopithecine ancestors learned to shape stones into tools ~3.3 million years ago, hominid relationships and knowledge creation have been mediated by, negotiated through, and expressed in technological innovations, a meandering but cumulative line – from rock to rocket, from Lucy to Musk – that may help us create a new Levant in the orange dust of Mars, in an evolutionary leap that takes us away from home, to where our reliance on technology will be absolute. “Without technology, we are not human” (McGreal, 2017). Without humans, though, and our imperative for social interaction, technology would not exist.

While Russell’s (1999) meta-analysis revealed “no significant difference” in learning outcomes when comparing face-to-face and distance education (DE) contexts (absent pedagogical change), critical differences emerge when technology-enabled pedagogical changes are considered. Interactive online technologies afford pedagogical potential that correlates to improved learning outcomes in DE and blended learning contexts.

In this paper, I explore the pedagogical potential afforded by one interactive technology tool – online discussion forums – for enhanced social presence and learner-centredness, towards improved learning outcomes. Two pedagogical strategies – scaffolding, and forum management – are considered within DE and blended learning. Scope is limited to higher education and professional training contexts.

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Filed under Constructivist Learning, Distence Education Theory and Research, Frameworks for Guiding Technology Use, Instructional Design, Mobile and Emerging Technologies, Research and Perspective on Technology in Education

My 2017 AU Graduate Research Conference presentation

Listen to the recording of my presentation.

My slides are below:

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Filed under Digital/Media Literacy, Distence Education Theory and Research, Frameworks for Guiding Technology Use, Instructional Design, Mobile and Emerging Technologies, Research and Perspective on Technology in Education, Technology Integration

Boldly Go: An Essay on Technology and Reflection

When I close my eyes, and picture what reflection looks like, I imagine time and quiet solitude, much as Ellen Rose (2013) describes in her book on reflection. I picture myself sitting by a window on a summer afternoon, gazing outside.

I would not last long beside my window. I would move into my garden, to listen to the wind and birds, smell the lavender, feel the cool grass, and the warmth of my cat against my shin. Under the shade of the ‘Hobbiton’ tree in our backyard – like the tree under which Bilbo Baggins’ long-expected party takes place[1] – I might recall how it was this tree that sold us on this house seven years ago, after seeing the bald lots of so many new-build homes. Listening to the nearby seed-cleaning mill, I might think about how much farmland surrounding my town has been lost to residential development, whether the seed-cleaning mill will soon be displaced, and what all of this means for food production and timber consumption. I might recall the clear-cutting I’ve observed driving through Swan Hills, Alberta. Is that timber used in Canada, or is it exported? Is it the same in New Zealand, where the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) movies were filmed? In these adaptations of Tolkien’s work, director Peter Jackson infused a critique of New Zealand’s deforestation (Jackson, Osborne, & Walsh, 2003). What do we lose in exchange for (perceived) progress? I might wonder if the Hobbiton tree had to be CGI’d[2] into the LOTR movies. I have my tree, in my backyard, and it’s the real thing. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of photos preserve my tree, along with the context of each moment. Would a virtual reality (VR) rendering better preserve, or change, these for me? What if I created/programmed the VR myself?

In contrast to Rose’s (2013) description of sight separating observer from what’s observed and thereby creating a space wherein reflection may occur, my reflective experiences are typically immersive. All four of my senses are catalysts for reflection, opening pathways to meander and explore. For me, reflection would be diminished without the sense of hearing, in particular, complementing the sense of sight.

In an EDDE 801 forum post, I shared my idea of “hyper-symbolism”, imagining how 3D/4D[3] VR could change the role of symbols in human-object-knowledge relationships. Rose (2013) describes how advances in spoken and written language translated knowledge into abstract symbols, enabling people to imagine, reflect and communicate, disconnected from concrete experience (p. 47). With advances in VR technology, I speculate knowledge is being repositioned to reside within high-fidelity proxies of objects, still abstracted, but providing richer data to inform experience and reflection. Would a VR garden provide more paths for me to explore, versus the garden imagined in my mind? Would the enriched data experienced in a VR garden foster an extended and semantically deeper reflection?

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