Telling the future

- Posted in Artificial Intelligence by

enter image description hereTelling the future has always been a popular activity among humans. But why humans would even want to know the future? Probably there many reasons but in general it seems that we feel insecure; we are uncomfortable with the unexpected and thus we want somebody to tell us the future. Hundreds of people or groups invest on that fact: People who tell the future as a hobby, people who do it as a job, people who try to cover their psychological needs by having supporters and followers; even the end of the world has been predicted thousands of times.

Regarding education let us just not forget that after 40 years of “technology in education” there is no big change in education especially in Europe. You see, we can easily raise questions like “what is the big difference in education we offer”? More children want now to learn? Do they learn mathematics more easily or faster? Do people love learning foreign languages more now? Changes need time and it seems that the educational systems change in a completely different rhythm compared to that of tech advancements.

When time has passed we forget to look back. Do you remember that device called TV? It still exists; but when it was invented there was again the prediction that education has changed once and for all, teachers will not be needed any more and other fancy things. Reality proved different though.

Now there is this big discussion about Artificial Intelligence. Again one can hear the same predictions: no schools, no teachers and even more impressive things like children with chips in the brain and the like. So, why not, let me tell my own predictions for the year — and beyond. Artificial Intelligence is not going to change education dramatically. Because education is a whole system and systems do not change overnight. Michel Serres, the French philosopher, used to describe this phenomenon as a big ship where the captain gives the order to turn to the right. The ship of course cannot turn to the right immediately as it is a really voluminous device; it will take its time. The problem in our case though is that until we turn right there is one more command to change route and then another one etc, ending up with no actual alterations. Happy New Year!

P.S. 1) “My beloved OVELIX (container ship)”. Pastel by author. 2) The above ideas always enrich our ERASMUS+ KA1 courses.

On beasts, teachers and classics (or the aftermath of a course)

- Posted in Social Acceleration Theory by

enter image description hereThis small article comes many months since the last one in this blog. I have thus not obeyed the basic advice for a good blog: publish regularly. Despite that fact, I will post today (and try to continue in the future) because a course that I shared with a group of classics teachers last week gave me much food for thought. And here we go!

I recall the advertisement of an energy drink, some years ago, which used the slogan “bring out the beast”. What a saying! What a declaration! Maybe, the ultimate expression of the philosophy of a whole era. Maybe the notion of the purpose of the modern civilization that pushes us to become superhumans before becoming humans.

Superman is not merely a comic hero; it is what you are called to become, in order to run faster and to achieve more. And if you cannot become that (and clearly you cannot as you do not have the physical force, the natural capacity to fulfill that) don’t worry. Drink the magical drink and you will fly. The superdrink will release in you your superpowers (and not necessarily the good ones), it will help you “bring out the beast”.

Modern marketing, as the real child of our epoch, is in a hurry. It wants to sell here and now and to achieve that it pushes people too much. And it forgets that humanity and civilization have struggled during thousands of years to bring the beast back, to put it in the cage at least, to control it that is.

Humans do have inner power; many powers. But if these powers are not controlled they will be used for destruction. Our modern civilization, supported by the accelerated technology and globalization, has deified money as the final idol. Profit (in cash) is the ideal for anyone now: individuals, nations, countries. And the system is in desperate need of consumers. This is why it pushes people to look down, to look to the earth, to the soil and mud rather than up, to the spiritual, to the heaven. It underlines the passions and their satisfaction rather than your ability to learn, to criticize, to think, to love.

To teachers: do not expect a system that worships material life to give nice advice to students. It only wants to produce practically dead, in mind and spirit, consumers not thinking, live, responsible citizens. Use technology at school but also draw on the wealth of the classic past. Teach with technology but be also inspirational to your students and teach them urgently beauty, poetry, philosophy, creativity for a better future locally and globally.

All the above ideas come from the experience of our ERASMUS+ KA1 courses.

The next Rembrandt project

- Posted in Artificial Intelligence by

“The next Rembrandt” is a very interesting case of Artificial Intelligence (AI) experimental use. Scientists had an AI program analyze the style and the totality of the work of the great master and then had the program decide on what could be a “new” painting that Rembrandt would have made. The result is really impressive if we consider all the technologies used until the end of the project: After deciding and creating, the computer could print its new painting on a 3D printer actually recreating even the style of Rembrandt’s brush. You can find all the relevant details in the video below.

Now the questions remain open and the answers controversial of course: what is it that we have exactly created as humans? A new way to analyze the work of an artist? A new way to see and understand art? A new way of creating? Is it creation? Are we at a stage where creation of the new will be done by the cooperation of humans and machines? And moreover, do all these applications of AI have a place at school? You, as a teacher, decide!

All the above ideas enrich our ERASMUS+ KA1 courses.

Reviewing 2016: Artificial Intelligence got down to business

- Posted in Artificial Intelligence by

enter image description hereAs 2016 is coming to its end I cannot but reflect on the advancements that this year brought us in a technological field that is around for decades without making a significant impact: Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Since the very beginning of the electronic era in the 40’s, the foundations of AI were set by great scientists as Turing (and others of course). We can say that the expectations for the advancement in the field of AI were then far more optimistic compared to what reality proved to be. During the last 2-3 years, though, we are watching a coming back of the legend, this time with real and tangible results: IBM’s Watson AI program is cooperating with researchers for cancer, Google translates with AI use, Facebook is making extensive use of AI for its users, Amazon for its clients, many games are already benefiting by AI use and even there are many startups in the field of education and especially adaptive learning. Let us not forget the creation of www.openai.com and www.partnershiponai.org , two organizations for studying the impact of AI on the human society- all the above during 2016.

Things are interesting to say the least; they are serious too. AI is what you can call a disruptive technology. It has the potential to bring everything upside down. How we work, how we learn, how we entertain, how we understand our world. It seems to me that technology is ready to change the world once more. Still struggling to adapt to computers, to the networks and to smartphones, all of a sudden we are called to go for a new round of new things. Can humanity really adapt to such an accelerated rhythm of change? It remains to be seen…

As an Institute that works with innovation, I believe that soon we will have the AI in our ERASMUS+ KA1 courses and projects.

An interesting article in Economist here https://goo.gl/L16Tgd and a magnificent lecture by Michel Serres here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCBB0QEmT5g

Machine translation

- Posted in Machine translation by

Machine translation is improving, no doubt. But with the rise of AI, neural networks, machine learning, corpus linguistics and a number of other supporting fields we can see a real difference. I just wanted to note the improvement regarding the translation to and from English/German; a real advancement! For years I have been experimenting with the pair English/Spanish where the results were more than satisfactory. At the same time English/German did not seem to get much attention from Google translate. But now, after the announcement of Google in September that they were changing their algorithm I have noticed the difference. Their “Neural Machine Translation” system works now in eight pairs of languages that represent the languages of 35% of the global population; impressive isn’t it? The system is also reported to have achieved translation between languages not previously known to the system something which means a much more profound understanding of the human language! Impressive isn’t it!

Taking the above as fact, I believe that education has to lean over these changes and start a real discussion on language teaching especially foreign language teaching and learning. Is the methodology changing or is foreign language learning just not needed? Are the teachers of languages losing their jobs or do they have a new role in the learning process? Many such questions emerge and given the speed of change in the technological sector we have to consider these questions the sooner.

Read more about Google Translate at https://blog.google/products/translate/ --In all our ERASMUS+ KA1 courses we always include the subject of machine translation.

Welcome to our blog

- Posted in Uncategorized by

enter image description here Welcome to my blog!

This blog is created as a space to express thoughts on all things technology but especially on the subject of ICT in education. The blog will, in a second role, be a kind of support for the courses that we provide to teachers under the ERASMUS+ program.

Working with teachers and adults coming from all possible professions for more than 20 years, the everyday contact with the problems of technology regarding its use by adults has given us many opportunities to reflect; reflect on what is our purpose after all when we say that we use ICT. Too much food for thought actually as technology is a very vivid phenomenon; it is changing all the time; it is running fast; it is in fact accelerating! OK, so let’s try to follow the hard rhythms but differently: not by running but rather by thinking. This is actually our suggestion to you as a modern teacher: Stop running; Start thinking!

Welcome on board!