What Happened at #TRETC2018?

Each year the Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference (TRETC) shares the best in the learning realm for K-20. This year’s event occurred on November 6 at Baldwin HS, just outside the city of Pittsburgh, PA. Mike Moe, an edupreneur from Silicon Valley kicked off the event by looking at the Future of Work and the challenge for K-20 education. According to a Tweet from @Kinber:

Michael Moe @michaelmoe Co-Founder of ASU + GSV Summit @asugsvsummit this morning’s opening keynote on Reigniting the American Dream at #TRETC2018 #TRETC18 @pghtech.

Following Mike’s on point keynote, over 500 participants headed to workshops. TRETC has honored regional and state award winning educators for the past five years. This year featured presenters included: Matt Dancho talking on “Teaching in the Creative Zone;” Rachel Gatz looking at “Building Gender and Racial Equality in Tech;” Melissa Ungar using Scratch and Hummingbird Technology for 3D Storytelling; and Joe Welch, “Promoting Student Voice.”

Discover some of the presentations, including Justin Aglio’s presentation on “AI in K-12”  thanks to SIBME.

Here are some of the comments from Twitter about the sessions:

Gregg Russak exclaimed, “Really fascinating and informative presentation on Teaching and Learning in AI at TRETC 2018 .”

RJ Baxter shared, “Cyber Civility: It’s more than just Cyberbullying.”

Dr. Stanley Whiteman reported, “Great job today ⁦@MsUtley86⁩. We had a #PackedRoom at #TRETC2018 for #VR #GoogleExpeditions”

Melissa Butler related, “Shared ideas today at #TRETC2018 around engaging students in reflection about knowing/not-knowing as part of learning.”

Kevin Conner added, “@nhsdwelch sharing How I See It: Promoting Student Voice with Storytelling at TRETC 2018.”

In addition to presentations in the morning there were three workshops. Kelsey Derringer from Birdbrain Technologies worked with a packed house of over 50 adults and kids from Baldwin to create a Tiny Town using the new Micro:Bit Hummingbird. Mike Moe interacted with a team of student entrepreneurs from the Fort Cherry High School. Finally, Jody Koklades and Lisa Anselmo took people on an Edtech Smackdown.

During the lunch period TRETC participants interacted with exhibitors on the main level, People also headed downstairs to an Atrium to visit Student Showcases, discover emerging ideas in Poster Sessions, and engage in conversation with Innovative Projects and Companies.

The conference wrapped up with a reflective opportunity in the TRETC Cafe led by Dr. Jordan Lippman. Participants looked at the issue of digital equity and identified key questions that came out of the day’s activities, especially on how to prepare all students for the Future of Work.

 

 

Technology and the Future of Work

Every day there seems to be a new report about the future of work. Will most jobs be replaced by robots? How will artificial intelligence impact future careers? The answers vary depending on the source and the underlying presuppositions. In November I had a chance to join over 150 educational and community leaders for a Career Readiness Summit sponsored by Remake Learning in Pittsburgh. According to Remake Learning, the event was a chance to “analyze the current state of workforce development, share promising practices, and build the partnerships required to prepare students for a changing world.” The keynote for the event was Tom Vander Ark. Tom addressed a variety of issues but focused on the impact of artificial intelligence on the future of work.

Remake Learning highlighted on their website the key implications that Tom made about career readiness for students today. These included the ability to:

  • navigate projects and work in teams, as the majority will be freelancers by 2027,
  • contribute to the economy through human judgement, creativity, empathy, social interaction, and innovative mindset,
  • work computationally and across disciplines, and
  • upskill continuously as the economy and required skills will change at a more rapid rate than ever.

Much of Tom’s references came from his research for his new project, “Ask About AI: The Future of Work.” While industries like medicine and law grabble with the implications of Artificial Intelligence in their business practices, education has not really begun to address the impact of AI on learning. Tom and the Getting Smart Team spent two years studying the implications of AI and came to the following conclusion: “machine intelligence turbocharged by big data and enabling technologies like robotics is the most significant change force facing humanity.”

To follow Tom Vander Ark and his team as they continue to document this trend, use the hashtag #AskAboutAI.

Artificial Intelligence and Learning

With the growth of tools like the Amazon Echo, IBM’s Watson, or Apple’s Siri there’s been a renewed interest in artificial intelligence and learning.  In this blog article I’ll showcase just a few directions that are part of the contemporary landscape: adapted learning; personalized learning; chatbots and online learning; and new ways to access personal information.

Adapted Learning

According to Wikipedia, adaptive learning dates back to the 1970s. The idea was to create software that could emulate the human ability to adapt to individual learner’s needs creating a more effective learning experience. Adaptive learning usually has four components or “models:”

  • Expert model – The model with the information which is to be taught
  • Student model – The model which tracks and learns about the student
  • Instructional model – The model which actually conveys the information
  • Instructional environment – The user interface for interacting with the system

Much of the initial research came from work at Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon University. Today products like ALEKS, Knewton, and MATHia demonstrate the power of adaptive learning. It’s interesting to see that most of the work has been done in the area of mathematical learning. While there have been attempts to move beyond mathematics, adaptive learning works best in a very predefined world.

Personalizing Learning

There are many approaches to personalizing learning, but based on my experiences working with teachers, it’s next to impossible to do without digital technology. There have been some recent attempts by Alt Schools and Summit Learning to develop software to make the task easier for the learner and the facilitator. Key to both of these approaches is the use of a variety of data that pinpoints where the learner is on some continuum of skills, the learner’s goals, and resources to help the learner master a set of skills, competencies, or objectives.

Chatbots and Online Tools

The first chatter boxes were based on keywords. Today AI plays a new role opening up more sophisticated ways to engage a user in an online conversation. According to Wikipedia, “Today, chatbots are part of virtual assistants such as Google Assistant, and are accessed via many organizations’ apps, websites, and on instant messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger.” Today, chatbots are often used as part of homework tutorial programs like Nerdy Bot. Chatbots also play a role in grading essays. Hewlett Packard sponsored a competition in 2012 and the winner had 0.81 correlation with human graders.

At Georgia Tech, students were charmed by the teaching assistant, Jill Watson. What they didn’t realize was the fact that their online teaching assistant was actually a chatbot based on IBM’s Watson technology. The Coppell Independent School District (ISD) in Texas is the first school district to use the IBM Watson app to provide deeper levels of personal interactions and learning experiences for its students.

New Tools to Access Information

The Amazon Dot is a new tool for education that uses the technology behind Alexa, Amazon’s tool for the consumer market. Here are some ways Dr. Bruce Ellis suggests to take advantage of Alexa in the classroom:

  • Use Alexa in your classroom to support literacy by having students ask her how to spell a specific word, suggest a synonym, or provide a definition.
  • Social studies students can skip an internet search by asking Alexa simple geography and civics questions.
  • Math students can use Alexa to check their work when they’ve finished an assignment, and science students will find Alexa is great at converting units of measurements.

Arizona State University is one of the first educational institutions to test out the Amazon Dot as a learning tool. Starting the fall of 2017 1,600 engineering students are using the Amazon Dot. The university intends to evaluate the Amazon Dot as a tool that “combines sensing, connectivity and data analytics to inform decision making, optimize operations and energy efficiency, and create a highly personalized campus experience for every student, professor, staff member and alumnus.”