Sunday, September 30, 2018

Food For Thought# 8: Tribute to Sir Ken Robinson

With a week of evaluation and accreditation lying ahead of us I thought that I would share a laid back, humorous talk from Sir Ken Robinson about education and how the system is achieving what it was designed to produce. In answering a question from the audience Sir Ken does give some good advice about being the change you want to be and explains that there are many teachers already changing. The video ends touchingly with Amanda Palmer, Dresden Dolls, singing a tribute that she had just written to the man with the most TED views of all time.

Have a good week,


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Food for Thought: The Science of Learning (and technology’s impact on how we learn)

I hope you all enjoyed the 3E learning experience. 3E again emphasized just how much professional talent we have at ISHCMC and how much passion for education and learning exists in our community. Student learning is at the center of what we do at school. So understanding how students learn is fundamental and how as teachers/ coaches/ guides we can positively contribute to this learning.

ISHCMC has a definition of learning that we should be focusing on everyday in our classrooms:

Learning is a life-long process that empowers students through engaging with and reflecting upon information and experiences to construct new or to modify existing understandings as well as transferring skills and values.

This links very well with our school vision which is also built around the right environment for learning whether that be physical or attitudinal: 

To be widely recognized as a school that nurtures a creative and collaborative learning environment in which students and teachers seek to achieve beyond their goals, flourish as individuals, display compassion, embrace challenge, take principled action on local and global issues and enjoy being part of their community.

This weeks Food for Thought builds on our goal of improving student learning in our classrooms. This short video explores why technology has not revolutionized learning in the classroom whilst at the same time highlighting the important role of the teacher in the process of learning.

The second part of this week's Food for Thought is an excellent article from A.J. Juliani on the Science of Learning and how technology impacts how we learn.

"So how do people learn? What are the mechanics of memory? Can we distill thousands of articles and books to something that is manageable, digestible, and applicable to our classrooms?

1. Attention: the filter through which we experience the world
2. Encoding: how we process what our attention admits into the mind
3. Storage: what happens once information enters the brain
4. Retrieval: the recall of that information or behavior
Almost everything we do or know, we learn through these stages, for our learning is memory, and the bulk of our memory is influenced by these four processes: what we pay attention to, how we encode it, what happens to it in storage, and when and how we retrieve it.
Let’s start with Attention. Going back to the previous post on why we learn, it all begins with attention. Most of the time we pay attention for two reasons: Interest or Necessity.
Our brain is flooded with information from a multi-sensory world that is throwing sounds, sights, feelings, and everything else at us in rapid succession. With all of this information coming at us we tend to pay attention to things that we are curious and interested about, or information that has a direct correlation to our physical, emotional, or psychological well-being.
Then comes the Encoding. Our senses are being hit with so much information that when we finally process that information we begin to categorize it as a new experience or a connected experience with prior knowledge.
After we’ve successfully paid attention and made some connections (or created new information) we come to the Storage stage. Here we store this new or connected information in our short-term, working, or long-term memory. Where it is stored and how it is stored is associated with how powerful of an experience it is/was, and how often we bring that experience back into our daily lives.
Retrieval is the final stage. This is when we pull information out of the memory to help us in learning something new, or adapting to a situation, or connecting the dots on an experience. Retrieval also allows us to “re-encode” which starts the learning process all over again. 
Consider the fact that technological advances over the years have always impacted how we learn, and changed how we engage with the learning process."

Along with 3E this article and video should give you something to think about as you plan your lessons. Adding the science of learning to the pedagogical tools and discussions you had on Friday and Saturdays should enable you to further develop your pedagogical skills as you grow as a teacher.

Have a good Sunday and Monday,


Friday, September 14, 2018

AI Extra: The Robots are coming and they want your job. Are universities preparing students for the future?

Experts believe that almost a third of the global workforce will be automated by 2030. But are universities preparing students for the rise of the office machines?

Had you popped into the equity trading floor at Goldman Sachs' New York headquarters in 2000, you would have walked into a bloodbath of the senses: 500 men and women projectile swearing, phones blaring, the dizzying aroma of adrenaline oozing from every human orifice. These days, you might just make out the lifeless whir of 200 high-speed servers over the ticking clock. Because those 500 people have been whittled down to three. The other 497 have been usurped by complex algorithms. 
These were not working stiffs: cleaners, receptionists or other service-industry hirelings already humbled by computers. They were university graduates with hard-fought degrees in subjects like business, finance or economics. Trouble was, for all their brainpower, passion and pedigree, algorithms just did the job better. They aren't the only victims. The computers, now, have caught the scent of blood.
"A lot of people assume automation is only going to affect blue-collar people, and that so long as you go to university you will be immune to that," says Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future. "But that's not true, there will be a much broader impact."
This raises the question: as we move toward the brave new automated world, is a university degree in, say, economics, philosophy, English or anything else that isn't to do with fixing cobots (collaborative robots) or writing algorithms worth the PDF file it was exported on? Or is it, practically speaking, useless? And if so, what are universities doing about it?
"Most universities are simply not doing enough to prepare students for the automated workforce," says Nancy W Gleason, PhD, director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning at Singapore's Yale-NUS College, and the author ofHigher Education: Preparation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. "We need to teach students to be cognitively flexible, to have the skills and confidence to try different jobs throughout their lives. In the gig economy, you're not going to have seven employers, you're going to have seven careers. People might say, 'Oh my degree in history didn't do me any good.' Well, guess what, neither will a degree in radiology, dentistry or law."
This is not a joke. Last year, a report by McKinsey Global Institute suggested that up to 800 million careers (or 30 percent of the global job force) – from doctors to accountants, lawyers to journalists – will be lost to computers by 2030, while every single worker on earth will need to adapt "as their occupations evolve alongside increasingly capable machines". Others suggest this number may be as high as 50 percent. "Machines are taking on cognitive capability, beginning to compete with our ability to reason, to make decisions and, most importantly, to learn," adds Ford. "At least over the next couple of decades, AI and robotics are going to eliminate huge amounts of jobs. Beyond that, it gets more unpredictable; we really don't know what's going to happen."
To find out more, I contacted 25 of the world's leading universities to ask what, if anything, they are doing to prepare students for the choppy waters of fluid work. Of America's eight Ivy League schools, only Dartmouth College had something to say; the rest either did not reply, were too busy or couldn't find the proper person for me to speak to. And of the eight UK universities I approached, the London School of Economics and University of Sheffield did not reply, while Leeds and Birmingham both couldn't find anyone suitable to comment. A press officer for the University of Cambridge said she wasn't "aware of anything Cambridge-specific".
Oxford, Bristol, Manchester and City, University of London, however, all got back to me. "Next year, we'll be introducing an interdisciplinary course unit that all of our undergraduates can take, and which looks at exactly this issue," said Caroline Jay, PhD, a senior lecturer in computer science at the University of Manchester.
According to its overview, the course, called AI: Robot Overlord, Replacement or Colleague?, aims to "equip Manchester graduates from all disciplines with an understanding of the impact this technology currently has, the way this is likely to change in the future and, crucially, the ability to grasp the opportunities it brings, whatever your chosen career."

"The whole point of universities is to equip people with the skills to learn," adds Jay. "Students are not just here to learn a set of facts, but to learn how things change, evolve and how they can fit into that future."
The University of Bristol takes a broader view. "If the economy is becoming more of a gig economy, preparing students to become entrepreneurial is something we take very seriously," says Dave Jarman of the university's Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
So the university has built Bristol Futures, a new initiative that offers a range of open online courses designed to provide "the opportunity for the development of core academic skills and key personal attributes to help students become adaptable, successful graduates". The courses currently offered – Innovation and Enterprise, Global Citizenship and Sustainable Futures – are not degrees per se, but run alongside a student's chosen subject.
"This is our long game," says Jarman. "We're looking at how we smuggle those ideas into anything from classics to chemistry. Of course, sometimes changing practice in a university is like turning round an oil tanker in a phone box, but we're in that process."
Dirk Erfurth, the careers service director at the University of Munich (LMU), in Germany, agrees. "You cannot expect every professor in every faculty to take these issues as their most serious concerns. That is not their task. It is our task in the careers service, as the bridge between the labour market and the academic world."
He says LMU offers funded overseas internships, mentoring programmes and holiday-season mini-courses (€95 (£85) for 40 hours of class time) in subjects like presentation and rhetoric, leadership, time management and communication, and conflict management, as well as a "professional education unit" for former students looking for a skills bump. Erfurth says LMU takes students' future employability very seriously, as long as the students are prepared to play the game.

"This is not about grades or certificates," he adds. "We want to show students that, if you invest a little bit of time and money in your skills, wonderful things can happen to you. You have to leave your comfort zone and go out into the world, to distinguish yourself from others, take internships, develop your open-mindedness, creative thinking, curiosity, networking and entrepreneurial spirit. Those are the skills that will make you employable in the future." This is what the University of Copenhagen calls an "interdisciplinary skills profile".
"We aim to improve students' opportunities to exploit the potential of digitalisation and big data both across the university and with our collaborated partners," says the university's vice-provost, Anni Søborg, echoing much of what I've already heard. "And we make explicit how programmes can be applied in the job market, including a focus on initiatives that ensure students have the requisite skills for innovation and entrepreneurship."
And so, over to America, which Dr Gleason says is "doing very little in higher education relative to other countries". "The truth is, we don't actually know all the jobs we are preparing students for," says Dartmouth's associate dean for the sciences, Dan Rockmore. "Dartmouth is the premier liberal arts university in the world. The liberal arts ethos is that a well-rounded and broad education, an exposure to the multidimensional nature of the great challenges of our day, are what prepares a mind for the unpredictable challenges of the world post-graduation. We aim to teach critical thinking, habits of mind that can be brought to bear in many different contexts."
He then pointed to the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network, which gives students "the opportunity to try out ideas for and in the 'new economy'", along with its "flexible quarter" system that gives students the "opportunity to experience the workplaces of the new economy" all year round. "In short, a Dartmouth education will prepare students to take advantage of those [technological] transformations."
The key point here is that all these courses are optional. No students are forced to take them, and they offer no future-proofing guarantees. But then, is it really a university's responsibility to hold students' hands throughout their lives? Or is it, really, up to students?
"I would say this is like a gym membership, not a butler," says Jarman. "You don't pay your money and the goods turn up. You pay for an opportunity, but you've got to go in and lift the weights and run the distance. If you do those things, universities have got amazing facilities and people that can help you accelerate that process. But it doesn’t land on a plate."
University students – as Jonathan Black, the director of university career services at Oxford University, is keen to point out – are adults after all. "One of the things Oxford, and other universities, endeavour to do is to persuade people who are perfectly bright enough to benefit from a university education to consider our many extracurricular services, such as the careers department, student societies, volunteering or work experience in the summer. That's where they're going to get that experience, but they’ve got to realise they're getting it."
He went on: "But we're not going to tell students what to do. I think we'd be doing students a disservice if we hold their hand all the way until the end and then say, 'Here's your job.' We're here to lay the table, show students what's available, but it's up to them to decide if they want to eat."
The truth is, what keeps most university presidents up at night is not the robocalypse, but shorter-term threats to their survival, like competing for endowments and enrolment. But there is one university president whose dreamsare overrun by robots. That, Joseph E Aoun says, is his advantage: robots cannot dream. The president of Northeastern University (NU) in Boston has developed a strategy to fight back. He calls it "humanics".
"If robots are going to replace human beings in the workplace, then we need to become robot-proof," he says. "The rise of extraordinary artificial intelligence requires us to cultivate extraordinary human intelligence. Even today's most brilliant machines still have limitations. Machines do not yet have a capacity for creativity, innovation or inspiration."
His idea, essentially, is to give students the ability to solve the world's most urgent issues in a way that robots cannot – with empathy. Or, as he puts it: "I've not yet seen a computer cry."

Laid out in his book, Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, humanics has become a staple of Northeastern’s programme that requires computer science majors to, say, take side classes in theatre or improvisation. "Why? Because it allows them to start interacting with others, which is a simplistic but vital example of getting people to go beyond what they’re studying," he says. "Human interaction is going to be a vital skill in the future."
Aoun argues that the only way to create a curriculum for a "robot-proof" education is by fostering "purposeful integration of technical literacies, such as coding and data literacy, with human literacies, such as creativity, ethics, cultural agility and entrepreneurship".
But, he says, experiential learning is also essential, and so has developed an acclaimed co-operative education and career-development programme called Co-op at NU. "We have a network of 3,000 employers in 136 countries on all continents, including Antarctica, where the students apply for paid jobs for six months," he says. "There, they get the unique opportunity to learn how people interact in the workplace, what opportunities look like, what it's like to work in a different cultural setting; they start understanding themselves better. That is powerful and transformational."
The numbers speak for themselves: most students do two or three co-ops throughout their college years, and 92 percent of them find full-time work within nine months of graduating.
The flood of automation is coming. But Aoun and Gleason say simply teaching students to swim – as the handful of universities I spoke to are beginning to do – will not save them from drowning eventually. Instead, they agree, we need to build an arc. "We must move away from the idea of a university degree being front-loaded in the first 18 to 24 years of your life," says Gleason. "Instead of a three- to four-year model, students should be admitted for 20 years with the ability to come back and take classes for free whenever they want."
That is exactly what both NU and NUS, where Gleason works, are doing. NUS, for example, has launched two government-supported "lifelong learning institutes", where graduates can return at any stage of life to "upskill" in hundreds of courses – long and short – from psychology to Arabic, "business agility" to "cyber security for the internet of things". "We are looking at stacking courses together to re-skill adults," Gleason says. "It's a long road ahead, but the real low-lying fruit is more experiential learning, and less lectures."
As for NU, Aoun has overseen the establishment of a lifetime-learning network of campuses in Charlotte, North Carolina, Seattle, Silicon Valley, Toronto and San Francisco, where members can return to learn new skills. "Seventy-four percent of the population are what we call 'non-professional learners'," he says. "Ignore them and universities will become irrelevant. If we don't step in and integrate lifelong learning as part of our core mission, we become like the railway industry that saw the onset of the airline revolution and said, 'This is nothing to do with us.' They didn't see themselves in the transportation business, and their business suffered as a result."
None of this, of course, comes cheap. NUS and NU are both well-funded institutions. Gleason suggests a tax on robots would cover it. If not, industry needs to step up and cough up. "I don't see why industry shouldn't," she adds. "It's not like they won't be profiting from some of the jobs that go away."
So what, in the meantime, can students who don't go to NUS or NU – or one of the world's few other universities with similar ideas – do to future-proof their careers? The answer, really, is to become as human as humanly possible. We need to fight back with feelings. "The future labour market needs not content experts or information processors," says Gleason, "but creators, analysers, problem solvers, collaborators and lifelong learners who are able to acquire new skills as old ones quickly become obsolete. The best place you can learn those skills are in the liberal arts."

Maybe, as a start then, that degree in philosophy or English isn't such a bad idea after all.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Food for Thought #5 18-19: Mindfulness and Health

Yesterday afternoon I went for an early dinner to a lovely Italian restaurant in D1, 4 P Pizza, the food was good. If you like experimenting with tastes they have some odd choices like Camembert ice cream. A couple of Israeli  tourists sat at the table next to us and a conversation sparked up over the beer I was drinking and moved to be about their trip to Vietnam and then more about who they were back in Isreali. It turned out that the young lady was a neuroscientist and undertaking some ground breaking research regarding the impact of stress on cancer and its impact on metastasis in cancer cells. It was a very interesting conversation. You may be asking yourself why is Adrian waffling on about this in his Food for Thought? Well it turns out that the research that this young lady is involved in is now quite advanced and they are carrying out human tests on drugs that can reduce stress for cancer patients. However, her team of scientists has moved on to research the impact of mindfulness on stress reduction and consequently on metastasis of cells. Their findings are already proving very interesting and could mean that we may soon have even more scientific proof that mindfulness and in particular meditation reduces the risk of cancer in the first place, as well as reducing metastasis of cells after operations and chemotherapy.

Mindfulness is one of our areas of focus this year on our strategic plan so getting to know as much about its benefits is important for all of us. hence this weeks I am sharing three short(ish) video with you that stress the importance of mindfulness and building it into our regular routines. 

This 3 minute video builds on the conversation last evening and explains the science as to why mindfulness is good for us.

In this video (6 minutes) Daniel Goleman highlights how quickly the benefits of mindfulness can impact our health and well being. 

I'd like to end this Food for Thought on the healing powers of mindfulness with this 6 minute Jon Kabat-Zinn talk where he explains why the cultivation of 'moment to moment, non-judgmental awareness' can be a powerful antidote to worry, fear or depression. as He ends with a quote that fully supports why it is so important that we engage every student in mindfulness so that it becomes a natural response to challenges and that they "Learn how to in habit being to such a degree that the doing flows out of being"

There is overwhelming evidence from renowned thinkers that what we are doing with our students will empower them and allow them to take better control of their lives in the future.

Added extra: Impact of loving kindness meditation that we have done at school by Daniel Goleman. In this brief talk from Big Think Goleman makes some very interesting observations as he suggests that doing mindfulness changes who you are, making you kinder, more empathetic and happier. Wouldn't we like that for everyone oin our community and around the world? It is almost the perfect video to explain why mindfulness/ meditation is so important at ISHCMC and for the future.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Food for Thought #4 : AI, the BIG question, how should we react to it? Part 2

This week's Food for Thought will provide a bit of balance to last weeks that expressed the concerns for AI particularly if in the wrong hands. This week we focus on the positive aspects of AI and how it can help us improve our lives. This article, from Intel, apologies it is  a bit of an Intel advert, however, does give ways in which artificial intelligence is good for society. The article has embedded 3 videos, the first of 35 minutes gives an overall view and is very interesting and will give you a much deeper view of where the positive aspects of AI can impact society, such as banking, sports (techniques, injury prevention), arts, personalized cancer treatment and farming. The other two videos are snapshots, 30 secs and 2 minutes of farming logs and cancer treatment that are mentioned in the longer video.

How to get empowered, not overpowered, by AI (17 minutes)

"Many artificial intelligence researchers expect AI to outsmart humans at all tasks and jobs within decades, enabling a future where we're restricted only by the laws of physics, not the limits of our intelligence. MIT physicist and AI researcher Max Tegmark separates the real opportunities and threats from the myths, describing the concrete steps we should take today to ensure that AI ends up being the best -- rather than worst -- thing to ever happen to humanity." Max Tegmark is the founder of Future of Life Institute and most definitely sees the glass half full not empty. He sees the future as being defined by a wisdom race, and as mentioned last week, we cannot afford our wisdom regarding AI to be formed from mistakes and reactive corrections, at MIT this approach is called safety engineering. He goes on to address the elephant in the room; the issue of values and goals, by asking the important question of whose values and where do we want to go with AI, what is really our objective?

My conclusion for what it is worth form all the reading and videos I have watched, is that AI does pose a potential threat if developed without careful thought and for the wrong reasons. It is inevitable that there will be a time in the not so distant future when we create super intelligent machines, by at the latest 2040, and this will seriously impact human societies. It will be up to us how we face this future and accept that we are no longer the smartest or most intelligent things on this planet. The challenge is without doubt going to be developing AI for the right reasons, controlling greed and human ambition, avoiding an AI arms race, so that we can create the best ethical and moral values for AI that will ensure a peaceful future in which humans and AI coexistence along side each other.