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What Does AI Mean to Education

Autonomous TruckIt seems to me that the biggest part of our conversations among educators about how AI may affect us regards our own job security. I’m not worried about that. It won’t make teaching obsolete, in my opinion, in spite of the list below. We’ll just spend less time teaching stuff to our students and more time teaching how to use stuff – essentially, how to use information to solve problems and accomplish goals.

This was all brought back to mind when I ran across this FastCompany article today about brick laying machines and other jobs that AI/Automation may replace. Thinking more about the implications, especially to education, I sought out similar articles. Here’s a list of jobs that some have suggested can be done by machines.

Chefs Factory Workers Surgeons
Retail Sales People Security Guards Farmers
Cattle Raisers Pharmacists Delivery Drivers
Journalists Soldiers Receptionists
Telephone Sales People Construction Workers Accountants
Tour Guides Mixologists & Bar Operators Librarians
Hospital Administrators Teachers Truck Drivers
Taxi Drivers Insurance Adjusters Construction Workers
Customer Service Representatives

I doubt that all chefs will be replaced nor that all factory work with be done by robots. The FastCompany article suggested that a brick laying machine would do what three humans can do in a day, but one person would be needed for the more nuanced work. But autonomous vehicles alone will likely mean the jobs of 5 million Americans, who currently make a living driving taxis, buses, vans, trucks and e-hailing vehicles. According to Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard, most of these drivers are not dissimilar to the millions of factory workers who have lost their jobs since 2000 – men without college degrees. Like drivers, manufacturing jobs did not go to China, but to Fanuc, Yaskawa, ABB and Kawasaki, the top producers of industrial robots. While factories were laying off millions of American workers, U.S. manufacturing output has actually grown by almost 18% since 2006.

What will be the consequences of this much unemployment, not to mention this much uncertainty. Nearly every article suggested that the effect on society will be HUGE and that the direction of policy makers will determine whether those consequences were bad or good.

Are we assuring ourselves of leadership that is creative enough to turn what seems horrible to most of us today into something that could actually be quite wonderful.

The sources: MSN, Quartz Media, Forbes, Futurism, The Guardian, LA Times, Fortune

Links to some of the articles

The Process of “Making” a Picture

A friend of mine (not to mention world traveler, master educator, keynote speaker, master photographer) once said in one of his photography workshops, that there was a difference between TAKING a picture and MAKING a picture. It’s the reason for the title of this blog article.  I struggled between “The Process..” and “A Process..”  The rolled better though it is not the more accurate phrasing.  Each photograph that I publish on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr or that I choose to print, is developed by a process that depends on the particular challenges it presents and the outcome that I am working toward.  So the follow is the process for making a particular picture of a Great Blue Heron.

 

 1.

First is the original photo that I took while walking along the Mine Creek Trail, part of the Capital Area Greenway in Raleigh.  This is one of about 20 photos taken as I followed the bird trying to get clear shots through the trees and other growth between us.  Of those, I picked images to post process based on classic and also unique positions or postures.  This one I liked because of the classic posture, but also the motion that the rising left leg implied.

0HeronProcess00
Blue Heron 1
 
 2
0HeronProcess0001
Blue Heron 2

This is a fine snapshot of a Great Blue Heron. However, I want to celebrate its Heron-ness, and there is too much distracting space in the photo that prevents the viewer to from subject. So I use Lightroom to crop the photo down to a 1×1 ratio, a square.  

 3.

There is still too much activity around the bird that is distracting. It is mostly the leaves and pine needles. So I load the image into Photoshop and use the healing tool to remove them. Sounds like magic? The software takes a marked object find imagery near it that matches its surrounding and then stamps that over the object.  I also used the healing tool to enlarge the surface of the moss.

0heronProcess01
Blue Heron 3
 4.
0HeronProcess03
Blue Heron 4

In image four, I have used a blurring filter in Photoshop to make the background less interesting / less distracting. This probably seems strange since I blurred the entire image. But that’s going to be fixed by one of the coolest tools at the photographers fingertips.

 5.

 Before blurring the image (4), I had made a copy of the clearer version. These two versions were layered on top of each other. Of course, the layers top is what I saw and would would be saved. To re-clarify the parts of the image that I did not want blurred, I created a mask. This is essentially an additional layer that is all white. The white doesn’t show. However, any part of the mask layer that is painted black essentially creates a hole through which the layer beneath shows. So using a black digital paint brush I painted the rocks, water, under wash of the bank and part of the moss. Then I carefully painted in the bird’s head and neck so that they would be detailed. What’s cool about this process is that if you make a mistake and blacken too much, then you simple fix your mistake by painting the problem white.

 
0HeronProcess04
Blue Heron 5
 6.  
0HeronProcess05
Blue Heron 6
In image six, I wanted to punch up parts of the image with more color. To do this, duplicated my working layer and then turned up the color saturation on the layer beneath.
 7. For seven, I asked the top, less colorful layer and then I painted through only the parts I wanted to increase the color for – the rocky sandbar and the bird. 
0HeronProcess06
Blue Heron 7
 8.  
0HeronProcess08
Blue Heron 8

 For image eight, I didn’t like the dark area at the top, so I cropped that out.

 

 9.  I’m close now, simply fixing small things that bother me, such as the unexplainable dark area in the top left corner. So for version nine, I used the healing tool to bring in some more moss. I also made a duplicate layer, increasing the exposure on the bottom layer, making it brighter. Finally, I used the masking tool to paint in the parts of the bird that I wanted to brighten up.  I also decreased the color saturation after bringing it back into Lightroom, to make it a little more real.  
0HeronProcess031117 1a
Blue Heron 9

Like so many things, you are never done. There is always something else you can do to make it better, especially when you come back to it hours or days later. But typically, I am done when the photo interests me, when I’ve come close to capturing what it was that inspired me to take the picture.

Were We Ready?

A few days ago my son posted this short statement on Facebook:

We weren’t ready for the Internet

He got some affirming comments and I just added,

Because of the Internet and other advances in telecommunications and broadcasting, we have become a world of nations divided by ideology instead of nations divided by borders. You can’t “storm the beaches” of the ideas that are contrary to yours.

Being a Digital Detective
Being Literate Means being a Digital Detective

This is actually something that I’ve thought about for quite a few years and the reason I spent the last 15 years trying to convince teachers to redefine literacy.

The fact is that we believe what we read on the Internet, because we were taught to believe what we read.  Our schooling was purposely limited to textbooks, compelling (and not so compelling) lectures and library resources selected by librarians with advanced education.  We try to limit our students’ learning to what is reliably accurate.  As a result, our notion of what it is to be literate is limited.  Can you “read and understand what someone, who you trust, has handed you to read.” ..and can you answer questions about it on a test?

In my efforts, I respelled the 3 Rs with 3 Es.  Instead of teaching children to read, we should be helping them learn to Expose what is true.  To expose what is true, you must learn to read it.  But being able to search for, find and synthesize the information, and select that which is most appropriate to your situation, has become just as critical as being able to read it.

I use to suggest to teachers that they should, at every occasion, ask their students, “How do you know that’s true?”  I added that students should be free to ask their teachers, “How do you know that’s true?”  I suspect that if political candidates were regularly asked, “How do you know that?” and we demanded answers, our leadership might be quite different.

The other Es were:

  1. Learning to Employ information, instead just teaching students to calculate numbers
  2. Learning to Express Ideas Compelling, instead of just teaching students to write a coherent paragraph
  3. There was a 4th E – exposing, employing and expressing information with respect for and devotion to what is true, Ethically using information to answer question, solve problems and accomplish goals.

WILT: Weather Station “Kurt”

The official name was WFL-26, or Wetter-Funkgerät Land-26. It was an automated weather station installed in Northern Laborador in 1943 and labeled as the property of the “Canadian Weather Service.” Fact: There was no “Canadian Weather Service” in 1943.

U-537 Anchored in Martin Bay, 22 October 1943
U-537 Anchored in Martin Bay, 22 October 1943. I can only guess that the photo was taken by a crew member or one of the German Meteorologists.

The weather station was established by a team from the German submarine U-537, anchored in Martin Bay. During World War II, Germany lost access to international weather data, and needed information about conditions over Russia and Northern Europe for air operations.  To help disguise the installation, they labeled it as Canadian and scatter American cigarette packs around the area.  Today, the only Wikipedia article about the site, Hutton Peninsula, is in it’s Swedish version – a pretty good place to hide a covert weather station.

The weather station was not discovered until a historian for equipments manufacturers, Siemens Corporation, found its description in corporate archives.  

WFL-26 represented the only German armed military operation carried out on the mainland of North America of World War II.

By the way, WILT stands for “What I Learned Today.”

Sources:

Budanovic, N. (2016, April 3). The Secret Nazi German Weather Station In Canada, Discovered 38 Years After It Was Built – Page 2 of 2 [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.warhistoryonline.com/featured/weather-station-kurt.html/2

Winter, J. (2013, March 24). Weather Station Kurt [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://xefer.com/2013/03/kurt

New Years Resolution: Bring Democracy back to North Carolina

Political scientists, Andrew Reynolds (UNC) and Jorgen Elklit (Aarhus University, Denmark), have designed a method for evaluating the democratic quality of elections around the world. Based on their work in setting up elections in Afghanistan, Burma, Egypt, Lebanon, South Africa, Sudan and Yemen, their method has been adopted by the Electoral Integrity Project, who have used it to measure 213 elections in 153 countries. 

A North Carolinian, Reynolds was unpleasantly surprised to find that his own state rated poorly on the democracy scale — on the level of Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. It’s measures of legal framework and voter registration ranked NC with Iran and Venezuela. 

North Carolina’s districting for legislative elections was the worse in the U.S. – and worse than any other country — worse in the world and worse ever recorded.  

According to a compilation of all indicators, North Carolina’s government can no longer be classified as a full democracy. 

We should hang our heads in shame, that we have allowed this to happen. 

Reynolds, A. (2016, December 22). North Carolina is no longer classified as a democracy. News & Observer [Raleigh].http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article122593759.html

A Couple of Observations about the Election

“Playing with data is as fun as playing with Legos”

Even though I suspect that most Americans, Republican and Democrat, believe in mostly the same things.  The political gap seems to have much to do with your neighborhood – that is to say, how far you live from your neighbors.

I did a little figuring with the population density of each state and the percent of votes cast by its residents for Donald Trump.  The correlation coefficient (yes, I’m college educated) was -.46, which apparently is a moderate downhill or negative relationship (see chart #1). In other words, the higher the population density (urban) the less likely you and your neighbors were to vote for Trump. The lower the density (rural), the more likelihood of Trump votes in your neighborhood.

Chart #1

Chart #1

But this gap seems to have been magnified by the U.S. Constitution, as the document describes the Electoral College. North Dakota, 47th in density ranking, cast 216,133 votes for Trump. That amounted to only 72,044 votes for each of the state’s 3 electoral votes for the Republican candidate. In Massachusetts, the 3rd most densely populated state, it took over 100,000 more votes for Clinton (178,615) to earn one of the state’s 7 electoral votes for the Democrat (see chart #2).

Chart #2

Chart #2

What surprises and disturbs me is the education gap. The graph below, from Pew Research Center, indicates that among all voters, those with college degrees or more voted for Hillary Clinton by 9 points, while voters with some college or less chose Donald Trump by 8 points. The education gap widens when looking at white voters only, a gap of 35 points.1

There are many ways to read meaning into this, and I’m going to be thinking pretty hard about it. But we might assume that free college education, as provided in many European countries, is pretty much off the table here at home.

Education Gap

Education Gap

1  Tyson, A., & Maniam, S. (2016). Behind Trump’s victory: Divisions by race, gender, education. Retrieved from Pew Research Center website: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/behind-trumps-victory-divisions-by-race-gender-education/

Where’s the Money?

I woke up early again this morning, all worried about this upcoming election. I started mucking around my old 2009 Macbook Pro and found the Federal Elections Commission web site and their downloadable files with details on campaign contributors by state. Data makes my skin tingle.

So I downloaded all 27 megabytes of North Carolina data (4/15/15-10/31/15), loaded the csv file into Open Office Calc and started tinkering. My seven year old MacBook was huffin’ and puffin’.

One of the questions that got my mind going this morning was the money that is so essential to political campaigns today. To date, the 2016 presidential campaigns have generated $1,000,058,201 from individual donations alone. More to the point of my sleeplessness was, “Who’s paying for these campaigns?” or “Who’s buying our government?”

So I used Calc to parse the 133,100 contributions by range categories: less than $100, $100 to $999 and more than $1000 and more. It shouldn’t be a surprise that more North Carolinians were donating less than $100 than the other two combined.

What struck me as especially critical to my worries was the total amounts of campaign money generated from each category. Look at the data and graph.

Donations Number of Contributors Total Amount Contributed
Less than $100  101,388  $2,737,190.87
Between $100 & $1000 28,427  $5,454,833.10
More than $1000  3,285  $6,226,996.52
contributionsGraph(sm)

What’s wrong with this picture? Well, let’s say you are an incumbent, or even a challenger. With so much money out there, constituting a elections industry, the only way that you can keep your seat, or oust the incumbant is with a lot of money.

Where do you go for the money?

Look at the diagram again. Where’s the money? To get elected, you have to convince rich people and corporations to contribute. What will they want from you for that money?

It’s their government.  Not ours.

 

2016 presidential campaign finance. (2016). Retrieved from Federal Elections Commission website: https://goo.gl/vfQqE

Use Your Department of Education to…

Consitution
U.S. Constitution

Before this absurd presidential election is over and the chilling potentialities have faded, I want to urgently request something of our next president. 

We are a great country with a wealth of resources, a rich culture that derives from its heritage of immigration and a government that has been carefully designed by some really smart people. We are greatest when we thrive to better ourselves based on the honorable principles that guided the best of our countries designers. As such, we have an immense responsibility to ourselves and to the world. 

In recent months, I have also come to realize how fragile our country is — not because of a failure of resources, culture or even our government (surprise).  It’s because we have forgotten what our country is about and the spirit behind its creation —  and our education system deserves a large part of the blame.  We endeavor to prepare our children for their future workplace, and rightly so.  But we have increasingly worked toward this goal at the expense of preparing them to become knowledgeable and responsible citizens of a democratic society. 

We have angrily express our dissatisfaction with how Congress, the President and the Supreme Court conduct governmental affairs.  Yet, according to an Annenberg Public Policy Center study, only 36% of us could name all three branches of government. 35% could not name a single one. Only 27% knew that two-thirds of the House of Representatives and Senate could overturn a Presidential Veto. 21% believe that a 5-4 Supreme Court Decision is sent back to Congress.* Yet the constitution we apparently know so little about grants us the power to select those who will fill our offices of leadership. 

Therefore, I earnestly beseech our next president to use his or her Department of Education to enact a complete overhaul of Social Studies education in America.  We need to understand the history and heritage of our country, both our successes and our blunders.  ..And, additionally, we will not be able to accomplish this without escaping the tyranny of high stakes testing and the multiple choice knowledge that it precipitates. 

The United States has an exciting history that folds into an even more exciting world history, and it all influences nearly every aspect of our daily lives.  Learning about that history and its social, cultural and economic implications should be just as exciting — and it can be. 

It should be. 

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” - George Santayana

..or worse, have it rewritten for them!

* Annenberg Public Policy Center. (2014). Americans know surprisingly little about their government, survey finds. Retrieved from http://www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/americans-know-surprisingly-little-about-their-government-survey-finds/

Who Would Teach for Cuckoos?

In the graphs below, I label the X-axis as “Years of Republican Led General Assembly,” referring to the years that North Carolina’s legislative branch has been dominated by the Republican Party, the first time since 1870.  I regret using this distinction because I actually respect much of what I think the Republican Party represents.  I am referring, instead, to the Cuckoo legislators, arrogantly conservative politicians who appear to be Republicans, holding just enough resemblance to push many fine and thoughtful statesmen out of the nest of North Carolina’s State Government.

The Exceptions

Spreadsheet ods  OpenOffice Calc
Students in Music & Art Ed Programs

Why? click

That said, I want to report on one of the many effects of their arrogance, and not the millions of dollars lost to the state as a result of their hastily written and passed HB2.

I am no longer a teacher.  I left the classroom for leadership roles in a time when teachers practiced autonomy in their classrooms and were rewarded for advancing their own educations.  Today, I can barely imagine how demoralizing the last five years have been for North Carolina teachers, and for school administrators who are desperately struggling to fill their classrooms with qualified teachers.

The solution to an alarming teaching shortage is simple, at least to the amateurs in Raleigh.

Appear to grant a raise to teachers in North Carolina.  

Factoring in the nominal inflation of the past decade and a half, teacher pay in North Carolina has dropped 13%.1  Real and significant raises would certainly help and are certainly warranted.  But there’s nothing new here.  While teachers have always been grossly underpaid, we have continued to have talented and committed men and women wanting to become teachers.

In my opinion, the teacher shortage has more to do with the declining conditions of the job and the increasing barriers that stand in the way of real learning in the classroom.  A teacher’s passion comes from celebrating the meaningful learning and growth of her students.  But today, the creative art of teaching has been spoiled by requirements to comply with government mandated standards that are measured by tests that choke real learning.

..And why would a high school student want to do, what they’ve spent 13 years watched their teachers dispair in not being allowed to do?

The result?

Enrollment at the 15 UNC schools of education has plummeted 30 percent since 2010, a worry for a state where those programs are the biggest source of classroom teachers.2


Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/education/article58311793.html#storylin1

I recently received a document from one of the state’s 15 schools of education that lists the numbers of students joining their various education programs since 2012, and the numbers SHOULD worry us.

For instance, this graph illustrates the university students who are planning to become elementary school teachers.

Elementary Ed
Students in Elementary Ed Programs

The decline, since 2012, represents a net loss of 213 potential elementary school teachers.

Equally disturbing are the numbers entering Math and Science programs, illustrated here.

Science/Math Ed
Students in Science or Math Ed Programs

That’s 34% few Math and Science teachers than would have been likely in a more stable environment.  And, as I’ve written many times before, the real problems of this state, nation and world have less to do with Math and Science, and more to do with our social condition – and we’ve lost 65% of the Social Studies teachers we might have had.  In 2016, no college student in that university sought to pursue a career as a Social Studies teacher.

Socialstudies
Students in Social Sciencs Ed Programs

Considering how teachers have been treated in this state, it is easy to fathom what these Cuckoo legislators fear the most.  It is highly educated and organized teachers.  In many of the state’s communities, the most educated citizens are teachers.  It’s why the General Assembly and Pat McRory (Governor) stopped paying higher salaries to teachers with advanced education (part of the Appropriations Act of 2013).  We are the only state that does not pay more to teachers with graduate degrees.  The result?

MastersDegreePrograms
Students in Advanced Degree Programs

A loss of 27%, though many teachers continue to advance their own education, even without compensation.

If you are a North Carolina voter, and you believe that the future of our state depends on the talent and intelligence of its citizens, then learn how your representatives voted on the final adoption of the Appropriations Act of 2013. If you do not know who your representatives are, go here.  Then go here and click the name of your House member (here for your senator) to see their voting history in 2013-14 session.  If he or she voted “No” to the final adoption of SB 402, the Appropriations Act of 2013, then they voted FOR teachers and stronger public schools in North Carolina.


1 Hinchcliffe, K., & Johnson, C. (2016, April 26). After inflation, NC teacher pay has dropped 13% in past 15 years. WRAL.com [Raleigh].

2 Bonner, L. (2016, February 3). Enrollment plunges at UNC teacher prep programs. The Charlotte Observer[Charlotte].

Good Enough for the 4th of July, But Not for the Classrooms of North Carolina

The history of my country is accented by acts of enormous bravery, men and women who did what they were told, and more, in the face of the ultimate sacrifice.  But among those acts of bravery, for which we owe our independence and freedom, were people who did what they were told by the powers of authority, not to do.  The Boston Tea Party is an example, when patriots risked their freedom and even their lives to dump bundles of tea into the Boston harbor, rather than pay the British taxes, imposed without representation.  Other such acts of civil disobedience include:

BostonTeaParty
BostonTeaParty.jpg
  • Refusal to pay federal taxes in protest of slavery and the Mexican War
  • Street marches, hunger strikes, and submission to arrest and jail in order to gain the right to vote for women.
  • Harriet Tubman’s underground railway and other actions which helped to end slavery.
  • Sit-down strikes and free speech confrontations to eradicate child labor and improve working condition.
  • Sit-ins and illegal marches to gain civil rights for all Americans.

We were taught about these acts and their courageous actors in school and we celebrate them on days like “The 4th of July.”  They are part of our identity as “the land of the free and home of the brave.”  But, if this nation’s most arrogantly conservative legislature, the North Carolina General Assembly, has its way, such acts will be considered grounds for refusing teacher licensure, in the interest of keeping our children safe.

Protect Students in Schools (Senate Bill 867) was sponsored by Senaters Chad Barefoot, Trudy Wade, Buck Newton and others. The bill suggests that a teacher, who has been “..convicted of a crime, whether a misdemeanor or a felony … indicates the employee poses a threat to the physical safety of students or personnel.”1

Among the crimes listed by the bill are murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery, arson and…

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

I have written a number of blog posts (here, here, here and here) about the declining state of public education in my state, since radical conservatives took the legislative, executive and judicial branches of our state government. Without collective bargaining, North Carolina teachers have little voice in determining the direction of our schools, beyond the voting booth — which the legislature and Governor McRory seek to influence with long awaited for raises, averaging 4.7%. 

To put teacher salaries into context, on average North Carolina’s pay for public school teachers averaged $1,549.93 below the national mean, between 1970 and 2010.  However, between 2010 (when conservatives took control of both houses of our General Assembly) and 2016, NC teacher salaries have fallen to $7,911.66 below the national average.  Part of this may be the General Assemblies elimination of a higher pay scale for teachers who continue their education through graduate degrees.2&3

It seems to me that in this time of rapid change, we need to empower our professional educators to lead in our schools with permission to be flexible and creative, as they craft and facilitate learning experiences that help students to become innovators and resourceful learners. But, if our legislature’s desire is to turn public education into a market place and our schools into customers for corporate products and sources for corporate profits, then creative, resourceful, passionate, and well-spoken teachers are a factor to be avoided. 

 

1 Barefoot, C., Wade, T., & Newton, E. S. (2016). Senate Bill 867 (S867). Retrieved from North Carolina General Assembly website: http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2015/Bills/Senate/PDF/S867v1.pdf

2 Teaching Salary Data by State. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.teacherportal.com/teacher-salaries-by-state/

3 Estimated average annual salary of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by state or jurisdiction: Selected years, 1969-70 through 2009-10. (2010). Retrieved from National Center for Education Statistics website: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/tables/dt10_083.asp

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Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
2nd Edition (2012)

Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
Classroom Blogging
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Raw Materials for the Mind
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