Thursday, February 23, 2023

Book report

A live aboard dive trip is a great place for getting some reading done. When you're not underwater, there's not much to do. You can only chat with your fellow divers so much!

I love to read but not enough to make much time for it, so I take advantage of the boat time. Also there was no internet connection half the time so I was not distracted by Facebook, twitter, or current news items.
I read 5 books
That may be a record for me - 5 books on one month.  It makes me happy to know I can still read books. How did I fit all these books in my luggage? Yeah, right … you know better! I use Kindle, but not even a separate kindle device. I use my phone that I always have with me, my little iPhone SE with the kindle app. It fits in one hand. I can turn the page with my thumb on that same one hand. I can read it in bed. I can make the text as large as I want. I make the screen black with white text so it's not too bright at night. I have a book at the ready at any time! Just take it out of my pocket. And I can highlight passages and take notes. I buy my books rather that rent from a library or other free service. That way I can go back and find important passages from any book I've read. 

For example, from AI Superpowers

A discussion of AI in the classroom really piqued my interest, I highlighted it so I can find it later and remember. Here is an example:
During in-class teaching, schools will employ a dual-teacher model that combines a remote broadcast lecture from a top educator and more personal attention by the in-class teacher. For the first half of class, a top-rated teacher delivers a lecture via a large-screen television at the front of the class. That teacher lectures simultaneously to around twenty classrooms and asks questions that students must answer via handheld clickers, giving the lecturer real-time feedback on whether students comprehend the concepts. 
During the lecture, a video conference camera at the front of the room uses facial recognition and posture analysis to take attendance, check for student attentiveness, and assess the level of understanding based on gestures such as nodding, shaking one's head, and expressions of puzzlement. All of this data—answers to clicker questions, attentiveness, comprehension—goes directly into the student profile, filling in a real-time picture of what the students know and what they need extra help with. 
But in-class learning is just a fraction of the whole AI-education picture. When students head home, the student profile combines with question-generating algorithms to create homework assignments precisely tailored to the students' abilities. While the whiz kids must complete higher-level problems that challenge them, the students who have yet to fully grasp the material are given more fundamental questions and perhaps extra drills. At each step along the way, students' time and performance on different problems feed into their student profiles, adjusting the subsequent problems to reinforce understanding. 
In addition, for classes such as English (which is mandatory in Chinese public schools), AI-powered speech recognition can bring top-flight English instruction to the most remote regions. High-performance speech recognition algorithms can be trained to assess students' English pronunciation, helping them improve intonation and accent without the need for a native English speaker on site. 
From a teacher's perspective, these same tools can be used to alleviate the burden of routine grading tasks, freeing up teachers to spend more time on the students themselves. Chinese companies have already used perception AI's visual recognition abilities to build scanners that can grade multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank tests. Even in essays, standard errors such as spelling or grammar can be marked automatically, with predetermined deductions of points for certain mistakes. This AI-powered technology will save teachers' time in correcting the basics, letting them shift that time to communicating with students about higher-level writing concepts. 
Finally, for students who are falling behind, the AI-powered student profile will notify parents of their child's situation, giving a clear and detailed explanation of what concepts the student is struggling with. The parents can use this information to enlist a remote tutor through services such as VIPKid, which connects American teachers with Chinese students for online English classes. Remote tutoring has been around for some time, but perception AI now allows these platforms to continuously gather data on student engagement through expression and sentiment analysis. That data continually feeds into a student's profile, helping the platforms filter for the kinds of teachers that keep students engaged. 
Almost all of the tools described here already exist, and many are being implemented in different classrooms across China. Taken together, they constitute a new AI-powered paradigm for education, one that merges the online and offline worlds to create a learning experience tailored to the needs and abilities of each student. China appears poised to leapfrog the United States in education AI, in large part due to voracious demand from Chinese parents. Chinese parents of only children pour money into their education, a result of deeply entrenched Chinese values, intense competition for university spots, and a public education system of mixed quality. Those parents have already driven services like VIPKid to a valuation of over $3 billion in just a few years' time.

The AI Superpowers book was some thought-provoking stuff! Check out this Ted Talk by Kai-Fu Lee, the author of AI Superpowers.

But, my favorite book of these was hands-down City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love. It was in the style of a memoir. It was so well done that I determined to emulate the style if I ever get around to writing that book about my Mom. I figured the first thing to do is to re-read it and make even more notes the second time around. I got a start, but just couldn't do it - re-reading is not my cup of tea.

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