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Artificial Intelligence. We will cover a number of
the main ideas in Moursund's
short book on AI in education. Here is the Abstract for
Humans and their predecessors have developed a wide range
of tools to help solve the types of problems that they face.
Such tools embody some of the knowledge and skills of those
who discover, invent, design, and build the tools. Because
of this, in some sense a tool user gains in knowledge and
skill by learning to make use of tools built by others.
This document uses the term "tool" in a very broad sense.
It includes the stone ax, the flint knife, reading and
writing, arithmetic and other math, the hoe and plough, the
telescope and microscope, the steam engine and steam
locomotive, the bicycle, the internal combustion engine and
automobile, and so on. It also includes the computer
hardware, software, and connectivity that we lump together
under the title Information and Communication Technology
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a branch of the field of
computer and information science. If the focus is
specifically on developing AI-using machines such as robots,
automatic pilots, and "smart" military weapons, then the
term machine intelligence is often used.
The theory and practice of AI is leading to the
development of a wide range of artificially intelligent
tools. These tools, sometimes working under the guidance of
a human and sometimes without external guidance, are able to
solve or help solve a steadily increasing range of problems.
Over the past 50 years, AI has produced a number of results
that are important to students, teachers, our overall
educational system, and to our societies.
This short book provides an overview of AI from K-12
education and teacher education points of view. It is
designed specifically for preservice and inservice teachers
and school administrators. However, educational aides,
parents, school site council members, school board members,
and others who are interested in education will find this
booklet to be useful.
This book is designed for self-study, for use in
workshops, for use in a short course, and for use as a unit
of study in a longer course on ICT in education. It contains
a number of ideas for immediate application of the content,
and it contains a number of activities for use in workshops
and courses. An appendix contains suggestions for
Project-Based Learning activities suitable for educators and
Chapter 1: Intelligence and Other Aids to
This short book is about how humans are using artificial
intelligence (AI; also known as machine intelligence) as an
aid to solving problems and accomplishing tasks. The book
places specific emphasis on educational applications and
implications of AI.
This first chapter provides background needed in the
remainder of the book. The background includes:
- Several definitions of artificial intelligence.
- A discussion of human intelligence.
- An introduction to problem solving.
What is Artificial Intelligence?
There is a huge amount of published research and popular
literature in the field of AI (Artificial Intelligence-a
& b; Minsky 1960; AI Journals & Associations).
Here are two definitions of AI quoted from the
literature. The first is from Marvin Minsky, a pioneer in
the field who developed the name artificial intelligence in
1956. The second is from Allen Newell, a contemporary of
... artificial intelligence is
the science of making machines do things that would
require intelligence if done by men' (Minsky, 1963, pp.
23 as quoted in Kuang et al.)
In Unified Theories of Cognition,
Allen Newell defines intelligence as: the degree to which
a system approximates a knowledge-level system. Perfect
intelligence is defined as the ability to bring all the
knowledge a system has at its disposal to bear in the
solution of a problem (which is synonymous with goal
achievement). This may be distinguished from ignorance, a
lack of knowledge about a given problem space.
Artificial Intelligence, in light of
this definition of intelligence, is simply the
application of artificial or non-naturally occurring
systems that use the knowledge-level to achieve goals.
(Theories and Hypotheses.)
In brief summary, AI is concerned with developing
computer systems that can store knowledge and effectively
use the knowledge to help solve problems. This brief
statement sounds a lot like one of the commonly accepted
goals in the education of humans. We want students to learn
(gain knowledge) and to learn to use this knowledge to help
solve problems. Goals of education are discussed in chapter
2 of this book.
You may have notices that the definitions of AI do not
talk about the computer's possible sources of knowledge. Two
common sources of an AI system's knowledge are:
- Human knowledge that has been converted into a format
suitable for use by an AI system.
- Knowledge generated by an AI system, perhaps by
gathering data and by analyzing data, information, and
knowledge at its disposal.
While most people seem to accept the first point as being
rather obvious, many view the second point only as a product
of science fiction. Many people find it scary to think of a
machine that in some sense "thinks" and thereby gains
increased knowledge and capabilities. However, this is an
important aspect of AI. We will discuss it more in chapter
DAE2 5/9/02: Distance Learning
This is a handout for a one-hour session on Distance
Learning. We will treat this topic using a combination of a
philosophical and a practical approach. The argument being
presented is that in some sense most of our educational
system is a distance learning system.
Philosophical and General Overview Approach
Learning occurs within one's mind/body
Learning occurs in one's mind/body. In some sense, all
learning occurs at a subconscious level. (Neuro pathways are
established and/or strengthened; concentrations of various
molecules increase or decrease; muscles grow stronger and
react faster; etc.) These observations suggest that the term
Distance Learning is a misnomer. The aids to learning may
come from a distance (from the learner), but the learning
A learning task focuses on a body of knowledge and skills
to be learned. Typically the intent (conscious or at a
subconscious level) is to move up on the expertise scale.
Think of a baby that does not yet crawl. For a typical baby,
the baby's mind/body is genetically "programmed" to learn to
crawl. Progress toward developing the musculature and
coordination begins before birth. Eventually these mind/body
developments lead to the baby crawling.
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
From a formal education point of view, the knowledge and
skills to be learned are defined by the teacher, the school,
the school district, the state, standards, benchmarks, and
so on. This, of course, raises the issues of intrinsic
versus extrinsic motivation.
At a subconscious level, the mind/body is genetically
programmed to learn. I suppose that this could be called
subconscious intrinsic motivation. Thus, there is strong
subconscious intrinsic motivation for an infant to learn to
crawl, walk, and talk. This subconscious intrinsic
motivation leads to the child's gradually increasing ability
to deal with internal and external threats and
However, from an informal and formal education point of
view we are interest in things like:
- Conscious intrinsic motivation and/or versus
- Nature versus nurture in achieving increased
expertise in any specific knowledge and skills area.
- Conditions that facilitate increased, faster, and
better learning that results in knowledge and skills that
are retained and that transfer.
Conditions for learning
Within the area of conditions for learning, we know a
lot. For example:
- We know about the need for feedback. Often this
feedback can be internally supplied. But, external
feedback--such as from an individual tutor, a peer, a
coach, a teacher, etc.--is very important. Thus, we can
improve education by helping the learner to be better at
providing his/her own feedback, and by providing better
external feedback mechanisms.
- We know the values of organizing the knowledge and
skills to be learned in a manner to facilitate learning.
This is reflected in curriculum scope and sequence, for
example. It is also reflected in our society's decision
to include a major formal educational focus on reading,
writing, arithmetic, speaking, and listening--what we
call the basics of education.
- We know about constructivism, situated learning,
transfer of learning, and other learning theories. We
know about Multiple Intelligences, different learning
styles, and individual differences among learners. We
understand that learning is a social endeavor and that
schools play a major role in the social development of
- We know about the need for and value of designing
school environments to be safe and supportive. We know
that education is a social endeavor. We know about
Vygotsky's theory of Social Constructivism.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
ICT has brought us a variety of forms of ICT-assisted
teaching/learning that we now call Distance Learning and
Computer-Assisted Learning. It has also facilitated blends
of "traditional" teaching/learning with the ICT-assisted
teaching/learning. I find the title Distance Learning rather
amusing. It seems to come from Distance Education, with the
word "learning" being chosen over "education" to emphasize
the desired outcome. Similarly, we now use the term
computer-assisted learning rather than computer-assisted
instruction. Since all learning occurs within the mind/body
of the learner, all external teaching and learning aids can
be considered as distance teaching/learning.
In any case, ICT-assisted teaching/learning is an attempt
to create a learning environment that will help a student to
learn more, better, and faster, with greater ability to
transfer the knowledge and skills and greater long-term
Humans have hundreds of thousands of years of experience
in creating teaching/learning environments that assist
learners. We have about 5,000 years of creating formal
education environments (schools) that are designed to assist
learners. We have about 50 years of ICT-related experience
in this endeavor.
We can think of ICT as an innovation that has the
potential to help in the task of helping students to learn.
We know quite a bit about the adoption of innovations
(Everett Roger's work, as well as lots of other
researchers). We are gradually coming to understand some of
the capabilities and limitations of this ICT innovation.
Moreover, the innovation continues to be improved.
We are gradually accumulating research, practitioner, and
user-based evidence of the value of this innovation. It
appears quite likely that eventually this innovation will be
widely adopted and thoroughly integrated into the totality
of teaching/learning environments that humans make available
as aids to learning. This would mean that some of the
current aids to teaching/learning will receive less emphasis
and use (of course, others might receive increased emphasis
Activity 1: The class will be divided into two
groups. One group will carry on a discussion among
themselves that focuses on the major weaknesses and flaws in
the above discussion. The other will focus on the strengths
and value of the above discussion. After a reasonable period
of time we will do a whole class discussion that reflects
input from the two groups.
One of the goals of formal education is to help prepare
students to be relatively independent and self-sufficient
lifelong learners. We want student to learn how to set
learning goals for themselves, to seek out the aids to
learning that best fit their needs, and to accomplish their
Thus, one of the most important components of the K-12
curriculum (one that is usually not made explicit) is
learning how to learn. We want students to learn about how
to learn in general, and how to learn specific disciplines
such as math, history, and music. We want students to gain
steadily increasing skill as learners. All teachers have the
opportunities to make this an explicit component of all
curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
Here is an example. The teacher begins a new unit by
saying to the class: "Today we are starting a unit on XXX.
We will be learning about AA, BB, CC, etc." The teacher says
some more about XXX to peak the students' interest in the
fun, excitement, and value of learning XXX. The teacher then
continues with some of the following types of activities
that can be done in a whole class mode, in small groups, and
- Whole class: What do you already know about XXX?
(Take answers from a number of students. Use this
activity to gauge current levels of knowledge, as part of
a constructivist approach to the unit of
- Whole class: How might we go about learning XXX? Do
we learn XXX in the same way that we learn YYY or ZZZ?
Facilitate a brief discussion on how one might learn this
new topic, using a compare and contrast with student
insights into how they have learned other topics.
- Small groups, with debriefing at a whole class level:
What are some of the things you would like to learn about
XXX? What would you like to know and be able to do after
we finish studying this unit?
- Individuals (perhaps via Journaling): What do I
already know about XXX? When/how did I learn it? Will it
be fun to learn more about XXX? What would I like to
learn? How is XXX like something else that I already
know? How did I learn the other topic?
ICT has added a new and powerful dimension to the aids to
learning. Thus, we want all students to learn--from a
personal point of view--the capabilities and limitations as
well as the advantages and disadvantages of the various
ICT-related aids to learning.
We can do this by:
- Giving students explicit instruction in learning to
learn and learning about themselves as learners in
different learning environments. This suggests that every
learning task you present to your students should be
viewed as an opportunity to help students to learn about
learning in general and well as learning the specific
topic being covered. Reflective learning and
metacognition should be a routine part of each learning
- Providing opportunities for students to learn to
learn in ICT-aided learning environments. In doing this,
there needs to be a focus on personal learning about and
reflection about these types of learning aids versus
other types of learning aids.
Opportunities to do this exist throughout the school day
and in whatever ICT environment is available in the school,
home, and community environments. A teacher can work to
improve the classroom and school environments and to make
more effective use of the various ICT-related learning
What about TV?
Suppose you show a movie or a video tape in your class?
Would you classify this as Distance Learning? How about if
you show a TV program instead of a video tape? How about if
the TV program is a specific educational series, such as
material designed to introduce students to a foreign
language? Suppose that the TV program is accompanied by a
book that students can use at school or home? Suppose that
the TV language instruction is also broadcast at a time that
students can view it at home? What about Sesame Street or
Blue Clue? What about CNN News?
Suppose that a TV broadcast allows viewers to phone in,
Fax, or E-mail questions that will be answered on the
program or perhaps after the program has ended? Does this
affect the issue of whether the TV program is Distance
Learning? (Note that the same type of question applies to
radio "Talk Shows.")
The point to this sequence of questions is that there is
no fine dividing line between what one might want to call
Distance Learning and "not" Distance Learning.
What about E-mail?
Suppose students interact with other students via E-mail.
If the topics discussed are purely personal and social, is
this Distance Learning? Suppose that the topics are directly
related to academic content? Suppose that students use
E-mail to submit an assignment to a teacher, or to ask a
teacher a question? Suppose that the teacher sends messages
to the students that relate to the curriculum or assessment.
(For example, the teacher might send out grade reports via
E-mail.) Suppose that you are on an E-mail Distribution List
that, from time to time., sends you information about a
topic. Which of these types of use of E-mail are Distance
Learning? Again, there is no easy, fine dividing line.
What about "Help" features in software?
Can the built-in dictionary, thesaurus, grammar checker,
etc. be considered to be Distance Learning materials?
Suppose that the Help happens to access the Web in order to
provide the help? Suppose the Help contains built-in
Computer-Assisted Instruction? Suppose that the CAL happens
to come from a Website?
What about a schools' computer lab?
Students leave their classroom and go to a computer lab.
There, supervised by someone other than their regular
classroom teacher, they use the computer for a variety of
purposes. Is this Distance Learning because they computers
are not in their classroom and the regular classroom teacher
is not supervising the su\udents?
Suppose that a student uses a home computer to write a
paper. The student accesses the Web for some of the needed
resources. Is this Distance Learning? Suppose that one of
the Websites accessed includes a one multiple choice
question at the end of each reading section? The Website
provided feedback on the correctness of the user
Marshall McCluen argued that "The medium is the message."
In this case the medium he is talking about was the
forerunner to the ICT medium we are talking about. As we
make use of ICT-assisted teaching/learning, we need to be
aware that the medium is part of the message. One of the
goals in ICT-assisted teaching/learning is to help students
learn about the ICT medium.
From my point of view, one of the major flaws in much of
the--now, "traditional"--Distance Learning is that the
medium and the message are not being appropriately
integrated. In a steadily increasing number of areas to be
learned, the medium (the ICT system) is a substantial aid to
representing, solving, and communicating about the problems
Activity 2: We will do a whole class discussion on
the practical approach aspects discussed in this section,
additional practical aspects, and ways for a classroom
teacher to implement some of these ideas.
The materials given below are from the Spring 2000
version of the course.Note that the order of topics has
changed in the course, so the materials are not relevant to
Week 6 of the 2002 version of the course.