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Brief Summary of Contents of Week # 6

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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 this book.


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 (ICT).

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 students.

Chapter 1: Intelligence and Other Aids to Problem Solving

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 Marvin Minsky.

... 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 7.















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 occurs internally.

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 opportunities.

However, from an informal and formal education point of view we are interest in things like:

  1. Conscious intrinsic motivation and/or versus extrinsic motivation.
  2. Nature versus nurture in achieving increased expertise in any specific knowledge and skills area.
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 children.
  4. 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 retention.

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 and use).

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.

Practical Approach

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 learning goals.

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 individually.

  1. 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 instruction.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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:

  1. 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 task.
  2. 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 environments.

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 response.

Final comment

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 being studied.

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.


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Activity for Today (Getting Started: 15 minutes)

Our goal today is to learn more about school reform. We will do an extensive role-play simulation.

The class will be divided into four school teams of 5-6 members. There will be one team for each of the following four schools:

School # 1: Mostly white, upper middle class parents, definitely representing families that live "on the right side of the tracks." Well over half of the parents are college graduates. Parents want the best for their kids, and are able to pay for it. Thus, most of the kids in the school are taking private music lessons, or gymnastic lessons, or horseback riding lessons, or etc. Less than 5% of students are on "free or reduced lunch."

School # 2: Well over half of the students are minority, with 80% of the students on "free or reduced lunch." Many of the parents would be classified as working poor. Quite a few of the students are living in one-parent families, or in families that are quite a bit different from the "traditional" two-parent families. Many of the parents are on welfare, and many lack a high school diploma.

School # 3: A Magnet Arts school. The curriculum emphasizes the various creative and performing arts. There is a relatively high level of parent participation in the school, and students come from throughout the city. On average, parents have somewhat better than an average education, but have slightly below average levels of income. The student body is representative of racial proportions of the city. About 35% of students are on "free or reduced lunch."

School # 4: A traditional ordinary elementary school, serving a neighborhood that is representative of the economic levels, the racial mix, and the educational levels of the city. About 25% of the students are on "free or reduced lunch."

In each school team consists of:

  • One person will be the school principal.
  • One person will be the head of the PTA.
  • One person will be elementary school teacher representing grades 3-5.
  • One person will be an elementary school teacher representing grades K-2.
  • One person will be a local business person.
  • (If your group has six people in it, the sixth person can be a high level representative of the Mayor.)

I (the course instructor) will play the role of the School District Superintendent. Our district is in the process of applying for a 5-year grant that is designed to substantially improve the quality of education that students receive in our elementary schools. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has indicated that it will fund the proposal if is carefully written and reflects good ideas on improving education. The Foundation has indicated that they have no preferences on how the money will be spent&emdash;it makes no difference to them whether the money is spent for non-IT or for IT, for example.

Since this role play simulation is designed for use in an IT in education course, we will be looking for a balance between IT-oriented and non-IT oriented ways to improve the quality of education being received by the students in our school district.

We are a large school district. We hope that some of the ideas for school improvement will eventually be implemented in all of our elementary schools. Thus, keep in mind not only what might be best for your own individual school, but also what might be helpful to other schools that are somewhat similar to yours.

Details of the 5-Year Grant

Here is the expected budget per student (based on year 2000 dollars), for the next six years. The 2nd and 3rd columns indicate what your budget would have been without the grant, while the 4th and 5th columns indicates what your budget will actually be (assuming that the grant is funded).

We are assuming that all schools are the same size. Your school has exactly 300 students, distributed evenly over grades K-5. We are also assuming that each school gets exactly the same amount of money.

School Year

$/Student without grant

$/School without grant

$/Student with grant

$/School with Grant


























2005-2006 (After grant has ended)





You will notice that, in essence, each of your schools is receiving its year 2005-2006 budget starting in the year 2000-2001. Each school will receive grant money of $450,000 spread out over a 5-year period, with a decreasing amount received each year. The goal is to make needed school improvements quickly, but to make them in a way that can be sustained after the grant funds run out. So, the three key items to think about are:

  1. What are the school reform, school renewal, school improvement projects that you want to accomplish?
  2. How can they be accomplished with the resources that will be made available to you?
  3. How will the improvements be sustained after the grant funds end?

Activity # 1 (15 minutes)

Divide into four groups (schools). Each group has a brief description of their school. Make up a name for your school. Identify the people who will play each of the roles. Each person is to decide on their "personality" and their "point of view" for the school-based discussions.

Designate one person as the "chair" of the planning team, and designate one person to take the minutes. (Minutes should be turned in at the end of the class period. This will help the course instructor to improve on the role-play simulation for the next time that it will be used. Feel free to include suggestions for improvement in the Minutes.)

Then, each person is to state what they feel the single most important problem is in the school. This should be stated as an educational problem. It should be a clear statement of students not learning as well or as much as the school would like, in a clearly defined area. Do not state the problem as a "solution." That is, it is not appropriate to state "The problem is that we do not have enough state-of-the-art computers." It may be that your school has instructional goals that are not being achieved as well as you would like due to a lack of enough state-of-the-art computers. The "problem" is that important learning goals are not being achieved. It could well be that this problem can be solved by staff development, changes in the curriculum, more appropriate use of existing facilities, and so on.

Each speaker is to be treated with very high respect and listened to carefully. The results should be a list of major problems, one problem from each member of the committee. This part of the role-play simulation is NOT a collaborative effort. Rather, it is highly desirable to have diverse suggestions of major problems.

Activity # 2 (10 minutes)

Each group is to share with the whole class some of the priority areas (for school improvement) that they identified. The Superintendent will provide some feedback on his/her perceptions of the ideas that are being put forth. Listen for ideas from other groups that you might want to add to the list for your own school.

Activity # 3 (20 minutes)

Each school is to expand their list, by adding at least one new item from each member of the team. If a person's first item seems to be one that might be IT-related, than their second item should be one that does not seem to be IT-oriented, and vice versa.

Then, each team is to prioritize their list by use of a 5-point Likert scale. The five points on this Priority Scale are as follows:

  1. Bottom. While this problem may have some importance, failure to address it will have little negative impact on education in our school.
  2. Above (1) and below (3).
  3. Middle. There is general agreement that this is an important problem. If we have enough money, we know how to address the issue and we will address the issue. On the other hand, if we don't have enough resources, the way we are currently dealing with the problem is probably acceptable.
  4. Above (3) and below (5). Approximately 10% to 20% of the items on your list will receive this level of rating.
  5. Top. This is really an important and serious problem. A number of students are at physical, mental, intellectual, social, and/or other major risk. It represents an area in which our school MUST do substantially better, and it MUST do so immediately. Approximately 10% to 20% of the items on your list will receive this level of rating.

The process for doing this rating is that each person individually is to rate each of the school problem areas on the Likert scale. After that is done, then the scores are tabulated, and discussed. The very specific goal is to identify the top 3-4 priority items. This latter activity is cooperative&emdash;you want to achieve consensus in your group if possible.

Activity # 4 (10 Minutes)

In a whole class debrief, each school is to share some of the items that it ranked 4 or 5. The Superintendent is to make some profound comments about the nature of the high priority items.

Activity # 5 (20 Minutes)

Your team's next task is to decide how it will spend the school's $450,000 to help solve one or more of their top-rated problems. (Remember, you receive this money spread out over five year, with a declining amount on a year to year basis.) As you work on the budget, keep in mind two important things:

  1. You want to make major progress in solving or helping to solve the problem(s) you are addressing. Thus, your discussion should focus on how/why use of the funds will help to solve the problem(s).
  2. You want to make long-term improvements in your school. Thus, your plan for attacking the (problem(s) should ensure that the problems will not reappear shortly after the funding ends. You want to have a project (plan) that has a strong residual impact.

Activity # 6 (Remainder of Class Time)

Whole class debriefs. What are examples of priority items that are best approached with little or no IT, and what are examples that are best approached with a lot of IT? What did we learn through this role-play simulation? The Superintendent is to make some profound comments.

Some General Notes on this Role-play Activity

These notes are based on use of the role-play simulation with a class on 21 students who are in their fifth year of an elementary education teacher education program, and who are taking a Specialization in Information Technology in Education. This Specialization is 18 quarter hours (the equivalent of 12 semester hours) of IT coursework and practicum experiences taking during the same year that they are doing their student teaching.

By and large, the role-play simulation worked fairly well. The directions given above have been modified to take care of some of the difficulties that arose.

Students in the role-play find it difficult to distinguish between a problem and a solution. A student might say, "The problem is that our class sizes are too large." Actually, the underlying problem might be that students are not learning to read as well as they should, or that there is too much disruptive behavior in the classroom. While reducing class size may be a solution, there are many possible solutions. Start with a well-defined problem. After agreement is reached on a problem, then one can begin to explore possible ways to solve the problem.

Here are the top-rated problems identified by each of the four schools. You will note that different schools identified different problems. That is to be expected, since the schools vary significantly.

School # 1: Mostly white, upper middle class parents, definitely representing families that live "on the right side of the tracks." This school focused on one problem.

A. We decided that the main problem that needed to be addressed in our school was the fact that our students have a very limited awareness of the world outside of their upper middle class lives. Specifically, we wanted to give them some exposure to people of different cultural, ethnic, and economic backgrounds in our community. We also wanted them to get a taste of the sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from working hard to improve the community both socially and physically. However, in order to undertake a project so broad in scope, we realized that we must first prepare and train both staff and community members. Specifically, the training would consist of a description of the goals of the project, a breakdown of who needs to do what, and training as to how each member can accomplish their respective goals. This would not require much use of technology, however some of the other problems that came up contain obvious applications for technology.

School # 2: Well over half of the students are minority, with 80% of the students on "free or reduced lunch." Problems the school identified include:

A. Our students are suffering from the Digital Divide, as few other homes and few of their parents are able to provide much help in this area. We need to acquire better computer facilities, train the teachers in how to use the facilities, and integrate IT into the everyday curriculum

B. Many of our students do not learn well in large group settings. We have a number of students who tend to disrupt the class. We need more teacher assistants, who can provide one-on-one help in the classrooms.

School # 3: A Magnet Arts school. The curriculum emphasizes the various creative and performing arts. Problems the school identified include:

A. Our students are not doing as well on the state tests as we would like. We are pleased with the progress our students are making in the arts, be we are worried that our students may be falling behind in the core academics that are being stressed in this state testing. We feel that some good computer-assisted learning software may help us in this area. In addition, we need staff development in the areas of state testing.

B. We note that our students are being deeply exposed to an arts curriculum and way of life. We are concerned that this may tend to have some negative social impact as our students interact with students who lack this emphasis on the arts in their lives. We are especially concerned about their transition into middle school. Thus, we want to develop a "transition" program that will help them to comfortably move into this new environment.

School # 4: A traditional ordinary elementary school, serving a neighborhood that is representative of the economic levels, the racial mix, and the educational levels of the city. Problems this school identified included:

A. We do not have anything that distinguishes us form other schools and reassures our parents that their kids are getting an especially good education. We need a state-of-the-art computer lab.

B. Our students are not doing too well on the state testing. We need special emphasis on training the teachers to train their students how to do well on such tests.

C. There is limited parent support in our school. We need to build our school into a community center that regularly brings in lots of parents and kids.

D. Many of our students lack role models that might lead them to high levels of achievement. We need a mentor program.

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