Sunday, December 31, 2017
Here's an entry from the current newsletter:
"Now that TCs are universal and can access libraries of books, 3-d video, computer programs, you name it, it is clear that the tasks of both the Educator and the Communicator are far more stimulating that ten years ago.
One of my recent lessons with my ten-year-old daughter Julie was in art appreciation. In the standard art appreciation course the TC shows replicas of famous artists' pictures, and a computer asks the pupil to match the artist to the picture. Julie said to the computer that it would be fun to see Constable's Haywain as Picasso might have drawn it. The computer obliged with its interpretation , and then ten more stylised haywains appeared together with the question 'who might have drawn these?'. I believe we are the first to have prompted the TC along this road, but it may now become a standard question when the computer recognises a child with similar learning patterns to Julie's.
It is sometimes said that today's isolated sort of teaching has robbed children of the capacity to play and interact with other children. This is nonsense. We ensure that Julie and her four year old brother Pharon have lots of time to play with children in our neighbourhood . But in work we do prefer to interact with children who are of mutual advantage to Julie and to each other. The computer is an ace teacher, but so are people. You really learn things if you can teach them to someone else. Our computer has helped us to find a group of four including Julie with common interests, who each have expertise in some particular areas to teach the others.
The TC also makes it easier to play games within the family. My parents used to play draughts, halma, then chess with me. They used to try to be nice to me and let me win. This condescending kindness humiliated me, and I always worked frenetically to beat my younger brother (who therefore always lost and dissolved into tears.) Today Julie, Pharon and I play halma together against the graded computer, and Julie and I play it at chess. The computer knows Pharon's standard of play at halma and Julie's and mine at chess. Its default setting is at that level where each of us can win but only if we play at our best. Thus Pharon sometimes wins his halma game while Julie and I are simultaneously losing our chess game, and this rightly gives Pharon a feeling of achievement. When Julie and I have lost at chess, we usually ask the computer to re-rerun the game, stopping at out nmistakes and giving a commentary. As it is a friendly computer it does a marvelous job of consoling us. Last week it told Julie that the world champion actually once made the same mistake as she had done - would she like to see that game?
I intend to devote the next two letters to the subjects I have discussed here , but retailing the best of your suggestions instead of droning on with mine."
While the computer's role in children's education is mainly that of instructor (discovering a child's learning pattern and responding to it) and learning group matcher, its main role in higher education is as a store of knowledge. Although a computer can only know what Man has taught it, it has this huge advantage. No individual man lives or studies long enough to imbibe within himself all the skills and resources that are the product of the millennia of man's quest for knowledge, all the riches and details from man's inheritance of learning passed on from generation to generation. But any computer today can inherit and call up instantly any skill which exists anywhere in the form of a program.
This is why automatically updated databases are today the principal instruments of higher education and academic research. It is difficult for our generation to conceive that only forty years ago our scientists acted as tortoise-like discoverers of knowledge, confined to small and jealous cliques with random and restricted methods of communicating ideas. Down until the 1980s the world has several hundred sepaate cancer research organisations with no central co-ordinating database.