Fixing Education and Corporation with IT of the Future

 

Jeff Zhuk

Integrated Software and Knowledge Engineering

Blog and Discussion

The next step in software evolution could likely offer a solution to many problems, even fixing education and corporation. Information Technology is a quickly growing field, attracting more talents in the attempt to smartly manage growing data. Do you want to move from theory to practice and become a magician? Learn with us at Internet Technology School: http://JavaSchool.com

A problem: education inequity

Job market in the US is changing much faster than in most countries. Simpler jobs disappear while new and exciting opportunities appear on the horizon. Current school curriculum is far behind the industry demand and the distance is growing. For example, Information Technology is looking for Big Data, Semantic Technology and Cognitive Computing skills, but we still teach SQL and C++ programming. Investments in acceleration of technology are much greater than educational investments. Plus, it takes tremendous efforts to formalize new knowledge into “educational” materials. It is much easier to lose an existing job than to jump on a new fast moving wagon. The jumpers, who can catch up with the changes, are our educational elite.

There are many reasons for education inequity. Here is just one story.

When I was training a small team of DoD software architects and developers, one of the men stood out the most to me because he was always able to expand on any subject and had great questions. However, when he told me his story, I was surprised to learn that his elementary, middle and high schools considered him retarded, a “lost case”. Just before college, he developed his own way of learning and later became a successful student in college and then a team-lead at work.

How many “lost cases” do we have in schools, colleges or in the workplace? How many students have trouble following along with the mainstream methods of education and vocational training? What is the percentage of students with learning differences or detrimental gaps in their education?

I was a corporate trainer, university and college instructor, taught in public and private schools, consulted and mentored business and technical teams. (See http://javaschool.com) Usually less than half of the group can sync with the basic flow of materials and can understand a bigger picture of the developmental process. Going above and beyond, the best mentors can recognize those who are ready for advanced material and those that need more time or special attention. The most effective teachers develop ways to approach individual learning differences, fill in the gaps in their knowledge, keep the students engaged, and minimize the “lost cases”.

We can enormously increase these efforts by utilizing the latest technology. By focusing on ending education inequity we will also solve the related program of the growing economic inequity in our society. “We” does not necessary mean the government or only the government. Private companies would also see a great payoff from an investment in resolving education inequity by enlarging the pool of skilled workers available. Furthermore, publicity of a company’s efforts in education would also serve to build up the company’s public image. And from a moral point of view, what could be a better payoff than fixing society’s problems?

A solution:

The best teachers in this country have already developed individual approaches, while selecting the style and materials based on individual learning differences. This is especially important for early childhood education. Conversational approach in education is crucial to finding individual differences and consistently engaging a student.

We do not have enough teachers, especially good teachers to converse one-o-one with the students. But today, we can computerize their methods and greatly expand the scale of the operation. The solution is a combination of conversational approach with semantic technologies.

The system will have access to a big variety of educational materials and will use a conversational approach to recognize the learning differences and optimize the ways of learning for each individual. The system must be smart enough to measure the level of engagement while trying different styles and materials. The “smart” part will come with Conversational Semantic Decision Support. Later in the book I write in details about this method and a system. Here is a brief definition (read more in the book).

The Conversational Semantic Decision Support system includes a set of pre-scripted scenarios describing decision trees, a set of pre-scripted questions leading to a specific branch in a specific decision tree and a semantic engine with the models of related knowledge domains. The engine uses the knowledge domains to understand the meaning of the answers to the questions and to map the answers to one of the existing decision trees and branches. It is expected that the answers are not in the expected terms and will require clarification questions, produced by the system. In the case of multiple failures to understand and properly map human responses, the system can access a subject matter expert for help. Each failure case will lead to system expansion with more branches and scenarios providing a learning path.

Let us come back to our educational agenda. The set of materials in each knowledge domain will be a mix of well-illustrated media-based definitions and examples as well as pre-defined questions and tasks. The most important task will be creating more questions. This individual component of education will complement the existing group-based approach. This individualized system will work under the umbrella of a collaborative system. The answers and new questions will be visible (without the student names) for evaluation to all students and will be ranked. Highest rank questions and answers will expand teaching materials for the proper knowledge domains. The value of questions is higher in student evaluations as they better reflect student’s engagement and also serve as engagement tools for other students.

I described the system that I’ve built with my students while teaching the Java Programming course at Community College of Denver. Our system had a limited set of materials and did not have an important part, Conversational Semantic Decision Support. Collecting best teaching materials on multiple subjects and adding Conversational Semantic Decision Support, both are not easy tasks, but both are doable. The teachers will still control the process but the power of the conversational knowledge-based system will greatly scale up their efforts.

From this point let us think of educational system as a product and try to expand our vision to different products and overall knowledge capture and development process…

A problem: “tribal knowledge”

Product development often starts with a simple idea. In most cases it does not go too far because it requires too much support from many areas of knowledge. It is like a camp fire that is hard to start in a windy day, but very easy to stop. Someone has to be lucky enough to be in a position to discover multiple “know how” that would provide the necessary layers of translation into a product.

Corporate knowledge or “know how” can be split into three categories: structured data – in relational databases, unstructured data – text documents in folders and web sites, and the biggest portion of information that is used daily in business routine and has never been captured. It is so-called “Tribal Knowledge”. My conservative estimate of the ratio between structured, unstructured and “tribal” knowledge is 10%, 20% and 70%. Gartner Group estimated that knowledge workers (almost everyone) spend 60 percent of their time with the search, phone calls and meetings, while looking for information to do their work. We would significantly improve business productivity across the board if we could capture this information. By retiring “baby boomers” or replacing “experienced and expensive” with “young and cheap” corporations actively lose huge portions of tribal knowledge. Sooner or later the business will feel the pain, especially the companies dealing with the long life products surrounded by the monstrous flow of related rules and regulations.

A solution:

What would happen if we can establish the process of capturing “tacit” information and make it cheap and available? This is a long shot, but we can start today.

The conversational approach to knowledge acquisition combines the power of Big Data and Semantic Technologies with the human intuition. This combination is optimal for retrieving the “tribal knowledge”, including the important “know how” necessary to move step by step from the conceptual idea to its implementation.

We will establish a new type of the development and manufacturing process and will make it available to a non-technical person who has initial ideas have no knowledge about the “know how”. What we call today design and development will be transitioned into a direct conversation between a person and a computer program, which can be called “a modeling and manufacturing factory”. Initiated by a person and supported by the conversational semantic system with collected “know how”, these conversations will help to clarify the initial ideas, will model and manufacture the desired implementation.

This is the optimal combination of human’s ability to suggest new approaches with computerized translation of these ideas into properly formatted executable instructions for modeling and manufacturing systems. The conversational system will search all available knowledge domains and in the difficult cases come back to a SME with clarifying questions. Eventually, they (SME and the system) will be able to successfully model and implement the idea into a product and manufacture with 3D-printers.

A new wave of business developments may overpass the wave initiated by the Internet.

This was the extract from the book “IT of the future: Big Data and Cognitive Computing with Semantic Cloud Architecture”, http://ITofTheFuture.com.

While the book is about WHAT and HOW, this introduction is WHY it was written. The book describes the next step of software evolution – Semantic Cloud Architecture. While this could likely offer a solution to many problems, the first and most important question to answer is how do we get there?

The gap between the realities of the current enterprise infrastructure and Semantic Cloud Architecture seems so huge that most companies are very cautious in approaching this cliff. But in order for a company to most benefit from these new technologies a critical mass of linked knowledge must be collected through the transitioning of many different companies and industries to said new technologies. While this “catch 22” may seem inescapable, this book offers a transitioning process with very practical “baby steps,” which require minimum upfront investments and facilitate massive transition. The book shares the methods and tools placing the seeds of Big Data and Semantic technology in the current business ground and establishing a self-sustaining process of transformation. By making our programs smarter we will improve their conversational skills and the sky’s the limit on how much computers can help us, enabling the next exciting technology revolution.

This is a long journey and you are very welcome to join.

References: http://ITofTheFuture.com  | 2040

 

Sunil Cherian

Sunil Cherian

Entrepreneur and CEO at Mentor Global

Jeff, This is interesting. We should look at ways to make this accessible. This is a core issue that will democratize learning.

Emily Langley

Emily Langley

Knowledge manager, librarian, tutor and information management

Right on!

Radu Tomescu

Sunil...this is all about wealth/income distribution.Since the 90s we have witnessed,in the US , (arguably) the largest-ever transfer of both wealth an income from the lower and middle-classes to the upper echelon. Yes, Internet is the Great Equalizer, thus opposition from certain quarters to net neutrality, and suggestions of tiered bandwidth..If we restrict poorest people to lowest bandwidth, they can't learn to much, can they? It's like in feudal China: the writing system is so complex that only richest people can afford to allow their children the time to learn it.

Jeff (Yefim) Zhuk

Enterprise Architecture, Integrated Software and Knowledge Engineering

Sunil, Thank you for thinking of “the ways to make it accessible”. Let us think together. Soon after posting the article I received a call from a friend of mine, an expert in childhood education. I’ve got invaluable hints on the best collaborative methods with children and what the system must take into account to be successful. For example, the “logical thinking” is only developing at the age 12-14, not before. I did not know that. How to make the system accessible to people who would like to help and share, to educational experts, to content providers, to content organizers and system behavior coordinators? This is a challenging task. A good example is Wikipedia, which continue growing and mostly with valuable information. Although in our case, the system should transform information into system behavior. I just noticed that as a technical person, I tend to focus on the technical pieces, although the other sides of the story may be also important.

Jeff Dierckman

I like the idea of applying the Conversational approach to education. A big challenge I see with the traditional Semantic approach though is the manual effort to model the knowledge domain. That would seem especially daunting in building a system that can converse on a variety of different domains. I'm wondering if some of the approaches taken by IBM Watson (which is now available outside use - at a price of course) could be used to help automate some of that by "reading" existing materials?

Lawrence Katz

Attorney at Self

Fascinating and well-written piece about a subject we should all be thinking about: Creating models to make knowledge, especially in the area of technology, more accessible. I see a couple of ironies here that, if they can be overcome, might lead to some breakthroughs. First: Tribal knowledge, which might be called wisdom, has a natural life span. Baby boomers like me have acquired a body of experiential knowledge that transcends expertise in a given field. This knowledge takes years to acquire, cannot be quantified, and is applied on a case-by-case basis. Like the generations before us, we will soon die and take this body of knowledge with us to the grave. The next generation traditionally starts from scratch. Second: Until very recently, information was expensive and education was cheap. Now, information is cheap and education is expensive. It seems as if Mr. Zhuk may have found a solution to both problems. .

Jeff (Yefim) Zhuk

Enterprise Architecture, Integrated Software and Knowledge Engineering

Lawrence, Thank you for good words. I continue receiving messages, mostly in my email, related to this publication. Some of the messages include very interesting thoughts that I’d like to share with you.

 -------------------- From email: “In general, there are tons of people with good educations who have trouble finding work, and I think the reason is there just aren’t enough jobs, not enough demand for what these people could do. “

 ---------------------- - Jeff – This is right, and the main reason is that education is far behind the “hot jobs”. When finally we start teaching these subjects, they are old and cold.

----------------- From email: "You certainly captured the key aspects of the problem, and I think you have some compelling ideas. I think that using technology to bridge differential learning gaps is absolutely imperative. My son is now five. He has had access to an iPad since he was two years old. My wife and I have adopted the practice of loading it with a variety of educational tools, games and information resources and then just leaving him alone. It has been amazing to watch how effectively he extracts knowledge organically using these tools… … I think the most challenging part of this lies on the other end of the spectrum from the consumers (students). You have students, you have a delivery mechanism that is responsive and adaptive, but you need to keep the material current and of suitable quality. For some subjects (history, for example) this is less of a problem. But for other topics, such as technology, it becomes more problematic. I think Wikipedia has given us at least one example of how “tribal knowledge” could be crowd sourced. In fact, the entire Internet is a living, breathing example of raw information. The difficulty is separating the signal from the noise… "

 ---------------- - Jeff - - I admire your ability to balance control and freedom with your son, which helps him to find the best ways in the learning process. Our children are amazing, what was difficult for us is so easy for them. - Making the live, not static system and separating the signal from the noise is difficult. The plan is to expand my current ranking system, open it to everyone, still giving more weight to the score from the content editors and content owners. Good content will come up and bad should drown.

Jeff (Yefim) Zhuk

Enterprise Architecture, Integrated Software and Knowledge Engineering

More sharing from email messages: - “Check the Wolfram Alpha project for a possible correlation…” - “Have you investigated / and / or approached Kahn Academy with your thoughts? It seems to me that they may have the need for the system you envision.” ---------------

--------- - Jeff – Will do…

------------------------ From email: "Your article was very intriguing--the underlying message I walked away with is that computer semantics can better enable best practices in teaching with regard to meeting individual learning differences (even those caused by social inequities). However, I must reiterate my earlier point which is that some programs which focus on equity, alone-which implies all folks get a basic opportunity does not go as far as social justice, which helps to ensure those opportunities are meaningful and are indeed, equal."

----------- Jeff - A similar and a bit different note I found in the recent article “Idiot’s Guide to Inequity” by Nicholas Kristof in N.Y. Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/24/opinion/nicholas-kristof-idiots-guide-to-inequality-piketty-capital.html “Unfortunately, equal opportunity is now a mirage…. As an escalator of mobility, the American education system is broken…”

- Jeff - I believe there are cases, when the right approach can change the game. I’d like to say thanks to people who offered their help. I plan to contact you later. I am currently teaching Java Technology for a group in Detroit. It is a group of 32 women with almost no knowledge of IT. The amazing fact is that in 3-4 months most of them will become Java programmers/consultants. This social project “StepITupAmerica” by UST-Global (a consulting company) with its educational arm, Mentor-Global, brought attention of Joe Biden, who visited us last week (https://www.facebook.com/StepITUpAmerica ).

Teaching these students is challenging work, but we will prove that this can be done; most of the credit should go to our very focused and motivated students. And we can greatly scale up the educational process by using the methods described in this article. ----------------

Stuart Ambler

Data Science Software Engineer

Misc comment, on logical thinking developing at age 12-14, I suspect that varies greatly with the person, some at much younger ages, some perhaps never

Jenae Conley

Associate Software Developer at UST Global

Jeff was our trainer for the UST Global Step IT up America, he is intelligent and Very patient. We appreciate him for teaching us and guiding us. Anyone that will have him as a trainer will be lucky to have him.

·         I think Jeff is great. I appreciate his hands on approach as opposed to heavy lecturing.

·         Excellent teaching format!!! Breaks EVERYTHING down to the best of our understanding.

·         Awesome teacher! Jeff definitely has a gift to make JAVA seem simple. There is a difference between a teacher and an instructor. Jeff has a gift to teach! He definitely imparted knowledge and understanding…

Jeff (Yefim) Zhuk

Enterprise Architecture, Integrated Software and Knowledge Engineering

Thanks, Jenae. Our intense Java training sure took a lot of hard work, but we didn’t cut any corners. We learned and practiced how to set priorities, to evaluate our current position, and to aim for achievable goals. We built a solid foundation of critical thinking by developing and optimizing the most valuable skill, the skill to learn. Software developers continue learning every day. Since many of our students did not have this background, gaining this skill was sometimes very difficult and took a lot of determination. We also cultivated teamwork and Agile development (Agile is an iterative development style that adds flexibility to the process.) It was very rewarding for me to see the students lifting their confidence level from “I will never understand” to “Yes, I can!!!” Many of them started with little or no knowledge of Information Technology. Four months later they successfully passed a pretty complex 6-hour Java/J2EE test.

 

Alex Gorodinski

Founder/Consultant at Open Mind Consulting, LLC

Excellent! This is one the best article about a real solution Education problems not only in professional area, but in the field of a personal development of students.

 

Jeff (Yefim) Zhuk

Enterprise Architecture, Integrated Software and Knowledge Engineering

Many of the former students are IT consultants now. This transformation has changed their lives. They do not have much experience but today they have a foot in the door. Information Technology is still a growing industry (one of a few). IT is trying to catch up with the growing ocean of data and increasing demands on information processing. Four-to-six months of intensive training proved to be a valid alternative to four-to-six years of college education (maybe not for everyone, but for many students.)

Is this process and approach scalable? I believe it is. The key requirements for scalability are: - Improve educational content, remove information gaps, and provide multiple content levels to match multiple levels of skills - Develop a reliable feedback mechanism, which will provide conversational support to verify student knowledge and student understanding at each point of study - Provide motivational support by taking into account individual preferences How much of this process can be delegated to a computer? Not everything and not all at once, but I am confident that a good teacher would find the assistance of such a computer program extremely beneficial. And then a computer program will learn more from a good teacher and can help even more…

Rebecca Ramo

Special Education/Drama Teacher. Writer. Singer

It seems like most of the world is on the same page in terms of desiring a high quality education for all students, regardless of the circumstances to which they are born. However, the diversity comes in terms of the approach. I would welcome any kind of technological tools in my classroom with open arms. In fact, many teachers, even in the lowest funded schools around, have Promethean Boards or SmartBoards in their classrooms. However, sometimes technology, at least in America's public schools, is a cover-up, a band-aid to disguise huge generational, socio-economic, and cultural (which may or may not refer to ethnicity) problems that cannot be solved with any kind of teacher intervention. Using fun, "engaging" technology in the classroom will not reinforce language at home for children whose parents do not know English. It will not convince them of the value of education or the need to show up to school. Many of my students are really nice kids in the classroom, but they miss school because their parents either physically can't or "don't feel like" taking them to school. Also, the corrupt wave of Common Core education, as is the societal pattern, is to go after unions. Teachers are under massive attack and are being tasked with ensuring that students pass standardized tests on grade level. I often receive middle school students who read and do math at a second grade level. Even if they experience two years worth of growth in one year--a huge success, my "job performance" is at risk when the kids then do not pass the 7th grade standardized test which they are forced by law to take.

Jeff (Yefim) Zhuk 

Enterprise Architecture, Integrated Software and Knowledge Engineering

Rebecca, You are right. Each student needs individual attention. Technology cannot replace a teacher, but can save teacher’s time and expand teaching power. For example, teachers are pressed to provide more paperwork. (A good idea of measuring the results is poisoned by its implementation.) Here is a great place for computerized conversational tests that would measure individual student’s level and suggest the next step of study or a proper repetition material. Formatted as a friendly game this program saves teacher’s time and still works under teacher’s control.

Rebecca Ramo

Special Education/Drama Teacher. Writer. Singer

When teachers "fail" to make students perform on grade level, even though they received the students when they were far below grade level, the blame is put on teachers for not having enough "rigor" and "technology" in their lesson plans. Absolutely no responsibility is put on parents, students, administrators, or the general society to help our children. Doctors, no matter how advanced their technology is, do not get rated "ineffective" if they are unable to cure a patient in the severe stages of an illness. They are not accused of not using the correct technology and being micromanaged down to every minute of their procedure by people who have never been doctors. Again, I welcome any and every technological source that benefits children. Please, we will take it all. But first, we as teachers, would like less than 35 students in the classroom, supplies like pencils and paper for our students that we do not have to buy, since more often than not kids do not have them, time to teach our children at their level, instead of wasting everyone's time to prepare them for a test that is years above their grade level.

Парафесь Сергей

начальник отдела в ЗАО "ИнСис-интеграция

Jeff! The subject of the article, in my opinion, is very interesting and timely, especially into our ever-expanding world of knowledge. How to deliver this knowledge to specific student effectively? How to select the material that the students understand it? What feedback should we provide to better engage the students in the learning process? These and other similar questions, perhaps, any teacher asked many times. I agree with your statement that traditionally the most effective method of knowledge transfer from teacher to student is a straight talk "one on one". And I agree that this is very expensive. Yes you are right when you say, "We do not have enough teachers, especially good teachers to converse one-o-one with the students." I think it's a fair statement for any country.

Sergey Parafes, professor of the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI), Aerospace Engineering School

Jeff (Yefim) Zhuk 

Enterprise Architecture, Integrated Software and Knowledge Engineering

Sergey, thank you for the response! As far as I know MAI in Russia is a similar level school as MIT or CalTech in the U.S. Do you have a course on Knowledge Engineering? Any usage of this subject and semantic technologies in education?

Парафесь Сергей

начальник отдела в ЗАО "ИнСис-интеграция

Jeff, you invited academic world and corporate training to use is a combination of conversational approach with semantic technologies to solve this problem. I think it is a good idea. I have some experience in using similar technologies; in particular I'm quite familiar with the technologies of the ontological engineering. I would be interested to get acquainted with the proposed technology in teaching and collaborate on knowledge transfer details.

Sergey Parafes, professor of the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI), Aerospace Engineering School

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