Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Monday, April 9, 2012

Stanford Makes Us Smile....

1) Read the article at this link

2) Then read the comments.

3) Then smile. As long as folks insist on thinking of education as something to be delivered in an "efficient" manner things like this will continue to crop up. On the other hand, it makes for a great opportunity for people to learn what's really important in education.


The Stanford Education Experiment Could Change Higher Learning Forever

By Steven Leckart Email Author March 20, 2012
9:34 pm
Categories: Biotech, Wired Magazine


Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig in the basement of Thrun's guesthouse, where they record class videos.

Photo: Sam Comen

Stanford doesn’t want me. I can say that because it’s a documented fact: I was once denied admission in writing. I took my last math class back in high school. Which probably explains why this quiz on how to get a computer to calculate an ideal itinerary is making my brain hurt. I’m staring at a crude map of Romania on my MacBook. Twenty cities are connected in a network of straight black lines. My goal is to determine the best route from Arad to Bucharest. A handful of search algorithms with names like breadth-first, depth-first, uniform-cost, and A* can be used. Each employs a different strategy for scanning the map and considering various paths. I’ve never heard of these algorithms or considered how a computer determines a route. But I’ll learn, because despite the utter lack of qualifications I just mentioned, I’m enrolled in CS221: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, a graduate- level course taught by Stanford professors Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig.

Last fall, the university in the heart of Silicon Valley did something it had never done before: It opened up three classes, including CS221, to anyone with a web connection. Lectures and assignments—the same ones administered in the regular on-campus class—would be posted and auto-graded online each week. Midterms and finals would have strict deadlines. Stanford wouldn’t issue course credit to the non-matriculated students. But at the end of the term, students who completed a course would be awarded an official Statement of Accomplishment.

People around the world have gone crazy for this opportunity. Fully two-thirds of my 160,000 classmates live outside the US. There are students in 190 countries—from India and South Korea to New Zealand and the Republic of Azerbaijan. More than 100 volunteers have signed up to translate the lectures into 44 languages, including Bengali. In Iran, where YouTube is blocked, one student cloned the CS221 class website and—with the professors’ permission—began reposting the video files for 1,000 students.

Aside from computer-programming AI-heads, my classmates range from junior-high school students and humanities majors to middle-aged middle school science teachers and seventysomething retirees. One student described CS221 as the “online Woodstock of the digital era.” Personally, I signed up to have the experience of taking a Stanford course. Learning about artificial intelligence would be a nice bonus. After all, if I’m ever going to let a self-driving car speed me down a highway at 65 mph, it’ll be comforting to have a basic understanding of what’s behind the wheel.

It’s not until the second week of class that I notice a small disclaimer on the AI course website: Prerequisites: A solid understanding of probability and linear algebra will be required.

Solid understanding? I majored in English. This makes me a “fuzzy” (what Stanford techies call liberal arts majors behind their backs). And now I’m trying to wrap my head around Bayesian probability, a branch of statistics that in the past 25 years has revolutionized a dozen fields from genomics and robotics to neuroscience. I’m told it all boils down to this formula:

P (A
B) = P (B
A) P(A)

P (B)

Apply this rule to a computational problem and you can make efficient predictions based on otherwise unreliable data. Practical applications, aside from programming autonomous cars, include calculating a woman’s risk of breast cancer, analyzing DNA, and building a better spam filter.

That stuff’s all easier said than done. But the basics are actually fairly basic. I manage to score 58 percent on this homework assignment. I may not comprehend every which way to Bucharest. But in five weeks maybe I’ll be ready to tackle a spam filter.

Sebastian Thrun stepped onstage at the March 2011 TED conference in Long Beach, California. In a ballroom filled with 1,000 heavyweight thinkers, the roboticist and AI guru offered a peek at his latest project at Google: a charcoal-gray Toyota Prius outfitted with a laser range finder, radar, and cameras. He showed video of the sedan navigating through highway traffic, dodging deer on a pitch-dark road, and even zigzagging down San Francisco’s Lombard Street—all without a human so much as touching the wheel, the gas, or the brake. The applause roared.

You’d think that would have been Thrun’s favorite moment at TED. But it wasn’t. Salman Khan also made a presentation that week. The founder of Khan Academy, which Wired profiled last August, told the story of his nearly six-year-old website, which provides more than 2,800 tutorial videos in subjects like science, math, and economics. Khan capped off his talk by emphasizing how he’s growing a “global one-world classroom.” Joining him onstage, Bill Gates called Khan Academy “the future of education.” For Thrun, it was a full-on epiphany. “I was flabbergasted,” he says. “I teach a lot of great students at Stanford. But the entire world is out there.”

Even on a campus with 17 Nobel laureates, four Pulitzer Prize winners, and 18 recipients of the National Medal of Science, Thrun has managed to distinguish himself. In 2004, six months after arriving at Palo Alto as an associate professor, he was named director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. The next year his team won the Darpa Grand Challenge, a competition to build an autonomous car that can drive itself across the Nevada desert. (Wired wrote about the 132-mile robo-race in 2006.) For Thrun’s achievement, Stanford was awarded a $2 million prize. Today “Stanley,” Thrun’s self-driving Volkswagen Touareg, lives at the Smithsonian. In April 2011, Thrun gave up his tenure at Stanford to head Google X, a lab created to incubate the company’s most ambitious and secretive projects. He was also free to pursue outside ventures.

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