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technology

Technology will make lecturers redundant – but only if they let it

Technology will make lecturers redundant — but only if they let it

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

A teacher walks into a classroom and begins a lesson. As she speaks, the audio is translated in real time into a variety of languages that students have pre-selected, so each can hear the lecturer’s voice in their own language. It can even be delivered directly into their auditory canal so that it does not disturb other students. The lecturer’s voice is also transcribed in real-time, appearing in a display that presents digital content over the students’ visual field.

As the lesson progresses, students identify concepts they feel need further clarification. They submit highly individual queries to search engines that use artificial intelligence algorithms to filter and synthesise results from a variety of sources. This information is presented in their augmented reality system, along with the sources used, and additional detail in the form of images and animations.

microsoft-hololens-medical-studies

All of the additional information gathered by students is collated into a single set of notes for the lesson, along with video and audio recordings of the interactions. It’s then published to the class server.

This isn’t science fiction. All of the technology described here currently exists. Over time it will become more automated, economical and accurate.

What does a scenario like the one described here mean for lecturers who think that “teaching” means selecting and packaging information for students? There are many excellent theoretical reasons for why simply covering the content or “getting through the syllabus” has no place in higher education. But for the purposes of this article I’ll focus on the powerful practical reasons that lecturers who merely cover the content are on a guaranteed path to redundancy.

The future isn’t coming – it’s here

The technology described above may sound outlandish and seem totally out of most students’ reach. But consider the humble – and ubiquitous – smartphone. A decade ago, the iPhone didn’t exist. Five years ago most students in my classes at a South African university didn’t have smartphones. Today, most do. Research shows that this growth is mirrored across Africa. The first cellphones were prohibitively expensive, but now smartphones and tablets are handed out to people opening a bank account. The technology on these phones is also becoming increasingly powerful, and will continue to advance so that what is cutting edge today will be mainstream in about five years’ time.

This educational technology can change the way that university students learn. But ultimately, machines can’t replace teachers. Unless, that is, teachers are just selecting and packaging content with a view to “getting through the syllabus”. As demonstrated above, computers and algorithms are becoming increasingly adept at the filtering and synthesis of specialised information. Teachers who focus on the real role of universities – teaching students how to think deeply and critically – and who have an open mind, needn’t fear this technology.

Crucial role of universities

In a society where machines are taking over more and more of our decision-making, we must acknowledge that the value of a university is not the academics who see their work as controlling access to specialised knowledge.

Rather, it’s that higher education institutions constitute spaces that encourage in-depth investigation into the nature of the world. The best university teachers don’t just focus on content because doing so would reduce their roles to information filters who simply make decisions about what content is important to cover.

Digital tools are quickly getting to the point where algorithms will outperform experts, not only in filtering content but also in synthesising it. Teachers should embrace technology by encouraging their students to build knowledge through digital networks both within and outside the academy. That way they will never become redundant. And they’ll ensure that their graduates are critical thinkers, not just technological gurus.The Conversation

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education physiotherapy technology

Physiotherapy in 2050: Ethical and clinical implications

This post describes a project that I began earlier this week with my 3rd year undergraduate students as part of their Professional Ethics module. The project represents a convergence of a few ideas that have been bouncing around in my head for a couple of years and are now coming together as a result of a proposal that I’m putting together for a book chapter for the Critical Physiotherapy Network. I’m undecided at this point if I’ll develop it into a full research proposal, as I’m currently feeling more inclined to just have fun with it rather than turn it into something that will feel more like work.

The project is premised on the idea that health and medicine – embedded within a broader social construct – will be significantly impacted by rapidly accelerating changes in technology. The question we are looking to explore in the project is: What are the moral, ethical, legal, and clinical implications for physiotherapy practice when the boundaries of medical and health science are significantly shifted as a result of technological advances?

The students will work in small groups that are allocated an area of medicine and health where we are seeing significant change as a result of the integration of advanced technology. Each week in class I will present an idea that is relevant to our Professional Ethics module (for example, the concept of human rights) and then each group will explore that concept within the framework of their topic. So, some might look at how gene therapy could influence how we think about our rights, while others might ask what it even means to be human. I’m not 100% how this is going to play out and will most likely adapt the project as we progress, taking into account student feedback and the challenges we encounter. I can foresee some groups having trouble with certain ethical constructs simply because it may not be applicable to their topic.

Exoskeletons are playing an increasingly important role in neurological rehabilitation.
Exoskeletons playing an increasingly important role in neurological rehabilitation.
The following list and questions aim to stimulate the discussion and to give some idea of what we are looking at (this list is not exhaustive and I’m still playing around with ideas – suggestions are welcome):

  1. Artificial intelligence and algorithmic ethical decision-making. Can computers be ethical? How is ethical reasoning incorporated into machines? How will ethical algorithms impact health, for example, when computers make decisions about organ transplant recipients? Can ethics programmed into machines?
  2. Nanotechnology. As our ability to manipulate our world at the atomic level advances, what changes can we expect to see for physiotherapists and physiotherapy practice? How far can we go with integrating technology into our bodies before we stop being “human”?
  3. Gene therapy. What happens when genetic disorders that provide specialisation areas for physiotherapists are eradicated through gene therapy? What happens when we can “fix” the genetic problems that lead to complications that physiotherapists have traditionally had a significant role in. For example, what will we do when cystic fibrosis is cured? What happens when we have a vaccine for HIV? Or when ALS is little more than an inconvenience?
  4. Robotics. What happens when patients who undergo amputations are fitted with prosthetics that link to the nervous system? When exoskeletons for paralysed patients are common? How much of robotic systems will students need to know about? Will exoskeletons be the new wheelchairs?
  5. Aging. What happens when the aging population no longer ages? How will physiotherapy change as the human lifespan is extended? There is an entire field of physiotherapy devoted to the management of the aging population; what will happen to that? How will palliative care change?
  6. Augmented reality. When we can overlay digital information onto our visual field, what possibilities exist for effective patient management? For education? What happens when that information is integrated with location-based data, so that patient-specific information is presented to us when we are near that patient?
  7. Virtual reality. What will it mean for training when we can build entire hospitals and patient interactions in the virtual world? When we can introduce students to the ICU in their first year? This could be especially useful when we have challenges with finding enough placements for students who need to do clinical rotations.
  8. 3D printing. What happens when we can print any equipment that we need, that is made exactly to the patient’s specifications? How will this affect the cost of equipment distribution to patients? Can 3D printed crutches be recycled? Reused by other patients? What new kinds of equipment can be invented when we are not constrained by the production lines of the companies who traditionally make the tools we use?
  9. Brain-computer interfaces. When patients are able to control computers (and by extension, everything linked to the computer) simply by thinking about it, what does that mean for their roles in the world? What does it mean when someone with a C7 complete spinal cord injury can still be a productive member of society? What does it mean for community re-integration? How will “rehabilitation” change if computer science is a requirement to even understand the tools our patients use?
  10. Quantified self. As we begin to use sensors close to our bodies (inside our phones, watches, etc.) and soon – inside our bodies – we will have access to an unprecedented amount of personal (very personal) data about ourselves. We will be able to use that data to inform decision making about our health and well-being, which will change the patient-therapist relationship. This will most likely have the effect of modifying the power differential between patients and clinicians. How will we deal with that? Are we training students to know what to do with that patient information? To understand how these sensors work?
  11. Processing power. While this is actually something that is linked to every other item in the list, it might warrant it’s own topic purely because everything else depends on the continuous improvements in processing power and parallel reduction in cost.
  12. The internet. I’m not sure about this. While the architecture of the internet itself is unlikely to change much in the next few decades (disregarding the idea that the internet as we know it might be supplanted with something better), who has access to it and how we use it will most certainly change.

An artist's depiction of a nanobot that is smaller than blood cells.
Nanobot smaller than blood cells.
I should state that we will be working under certain assumptions:

  • That the technology will not be uniformly integrated into society and health systems i.e. that wealth disparity or income inequality will directly affect implementation of certain therapies. This will,obviously have ethical and moral implications.
  • That the technology will not be freely available i.e. that corporations will license certain genetic therapies and withhold their use on those who cannot pay the license.
  • That technological progression will continue over time i.e. that regulations will not prevent, for example, further research into stem cell therapy.
  • …we may have to make additional assumptions as we move forward but this is all I can think of now

We’ll probably find that there will be significant overlap in the above topics, since some are specific technologies that will have an influence on other areas. For example, gene therapy and nanotechnology may have an impact on aging; artificial intelligence will impact many areas, as will robotics and computing power. The idea isn’t that these topics are discrete and separate, but that they provide a focus point for discussion and exploration, with the understanding that overlap is inevitable. In fact, overlap is preferable, since it will help us explore relationships between the different areas and to find connections that we maybe were not previously aware of.

Giving patients bad news in virtual spaces where we can control the interaction.
Giving patients bad news in virtual spaces where we can control the interaction.
The activities that the students engage in during this project are informed by the following ideas, which overlap with each other:

  • Authentic learning is a framework for designing learning tasks that lead to deeper engagement by students. Authentic tasks should be complex, collaborative, ill-defined, and completed over long periods.
  • Inquiry-based learning suggests that students should identify challenging questions that are aimed at addressing gaps in their understanding of complex problems. The research that they conduct is a process they go through in order to achieve outcomes, rather than being an end in itself.
  • Project-based learning is the idea that we can use full projects – based in the real world – to discuss and explore the disciplinary content, while simultaneously developing important skills that are necessary for learning in the 21st century.

I should be clear that I’m not really sure what the outcome of this project will be. I obviously have objectives for my students’ learning that relate to the Professional Ethics module but in terms of what we cover, how we cover it, what the final “product” is…these are all still quite fluid. I suppose that, ideally, I would like for us as a group (myself and the students) to explore the various concepts together and to come up with a set of suggestions that might help to guide physiotherapy education (or at least, physiotherapy education as practiced by me) over the next 5-10 years.

Augmented reality has significant potential for education.
Augmented reality has significant potential for education.
So much of physiotherapy practice – and therefore, physiotherapy education – is premised on the idea that what has been important over the last 50 years will continue to be important for the next 50. However, as technology progresses and we see incredible advances in the integration of technology into medicine and health systems, we need to ask if the next 50 years are going to look anything like the last 50. In fact, it almost seems as if the most important skill we can teach our students is how to adapt to a constantly changing world. If this is true, then we may need to radically change what we prioritise in the curriculum, as well as how we teach students to learn. When every fact is instantly available, when algorithms influence clinical decision-making, when amputees are fitted with robotic prosthetics controlled directly via brain-computer interfaces…where does that leave the physiotherapist? This project is a first step (for me) towards at least beginning to think about these kinds of questions.

 

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-07-04

  • U.N. Report Declares Internet Access a Human Right | Threat Level | Wired.com http://bit.ly/ivNke2 #
  • #saahe2011 officially over. It was a wonderful conference made possible by the participation of health educators from all over the country #
  • Papert http://bit.ly/mggi6R. Being a revolutionary means seeing far enough ahead to know that there is going to be a fundamental change #
  • Papert http://bit.ly/le70h7. The impact of paper in education has led to the exclusion of those who don’t think in certain ways #
  • @dkeats When people are “experts” in a domain they can be blinded to great ideas in other fields and so miss opportunities to drive change #
  • @dkeats Agreed. I’ve had to work really hard to convince people in my dept that I’m not the “computer guy”, I’m the “education guy” #
  • Innovation is about linking concepts from different fields to solve problems, its not about doing the same thing with more efficiency #
  • “How do you learn enough of the words to make sense of the discipline?” #saahe2011 #
  • Presentation by David Taylor on the use of adult learning theories #saahe2011 #
  • Jack Boulet speaking about the challenges and opportunities in simulation-based assessment #saahe2011 #
  • Mendeley Desktop 1.0 Development Preview Released http://ow.ly/1ueXSs #
  • Social media is inherently a system of peer evaluation and is changing the way scholars disseminate their research http://ow.ly/1ueXMA #
  • @dkeats Wonder if the problem has to do with the fact that much “ed tech” is designed by Comp Scientists, rather than Social Sci? #
  • @dkeats Also, people have the idea that LMSs have something to do with T&L, & then struggle when it can’t do what they need it to #
  • @dkeats To qualify, the problem isn’t resistance, its misunderstanding. The conversation always ends up being about technology #
  • There’s a huge difference between “learning” & “studying”, not in terms of the process but ito motivation & objectives #
  • @thesiswhisperer conf is for health educators, mostly clinicians, many of whom are amazing teachers but for whom tech is misunderstood #
  • In a workshop with David Taylor, looking at using adult learning theories #saahe2011 #
  • Blackboard is a course management system, it has little to do with learning. Use it for what its designed for #saahe2011 #
  • Trying to change perception that technology-mediated teaching & learning isn’t about technology. Not going well #saahe2011 #
  • Just gave my presentation on the use of social networks to facilitate clinical & ethical reasoning in practice contexts #saahe2011 #
  • Deborah Murdoch Eaton talks about the role of entrepreneurship to innovate in health education #saahe2011 #
  • Social accountability is relevant for all health professions (healthsocialaccountability.org) #saahe2011 #
  • Charles Boelen talks about social accountability at #saahe2011 keynote, discusses its role in meeting society’s health needs #
  • First day of #saahe2011 over. Lots of interesting discussion and some good research being done in health science education #
  • Concept mapping workshop turned out OK. Got a CD with loads of useful information…a first for any workshop I’ve attended #saahe2011 #
  • Many people still miss the point when it comes to technology-mediated teaching & learning. Your notes on an LMS is not teaching or learning #
  • At a workshop on concept mapping, lots of content being delivered to me, not much practical yet #saahe2011 #
  • Noticed a trend of decreasing satisfaction from 1-4 year, even though overall scores were +. Implications for teaching? #saahe2011 #
  • Banjamin van Nugteren: do medical students’ perceptions of their educational environment predict academic performance? #saahe2011 #
  • Selective assignment as an applied education & research tool -> gain research exp, improve knowledge & groupwork #saahe2011 #
  • Reflective journaling: “as we write conscious thoughts, useful associations & new ideas begin to emerge” #saahe2011 #
  • Change paradigm from “just-in-case” learning to “just-in-time” learning #saahe2011 #
  • Benefits of EBP are enhanced when principles are modelled by clinicians #saahe2011 #
  • EBP less effective when taught as a discrete module. Integration with clinical practice shows improvements across all components #saahe2011 #
  • Students have difficulty conducting appraisals of online sources <- an enormous challenge when much content is accessed online #saahe2011 #
  • Looking around venue at #saahe2011 10 open laptops, 2 visible iPads (lying on desk, not being used), about 350 participants…disappointing #
  • EBP isn’t a recipe (or a religion), although that is a common misconception #saahe2011 #
  • Prof. Robin Watts discusses EBP and facilitating student learning. EBP isn’t synonymous with research #saahe2011 #
  • “A lecture without a story is like an operation without an anaesthetic” Athol Kent, #saahe2001 #
  • Kent drawing heavily on Freni et al, 2010, Health professionals for a new century, Lancet. #
  • #saahe2001 has begun. Prof. Athol Kent: the future of health science education #
  • Portfolios and Competency http://bit.ly/jfFpfU. Really interesting comments section. Poorly implemented portfolios aren’t worth much #
  • @amcunningham I think that portfolios can demonstrate competence and be assessed but it needs a change in mindset to evaluate them #
  • @amcunningham will comment on the post when I’m off the road #
  • @amcunningham Can’t b objective as I haven’t used NHS eportfolio. Also, its hard 2 structure what should be personally meaningful experience #
  • @amcunningham Portfolios must include reflection, not just documentation. Reflection = relating past experience to future performance #
  • @amcunningham Your delusion question in the link: practitioners / students not shown how to develop a portfolio with objectives #
  • @amcunningham Also spoke a lot about competency-based education and strengths / limitations compared to apprentice-based model #
  • @amcunningham Very much. Just finished a 4 day workshop that included the use of portfolios as reflective tools in developing competence #
  • Final day of #safri 2011 finished. Busy with a few evaluations now. Spent some time developing the next phase of my project. Tired… #
  • Last day of #safri today, short session this morning, then leaving for #saahe2011 conference in Potchefstroom. It’s been an intense 5 days #
  • Papert: Calling yourself some1 who uses computers in education will be as ridiculous as calling yourself some1 who uses pencils in education #
  • Daily Papert http://bit.ly/jKlVmn. 10 years ago, Papert warned against the “computers in education” specialist. How have we responded? #
  • Daily Papert http://bit.ly/m7rfYY. Defining yourself as someone who uses computers in education, is to subordinate yourself #
  • YouTube – Augmented Reality Brain http://bit.ly/kcZWXy. When this is common in health education, things are going to get crazy #
  • @rochellesa Everyone needs some downtime, especially at 10 at night when you’re out with your wife 🙂 Seems like a nice guy, very quiet #
  • @rochellesa The large policeman he’s with isn’t keen tho. Mr Nzimande has asked 2 not b disturbed. Understandable when u want to chill out #
  • I’m sitting in a hotel in Jo’burg & Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande walks in and sits down next to me. Any1 have any questions? #
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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-09-13

  • More on online learning & the visually impaired. Useful links 4 anyone working with learners who have visual impairments http://ow.ly/1qQGws #
  • Gilly Salmon’s 5 stage model http://ow.ly/1qQGsw #
  • Social Learning in the Positivist Paradigm http://ow.ly/2D2kT #
  • Presentation: A few minutes with John Cleese on creativity http://ow.ly/1qQDg5 #
  • Multitasking Lowers Academic Performance http://ow.ly/1qQDfL #
  • Dear Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Gen Yers … Can We Please Move On? http://ow.ly/1qQDfa #
  • Documents and Data… http://ow.ly/1qQy7b #
  • As clinicians we tend 2 focus on results that are easy to measure e.g. ROM, & ignore ones that are hard e.g. learning, hope, quality of life #
  • Strange how some people’s first intuition re. open learning practices is that their colleagues will “steal from them”? #
  • Presentation on blended learning in clinical education for SASP went well, good discussion afterwards, some resistance from academics #
  • Reading Social Networks and Practice Knowlege (WCPT abstract) on Scribd http://scr.bi/cxhwWm #readcast #
  • Published Social Networks and Practice Knowlege (WCPT abstract) on Scribd http://scr.bi/cxhwWm #readcast #
  • RT @francesbell: 3 ALT Learning Technologisits of the Year 😉 http://flic.kr/p/8zx9ip #
  • @cristinacost Your colleagues…sure it’s them 🙂 in reply to cristinacost #
  • Reflections on Blogging | Virtual Canuck http://bit.ly/awblvh #
  • Is the Lecture Dead? http://ow.ly/1qQ0oP #
  • Can MOOCs make learning scale? Dont assume that learning comes from the teacher http://ow.ly/1qQ0nY #
  • IBM Helps Tennis Fans “See Through Walls” with Augmented Reality http://ow.ly/1qQ0hf #
  • ResearchGATE Offers Social Networking for Scholars and Scientists http://ow.ly/1qQ0gf #
  • RT @SalfordPGRs: Huge congratulations to Cristinacost on ALTC Learning Technologis award!! #
  • Was away the whole of last week planning for next year, making 2 big curricular changes, combining some theory subjects, and moving to OSCEs #
  • Just finished a week of assisting with clinical exams for #Stellenbosch good learning experience, one learns so much from colleagues #
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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-07

  • Mugtug | Browser Based Image Editing and Photo Sharing http://bit.ly/ca7pXs #
  • @johncarneyau Only now our tools allow us to do far more creative things than pen and paper did in the past #
  • @johncarneyau Then there’s not much difference betw a traditional teacher and a Steiner teacher? Teachers r teachers, technologies r tools #
  • @johncarneyau Not at all, there’s nothing in their philosophy negating the idea of using technology to explore creative learning experiences #
  • “Technology won’t replace teachers, but teachers who use technology in the classroom will replace those who don’t” – Higham (2007) #
  • Teaching and learning in social and technological networks – presentation by George Siemens http://bit.ly/cVIEQg #
  • Connectivist Learning and the Personal Learning Environment – presentation by Downes http://bit.ly/b5VKnK #
  • Trends In Personal Learning (audio and slides) – Stephen Downes http://bit.ly/cvsBsL #
  • “To ‘teach’ is to model and demonstrate. To ‘learn’ is to practice and reflect. Both imply participation in…an authentic CoP” – Downes #
  • On 7th grader #PLE video (http://bit.ly/9196KL) – amazing work, but don’t forget that the ToS mean she doesn’t own it & also can’t export it #
  • @jeffjarvis If you find yourself in Cape Town, give me a shout (I’m a huge TWiT and TWiG fan) #
  • @Czernie How bizarre, I just read that exact quote (http://bit.ly/9Ylxvb, slide no. 7) #
  • An Important Reminder about Feedback. Not only formal feedback is useful http://tinyurl.com/2udaokl #
  • Star Trek inspirational poster (humour) http://bit.ly/csbofi #
  • RT @allankent: @patrickkayton was killer finally getting to play with #cognician -> Looking forward to seeing what you build #
  • How Augmented Reality Helps Doctors Save Lives http://tinyurl.com/39ptoge #
  • @salfordgareth Can’t imagine not using GReader. Sync it to my phone and other offline readers all the time. Great 4 catching up and sharing #
  • Google Releases CloudCourse, an Open Source Learning Platform http://bit.ly/9rEB2y #
  • Google’s “Learning platform” clarified | John McLear’s School Technology http://bit.ly/c3iFqa #
  • BusinessDay – Software to help critical thinking http://bit.ly/aV8qYT #
  • Cognician – The original thinking guide http://bit.ly/9i0NqT #
  • @cristinacost #AMEE (http://goo.gl/TBYV) is my priority for 2011, but will do everything I can to get to SN & Learning http://goo.gl/SYS1 #
  • @doug_holton We’re enjoying #WPMU with #Buddypress finding it does everything we need it to & plugin ecosystem growing all the time #
  • @cristinacost @gsiemens Social networks and learning in 2011? Would love to play with… #
  • elearnspace › Einztein – company based on providing value to the OER of universities http://bit.ly/cUHgk1 #