mercoledì 5 ottobre 2016

La scuola del futuro (per capire quella del presente)

Tyler Cowen nel saggio “Relearning Education” prova ad immaginarsi e a giudicare la scuola del futuro, quella che attende i nostri figli e i nostri nipoti. Ma è difficile farlo se non sappiamo esattamente cosa vogliamo dalla scuola. Vogliamo buoni cittadini? Vogliamo adulti fatti e finiti? Cowen semplifica postulando che l’obbiettivo sia quello di massimizzare lo stipendio futuro degli allievi. Troppo gretto? Puo’ darsi, ma si pensi che comunque lo “stipendio futuro” è proxy di molte altre qualità.
Per avere un buon stipendio è necessario saper interagire in modo efficiente con le macchine. Ma anche con i super-ricchi, da cui sgorgano gli incarichi più lucrosi.
Con l’avvento della realtà virtuale i luoghi educativi cambieranno parecchio:
… Online education is one place where the new information technologies are emerging. For instance, millions of people are taking MOOCs (massive open online courses)… in my own field of economics, what is the most common and regular form of contact the general public has with economic reasoning? It’s no longer the Econ 101 class but rather it is economics blogs, which are read by hundreds of thousands of people every day. I submit that “cross-blog dialogue,” as I call it, is for many people a better way of learning than boring lectures, PowerPoints, and dry, overly homogenized, designed-not-to-offend-anybody textbooks. Schools are supposed to be proper and politically correct, but sometimes the point really sticks when Paul Krugman calls someone an idiot… Blogs have to get people to care because it is a very competitive environment. The competition is to capture anyone’s attention…
La vera novità è la modalità on-demand dell’istruzione futura: imparo quando mi è più comodo:
… These new methods of learning are all based on the principles of time-shifting (watch and listen when you want), user control, direct feedback, the construction of online communities, and the packaging of information into much smaller bits than the traditional lecture or textbook chapter…
La scuola on line si diffonde anche al primo stadio:
… Online education is even growing as a supplement to K–12 or in some cases as a replacement altogether. As of late 2011, about 250,000 K–12 students are enrolled in full-time virtual schools… At these online schools, the degree of contact with flesh-and-blood teachers varies. Instructors might answer questions by email, phone, or videoconference, supplemented by periodic meetings, class trips, and “live,” in-the-classroom exams…
Chissà se funzionerà, alcuni vantaggi sono evidenti: economicità e flessibilità.
… The world still awaits systematic, rigorous (randomized control trial) studies of all of these methods of learning, and it is too early to say what is working and what is not… two things for sure. First, very often the online methods are much cheaper and also more flexible than the previous alternatives…
A molti poi semplicemente piace imparare in questo modo.
Un taglio radicale nei costi di istruzione è alle viste…
… online education will be extremely cheap. Once an online course is created, additional students can be handled at relatively low cost, often close to zero cost… It will be a brutal age of good schools and also mediocre schools undercutting each other in terms of price and thus tuition revenue. If it costs $200 to serve a class to another student, how long will it be before an educational institution undercuts a competitor charging $2,000 for those credits? I don’t think the price will fall all the way to $200, because good schools won’t want to look too cheap, and maybe they don’t need the money, but still I expect the price for a class to be much lower than its current level, especially at institutions below the top tier…
Molti segnalano il pericolo noia
… Many think that students won’t pay attention to a computer or a machine teaching a lesson, but there are many ways of using the online product to lower costs while keeping the attention of the students…
Molte critiche all’istruzione on line trascurano quanto versatile possa essere questa idea. Vediamo il modello Emporium
… Imagine keeping students on campus and having them show up in classrooms at regular points in time, as they do now. Or let them show up when they want. Put a large number of those students in a large “barn” and have them watch the online lessons, with a few (non-tenured) instructors wandering the rows to help out those with problems. Does that sound Orwellian? Virginia Tech is doing that right now for some of its math classes and it seems to be working out just fine. It is called the Emporium model… Imagine adding to this mix enhanced capabilities for machine intelligence to monitor and report which students aren’t working through the material at all or at the right pace. The costs for the instructors are of course much lower…
Sulla figura dell’insegnante superstar
… Third, another big change is that the profits from developing teaching innovations will be much higher than they are today… when the best courses serve tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of students, or maybe even millions, the financial returns to pedagogical innovation will be looked at in a new light…
Sarà più facile  valutare l’apprendimento, la logica “big data” sarà applicata anche qui…
… Fourth, online education also allows for a much more precise measurement of learning. Consider the Khan Academy and its online videos. They are already measuring which videos lead to the best performance on quiz scores, which videos have to be watched more than once… We’re about to apply “Big Data” to the students themselves, and man and machine will work together to improve significantly the quality of education. In a slightly more distant future, we can imagine the computers hooked up to bodily sensors of pulse and scans of facial movements, perhaps to determine if the student is bored, distracted, or simply not understanding the material
La rivoluzione delle macchine a scuola è già avvenuta nelle scuole di scacchi, un’occhiata a questo mondo puo’ essere utile…
… Computers have taught many people, young and old, to play better chess. It can even be said computers have revolutionized the way the game is taught…
L’insegnante dovrà potenziare il suo influsso “umano” visto che il lato formale dell’insegnamento sarà demandato alle macchine. Vediamo cosa è successo dell’insegnante di scacchi:
… The most important teaching function, however, is that a player has a willing partner and analyst 24/7. The programs can analyze chess games on request, including one’s own games. Just enter the game into the program and request feedback in the form of suggested improvements and analysis…
Si attingerà sempre di più dal miracolo educativo dei videogiochi: bimbetti stupidini che imparano divertendosi cose difficili, tipo usare l’iPad senza istruzioni!…
… The many millions of people these games have educated include millions who would not otherwise be thought of as educational winners or job market winners. It is actually the most astonishing education success story of our time and it is driven by commercial incentives and the desire to make learning fun. Game-based interaction tends to be hands-on and step-by-step, moving up a ladder of complexity with rewards along the way to keep the game player interested… Jane McGonigal… in… Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World… dream, entirely reasonable in my view, is to see a games designer nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize… We see also a growing role of machine-aided self-education when it comes to the iPad and many other computer-related devices and programs. The kids who learn iPads start by trying to manipulate them and they learn by trial and error, allowing the iPad to teach them. There is no iPad instruction booklet in the box you bring home from the store. You can download one online, or read it online, but hardly anybody does…
Il difetto dell’educazione on line è evidente:
… Education into the world of games works remarkably well, but it works mainly for people who wish to learn the games… For people who aren’t already motivated, or on the verge of picking up a new fascination, nothing about the game is all that enticing or seductive… Chess teacher Peter Snow reports that some of his young students love playing against the computer, but they deliberately put the quality settings on the program so low that they can beat it many times in a row… Similarly, studies of spelling bees show that the winning spellers are those who not only work hard, but who engage in disciplined forms of study that do not always yield immediate positive feedback…
La scuola di scacchi mette in luce le differenze tra allievi: dai prodigi ai negati c’è un abisso e ha poco senso un percorso comune. 
… the average age of chess prodigies, like most game prodigies, has been falling over time, and a large part of this is driven by better mechanical education. In the 1950s, it was considered miraculous when Bobby Fischer became a master at age thirteen. David Pruess, who writes for Chess.com, acutely observed, “Today, you have 7- and 8-year-olds who are training better than Bobby Fischer did a generation before.”…
La scuola di scacchi evidenzia come si possa essere protagonisti vivendo fisicamente “fuori dal mondo”…
… Magnus Carlsen is, as I write, the highest rated player in the world and arguably the most impressive chess prodigy of all time, having attained grandmaster status at thirteen and world number one status at age nineteen, the latter a record. He is from Tønsberg, in southern Norway, and prior to the computer age Norway has no record of producing top chess players at all. Even Oslo (Carlsen now lives on its outskirts) is a relatively small metropolitan area of fewer than 1.5 million people. Carlsen, of course, had the chance to play chess over the internet… In the old days the Chess Olympiad was dominated by the Soviet Union. It wasn’t just the state subsidies for chess and the restrictions on using one’s mind for business or artistic creativity (a lot of talented people found chess to be their best or perhaps only option). Most other parts of the world had genuinely backward chess scenes. But now you can put yourself on the path to top skills from almost anywhere. In 2008 and 2012 the small nation of Armenia took first place at the Chess Olympiad, and unlike in the old days the top Armenian players do not need to move to Moscow…
Un fenomeno che si manifesta anche nell’istruzione remota: è l’egalitarismo dell’on line…
… When Sebastian Thrun, then of Stanford, taught his artificial intelligence course online, the best performers were not the students from Stanford. Generally the best performers were the students abroad, often from poor countries and very often from India…
Un’altro portato della nuova scuola sarà l’iper-meritocrazia. L’avvento della macchina a scuola ci dice molto della scuola attuale. Chiediamoci solo perchè nelle scuole di scachi la rivoluzione sia già avvenuta mentre nella scuola tradizionale tarda. Probabilmente  conterà sempre più la conoscenza pura e sempre meno l’accreditamento e i “segnali” di erudizione…
… when humans and computers work together and cooperate, the rewards flow more readily to top talent, not to the socially well connected… One major problem is simply that universities are for the most part bureaucracies. Faculty often fear online education because they sense it will either put them out of a job, lower their status and importance, or force them to learn fundamentally new methods of teaching… One central question is how quickly accrediting bodies will move to grant full and transferable credits for good online courses. I do expect to see some progress in this direction, but accreditors serve in part to prop up a higher education carte… When it comes to chess, no special interests interfered with the transition to machine-based instruction. No accrediting bodies asked these search engines to prove themselves. There were no lesser, “tenured” computers that had to be pushed out of the way, edged into retirement… This kind of machine-based learning is driven by a hunger for knowledge, not by a desire to show off your talent or to “signal” as we economists say. If you’re not a good player, the fact that you studied with a top teacher doesn’t mean a thing… Announcing “I studied with Rybka” would bring gales of laughter, since anyone can do that… The current business model of Harvard and Princeton is to market the quality of exclusivity and to raise money by encouraging alumni to donate to such a wonderful and exclusive institution…
Probabilmente i docenti migliori si metteranno “in proprio”…
… Note that Sebastian Thrun, after a successful experience with teaching online material, decided to quit his tenured teaching position at Stanford and start his own educational company…
Torniamo al ruolo chiave dell’insegnante… Si trasformeranno in psicologi, dovranno diventare dei coach che motivano i loro pupilli e ascoltano i loro sfoghi. Dovranno proporre dei valori, dovranno apparire come modelli a tutto tondo a cui gli allievi vogliono conformarsi, dovranno possedere un’aurea glamour. Concentreranno la loro opera sui mediocri mentre i migliori andranno avanti da soli con la macchina, almeno finché reggono il paso. Usciranno a cena con gli allievi, il lato umano, la simpatia sarà al centro di tutto, saranno degli intrattenitori, degli amici, quasi degli intimi. Sarà recuperata un’educazione e una vicinanza maestro-allievo come nell’antichità. Non ci sono macchine che riescono a fare questo che minacciano il lavoro di chi è bravo nell’adempiere a questa missione…
… In part, the human chess instructor teaches the pupil how to use the computer. The human instructor has also become more important for motivation, psychology, teaching pacing, and teaching the psychological foibles of potential human opponents… keeping one’s composure, maintaining concentration, and not getting psyched out or intimidated by older or better opponents. These skills are important, and if anything they are more important outside the world of chess… The next step is that human instructors will consult the machines to better understand the mistakes their students are making… a role model and a motivator and to some extent an entertainer… The instructor who teaches human qualities like conscientiousness and who motivates his student needs to be there… At a good teaching school, a professor is expected to run the class and, sometimes, have a small group of students over to his house for dinner. As the former function becomes less important, due to competition from online content, the latter function will predominate… We could think of the forthcoming educational model as professor as impresario. In some important ways, we would be returning to the original model of face-to-face education as practiced in ancient Greek symposia and meetings in the agora… It’s a common claim that you can’t replace professors with Nobel-quality YouTube lectures because the professor, and perhaps also the classroom setting, is required to motivate most of the students. Fair enough, but let’s take this seriously. The professor is then a motivator first and foremost. Let’s hire good motivators. Let’s teach our professors how to motivate. Let’s judge them on that basis. Let’s treat professors more like athletics coaches, personal therapists, and preachers, because that is what they will evolve to be…  Especially charismatic teachers will surely have their place—and probably a very well-paid place—in the new world of work. Hong Kong already has glamorous celebrity tutors, called “tutor kings,” who help prepare students for the all-important scholastic exams. These instructors are good-lookingphotogenic, and their personal lives turn up in the celebrity gossip papers… It is rumored that Richard Eng, one of the leading tutor kings, pulls in $1.5 million a year… There has been no comprehensive study of the effectiveness of these tutors but it is believed they do a better job getting the students to pay attention to the lessons… A lot of new jobs will be coming in the area of motivation. These jobs will require some very serious skills, but again they won’t primarily be skills of a high tech nature or skills that are taught very well by our current colleges and universities… Top doctors will have a coach, just as today’s top tennis players (and some of the mediocre ones) all have coaches. Today the coach of a CEO is very often the spouse, the personal assistant, or even a subordinate, or sometimes a member of the board of directors. Coaching is already remarkably important in our economy, and the high productivity of top earners will cause it to become essential…
Una scuola così è assetata di insegnanti carismatici, capaci di sprigionare magnetismo e un’umanità notevole, quasi degli evangelizzatori, dei missionari, dei guru in grado di convertire alla religione del lavoro duro. La didattica delle scuole confessionali sarà vincente e ancora una volta l’insegnante “laico” della scuola di stato sarà costretto a riscoprire quanto è già “confessionale” oggi visto che gli verrà chiesto di esaltare questo suo lato pena la marginalizzazione…
… The Mormon Church has been fairly successful at getting a large number of people to convert to the Mormon religion. Let’s set the theology aside and see if their methods of motivating converts can teach us anything useful about how we could improve education… Of course, educational institutions aren’t ready to admit how much they share with churches. These temples of secularism don’t want to admit they are about simple tasks such as motivating the slugs or acculturating people into the work habits and sociological expectations of the so-called educated class… We like to pretend our instructors teach as well as chess computers, but too often they don’t come close to that ideal. They are something far less noble, something that we are afraid to call by its real name, something quite ordinary: They are a mix of exemplars and nags and missionaries, packaged with a marketing model that stresses their nobility and a financial model that pays them pretty well and surrounds them with administrators…
La grande divisione sarà tra chi è dotato e chi è motivato e compensa con il lavora duro. E’ prevedibile un ritorno a modelli neo-vittoriani, con scuole ostiche tipo corso dei marines (poche vacanze, orari lunghi…), specie per chi viene dal basso.
… The better-performing students will be treated much as chess prodigies are today. They will be given computer programs to play with, with periodic human contact for guidance, feedback, and upgrades to new and better programs. They will cooperate with each other toward the end of greater mastery of their subject areas. Their conscientiousness, and the understanding that high wages await them in the world, will enforce hard work and disciplineThe lesser-performing students will specialize in receiving motivation. Education, for them, will become more like the Marines, full of discipline and team spirit… Neo-Victorian social ideals may not triumph, but they will become a much stronger force among lower earners… We already have the KIPP schools, which stands for Knowledge Is Power Program. KIPP is a nationwide network of open-enrollment schools, mostly for underprivileged youths. Studying in KIPP is not easy. The school insists on longer hours from its students, often running 7:30 to 5:00 Monday through Friday and 8:30 to 1:30 on select Saturdays. There is often mandatory summer school, and in general the classes are much harder… An overwhelming majority of the students are either Latino or African American…
La disciplina sarà sempre più protagonista, specie per chi difetta nell’intelligenza: la macchina non perdona… Nel mondo dell’ iper-meritocrazia chi conosci non conta, conta solo la tua performance misurata oggettivamente da una macchina…  quindi non resta che trasformare le scuole in corsi da marines con insegnanti molto umani e carismatici…
… It’s an open debate how much education can boost innate aptitude or IQ, but the trait of “conscientiousness” does consistently predict educational and job success and also subjective happiness. Yet as access to information increases, conscientiousness will become all the more important. It will be less about whose parents could afford Harvard or who could charm the admissions officer, and more and more about who sits down and actually starts trying to master the material… Expert coaching or motivating will be a competitive growth sector for jobs…
Saper “ricominciare” sarà un’altra virtù molto apprezzata nel campo della conoscenza: le cose cambiano così rapidamente che dovremo re-imparare tutto dall’inizio per più volte nel corso della nostra vita, e la scuola dovrà sviluppare questa abilità. Ecco, per chiudere, i casi proverbiali di Nelson Hernandez e Larry Kaufman:
… Before his current work on building up an openings book for his Freestyle chess team, Nelson Hernandez (now in his midfifties) worked as an army paratrooper, a stockbroker, for a hedge fund, and as a financial analyst, the job he now holds. He describes being good at “dull, repetitive tasks” and “really wanting to win” as making him well suited for his Freestyle avocation… Larry Kaufman, who developed the evaluation function for the Rybka program, and who is the mastermind of the Komodo program, graduated from MIT with an undergraduate degree in economics in 1968. He went to work on Wall Street as a broker and soon started developing his own form of options-pricing theory, working independently of Fischer Black and Myron Scholes; Scholes later won a Nobel Prize for that contribution. Kaufman’s theory was based on ideas of Brownian motion and the logistic function, the latter of which he took from formulas for calculating chess ratings. In the 1970s he made money by applying his options-pricing work through a trading firm and stopped when the profits went away, and he has since dedicated his life to chess and computer chess, including his work on Rybka… and Komodo. He lives in a fine house in one of the nicest parts of suburban Maryland, with his beautiful wife and young daughter. Again, we see the mix of a moderate level of elite education combined with extreme self-education over many years. In his midsixties, Kaufman is still making pioneering contributions to the theory and practice of intelligent machines…
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