Robots of the Dead

I am an admirer of Albert Einstein. I've written about him and I would have loved to have met him and be able to have a conversation with him. But I don't know how I would feel about talking to a robot version of him.
That is possible since a recent Google patent describes robot personalities based upon the voices and behaviors of dead celebrities or loved ones. The patent is about robot personalities as software that could be transferred between different robots online. They could be famous people or personalities customized to your preferences.
These artificial personalities that mimic the dead aren't all robots. You probably have seen John Wayne seeming to sell Coors Light commercials or Fred Astaire dancing with a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner or Audrey Hepburn and Bruce Lee resurrected as digital avatars in TV commercials.
But have you heard of the the uncanny valley? It's that place where human-like figures (in animated films or robotics) feel creepy because they are too close to real. Have you seen that creepy zombielike digital avatar of the late Orville Redenbacher?
Then again, a commercial using a digital avatar of actress Audrey Hepburn to promote Galaxy/Dove chocolate had me thinking it was a really  good lookalike doing the commercial. It is actually done with computer graphics(CGI) of Audrey's actual face superimposed over a live model. A computerized Audrey mask.

Are you ready for the dead to return in robotic form?

                                                                                      This entry was first posted on Weekends in Paradelle.

Emerging Learning Design

Today, I am attending the Emerging Learning Design conference at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

The opening keynote is titled 7 Technological Changes that are Reshaping Teaching and Learning presented by Dr. Richard Halverson from the UW-Madison School of Education. In this talk, Halverson will discuss how technologies such as social media, digital media production communities, fantasy sports, massively open online games and courses, learning management systems and mobile devices are changing teaching and learning, and how such tools and practices might be directed toward creating the kinds of learning environments we want.

A number of topics during the day's schedule interest me, but I always end up selecting session at the last minute - often based on conversations over the early morning coffee!

The lunchtime Roundtable topics are: Assessment Critical Thinking Emerging Technologies Gamification & Games New Educational Technologies Instructional Design Learning Technologies Pedagogy and Design Self-Directed Learning Twitter Users Web Development & Trends.

A Course Is Not a Game, Even If It Is Gameful

Gamification gets no respect - or, at least, not much respect. Most teachers still say that "learning shouldn't be a game." Some even say "learning shouldn't be fun." But gamification isn't about making coursework a game as much as it is using game tools and strategies in learning.

A wise conference presenter once told me that, "If your faculty are opposed to gamification, call it 'simulations.' They understand those and it's easier to get grants for them."

Whether or not that is true, using gaming techniques in higher education has arrived. Simple game tools like the use of points, missions, badges and leaderboards can be effective, especially in online environments.

Much of the research into gaming theory or "gamification" in education centers on trying to increase student engagement and motivation. It's tempting to think that the student who can't focus on an assignment for 20 minutes, but who can play a videogame for 4 hours straight, might be more engaged in an assignment that is more like that game.

What if the classroom was more like a video game? A professor at the University of Michigan is using gaming to develop GradeCraft. It is a learning-management system that lets instructors organize their courses in a “gameful” way.

One gaming technique it uses is allowing students to choose their own path through a course, selecting the assignments that interest and challenge them. 

Most courses don't offer chances to make mistakes without penalties. Yes, games have penalties too, but in most games risks don’t come with serious consequences. It is more likely that you will have to repeat a level. In other words, you learn by practicing, revising and trying again.

Personalized Learning?

What  does personalized learning look like? You can find definitions online, like this one from

"The term personalized learning, or personalization, refers to a diverse variety of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic-support strategies that are intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students. Personalized learning is generally seen as an alternative to so-called “one-size-fits-all” approaches to schooling in which teachers may, for example, provide all students in a given course with the same type of instruction, the same assignments, and the same assessments with little variation or modification from student to student. Personalized learning may also be called student-centered learning, since the general goal is to make individual learning needs the primary consideration in important educational and instructional decisions, rather than what might be preferred, more convenient, or logistically easier for teachers and schools."

As an alternative in defning this approach, 5 colleges that are trying classroom experiments in it have produced videos with the edtech blog e-Literate (and some bucks from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) that feature some "case studies" of projects (most also supported by the Gates Foundation).

All of the videos will total three and a half hours and are expected to be posted by the end of June.

Michael Feldstein, founder of the blog and a host of the videos, says he doesn’t even like the term “personalized learning” describing it with the less-buzzworthy term "technology-assisted differentiated instruction.”

More at

What Makes a Digitally Competent Teacher?

Looking at this infographic on the "7 Characteristics of a Digitally Competent Teacher," I can imagine that most teacher would add to the list.

1 You can integrate digital skills into everyday life: digital skills are transferable.

2 You have a balanced attitude: you are a teacher not a techie.

3 You are open to using and trying new stuff: find digital tools and explore how they work.

4 You are a digital communicator: you can use email and social media with ease.

5 You know how to do a digital assessment: you’re a sound judge of the quality of information, apps and tools

6 You understand and respect privacy: you treat personal data with the respect it deserves

7 You are a digital citizen: you know how to behave online appropriately and you’ll pass it on to your pupils

I agree immediately with all of them, but #4 sounds dated. You need to be comfortable with a lot more than email and social media today, though it would be hard to list the definitive programs or apps that are required to pass the competency test.

What would you add to the list?


Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics