Information Age Education Blog
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Intelligent Computer Tutor Systems
I have long been interested in computer-assisted learning. It has been fun to watch the progress of this field during the past half century. Over the years, computer-assisted learning materials have gotten better. I have been especially interested in the roles that Artificial Intelligence and computer simulations have played in this progress. Recently my friend Dexter Fletcher sent me copies of two reports from the Institute of Defense Analysis. These were publicly available reports on research being done on an intelligent tutor system that can help train naval personnel (DARPA, 2011). Certain aspects of military training lend themselves to use of Intelligent Computer-assisted Learning materials. Trainees are learning to diagnose and repair faults in complex instruments and other devices. There are steady streams of new recruits who have to be quickly trained and educated to a high professional level of expertise.
The following is quoted from DARPA (2011). It suggests that the Digital Tutor system being studied is much more effective than two of the traditional human-taught courses being used.
Quoting from Report Summary:
This report presents findings from two assessments of the Digital Tutor (DT) being developed by the Education Dominance Program, which is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. This tutor is providing initial specialized skill training (“A” school and some additional “C” school training) for the Navy’s Information Systems Technology (IT) rating.
The assessments determined how well the DT was meeting IT training requirements and preparing students for Fleet IT duties. These assessments were performed in April 2010, when students had 4 weeks of DT training available for their use and again in November 2010, when students had 8 weeks of DT training available for their use. Both assessments were performed at the Navy’s Center for Information Dominance (CID), Corry Station, Pensacola, Florida.
The April assessment used a Written Knowledge test to compare IT knowledge acquired by the 4-week DT students with that of students who had finished the “A” school Integrated Learning Environment (ILE) training, which takes on average 10 weeks to complete. The DT students scored significantly higher than ILE students, with an effect size (“sigma”) of 2.81 on the knowledge test. The DT students also scored significantly higher, with an effect size of 1.25, than CID IT instructors on the test.
The November assessment compared IT capabilities of four groups: the 8-week DT students, students who had completed ILE training, IT of the Future (IToF) students who had completed its 19 weeks of training, and CID IT instructors. The assessment again used a Written Knowledge test, which was taken by all four groups. However, it was supplemented for the DT and IToF students by Practical Troubleshooting exercises, Packet Tracer exercises, and interviews by a three-member Oral Examination Board whose members did not know which of the two training programs the interviewees had taken.
The DT students outscored:
- ILE students on the Written Knowledge test, with an effect size of 4.68.
- IToF students, with an effect size of 1.95.
- Instructors, with an effect size of 1.35.
- IToF students in the Practical Troubleshooting exercises, with an effect size of 1.90.
- IToF students in the Packet Tracer exercises, with an effect size of 0.74 for scores not weighted for difficulty and with an effect size of 1.00 for scores that were weighted for difficulty.
- IToF students on the Oral Reviews, with an overall effect size of 1.34.
Wow! Learn much better and in much less time! Of course, you must keep in mind that this is a type of technical training that lends itself to the use of intelligent computer-assisted learning, and that a lot of money is being spent in developing these materials. The project provides good evidence of progress that is occurring in certain aspects of computer-as-tutor systems.
What You Can Do
I find it interesting to try to distinguish between education and training. Introspect as you formulate working definitions in your own mind. What aspects of our current schooling system might best be classified as eduction and what aspects might best be classified as training?
Now, think back over your informal and formal education and training. Give examples of each that have served you well during your life. Discuss these examples and ideas with your children, students, and colleagues.
Suggested Readings from IAE and Other Publications
You can use Google to search all of the IAE publications. Click here to begin. Then click in the IAE Search box that is provided, insert your search terms, and click on the Search button.
Click here to search the entire collection of IAE Blog entries.
Here are some examples of publications that might interest you.
Breaking the "telling" parts of teaching into short pieces. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/breaking-the-telling-parts-of-teaching-into-short-pieces.html.
Comparing human and computer brains. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/comparing-human-and-computer-brains.html.
Include computational thinking in habits of mind. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/include-computational-thinking-in-habits-of-mind.html.
Scholarship and science of teaching and learning. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/scholarship-and-science-of-teaching-and-learning.html.
Teaching and learning to the test. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/teaching-and-learning-to-the-test.html.
Why isn't schooling a lot more successful? See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/why-isnt-schooling-a-lot-more-successful.html.
DARPA (2011). Education Dominance Program: April 2010 and November 2010 Digital Tutor Assessments. Institute for Defense Analyses, 4850 Mark Center Drive, Alexandria, VA 22311-1882.
Written by davem, September 17, 2011.
We have all grown up in a world where machines can do many things better and at less expense than human workers. We have adjusted to this, and we also have benefited by a substantial average increase in standard of living.
Computer technology helps in automation of physical productivity, and it also helps in automation of mental productivity. For more than 15 years we have had good evidence that computer-assisted learning can help students learn appreciably faster. The decreasing cost of computers and the improving quality of computer assisted learning materials now make it possible for students to learn both faster and better in areas that are well suited to this mode of instruction.
What we are seeing now is the tip of the iceberg. Our educational system will see huge changes in the years to come, as an increasing part of instructional delivery is taken over by highly interactive intelligent computer-assisted learning systems.