Category Archives: Education

2020 posts that never were

Occasionally, when a thought gets bubbled up in my brain, I pop open Twitter, and tweet the thought. In some cases, the fleeting idea seems larger than a tweet, so I open up WordPress, and start a post. I may save it and come back to add content to the post. I’ll come back to the post, and say to myself, what was I thinking, and don’t pursue publishing post. Here’s the list of blog posts that I drafted this year, but decided for one reason or another, I wouldn’t post it.

LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT MICROSOFT BING

THE ANATOMY OF A TWILIO STUDIO PROGRAMMABLE VOICE WORKFLOW

LOW COST, PLATFORM AGNOSTIC, BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE, PROLIFIC REPORTING TOOL

RADICAL TRANSFORMATION OF K-12 EDUCATION SYLLABUS

AFTER THE PANDEMIC: GETTING PAST THE FEAR FROM SOCIAL DISTANCING

STOP WORDS: MODEL TRAINING

AI – BEST IN SHOW

BUY AND BUILD – DIGITAL TRANSFORMATIONS

Google’s apps crash in a worldwide outage – Saas Education Outages are the new “Snow Day”.

The tech giant’s popular services like Gmail, Hangouts, Meet and YouTube went offline, halting work across the globe.

Source: Google’s apps crash in a worldwide outage. – The New York Times

This morning my kids woke up to the new “snow day”, an internet outage of SaaS Education products, i.e. Google Meet.  Since we are primarily virtual with education these days, the term “Snow Day” at least for this Winter 2020-2021 season will not be an issue.  No dangerous roads for busses to navigate. They have been replaced by tech outages.  Although few in number, and limited duration, thus far, kids may be happy that they can miss their first period in school.

Roblox, Massive Tween Gaming Platform, Goes Public

Popular tween gaming platform Roblox filed to go public on Thursday. The company declined an interview, citing a quiet period.

Source: Roblox, massive tween gaming platform, goes public – CNN

My son and I, OneWildRide,  are hooked on the Roblox game Theme Park Tycoon 2   I’m fixated on building out my park.  For beginners, there are the “out of the box” rides you can buy, and the amount of items you can use to accessorize your park is staggering.    Not only can you add “canned” rides, such as the Gravatron, but the theme park builder can add all different types of roller coasters, water rides, park transportation, etc.

Users of the Theme Park Tycoon 2 are Graded by:

  • number of active users in your park
  • the amount of money you make based on park admission, pay per ride, and concession stands
  • People can “like” your park, and provide feedback at the entrance

Commoditizing Roblox Games

I will shamefully admit that I purchased Roblox Bucks, with real dollars, that can be used on a plethora of items to build my Theme Park.  For example, the Theme Park has a height limit for how high you can build your roller coasters, so naturally, the builder/user has the ability to purchase to lift the height requirements.  You can also purchase additional “packs” that provide the builder enhancements to their rides, such as running the ride in reverse or looping the ride three times instead of the default single loop.  There’s also the conversion of USD to Roblox $$ because builders need to buy the components to build water rides or roller coasters.  You can even purchase concession stands (e.g. Popcorn Vendors).  The builder of the amusement park must also buy/build restrooms and spread out trash cans throughout the park.  There is also the concept of day and night, so make sure to buy/place lamps across the park.

Pay to Play – AI Bots = Theme Park $$

These “auto” bots/characters paying to play in your park may leave if they are dissatisfied, such as no bathrooms.  Also, without trash cans, there will be visible trash on the ground that must be painfully cleaned up, pile by pile, or left there to pile up.  On the flip side, these AI amusement goers will pay:

  • Park Entrance Fees
  • Pay Per Ride
  • Pay to use the loo
  • Pay for Concession Stands, such as Soft Drinks, Popcorn, and Pizza
  • Pay for Theme Park Memorabilia, such as Santa Hats, Tis the Season!

The Theme Park Builder sets the prices for EVERYTHING.  The AI Bots have “thoughts”, such as “This ride is really cheap.” to help you gauge your ride pricing, or “I’m Hungry”, to imply you should buy/place concession stands throughout your park.

Minecraft Anyone?!

I should say someone should have seen this coming, several someones.  You build this Theme Park at the “block” level, very similar to Minecraft, however, it seems, as far as I can tell, the graphics of Roblox seem somewhat superior to Minecraft, although this is a very debatable topic.  Minecraft has lots of 3rd party “mods” or customizations/modifications to the game.  Minecraft has had a lot of time to cultivate its userbase as well as a marketplace for users to buy these modifications.  Roblox as an application/gaming platform seems intriguing in light of the IPO.  I wonder what the highest-grossing games are on the Roblox platform.

Availability

Roblox Theme Park Tycoon 2 is available on Xbox, iPad / iPhone, and Windows to name the environments we use, jumping from device to device wherever is convenient.

Multiplayer Environment

My son constantly wants me to go over to his Theme Park, and go on rides he has just built.  It’s really a lot of fun to go to other builders’ parks.  There is a basic transit system to move between amusement parks.  You can get LOTS of ideas by looking at other builders’ parks, some of these parks put the “real world” amusement parks to shame.  So far, I’ve seen six (6) people playing concurrently, where you can see who has the most Roblox Bucks, and who’s park has the most visitors currently.  Naturally, if you’re not the big kahuna, you’ll want to stroll by the other builders’ parks.  If you are in close proximity, if you time it right, you can log in to the same server, and play with friends.  Doesn’t always seem to work quite right when people jump on and off the game.  There is probably a feature I’m not using to guarantee the same server with friends, maybe the “Premium” version of Roblox?

Build Your Own Roblox Games?  Monetary Incentives?

Wow, I really didn’t contemplate it that much.  I didn’t even think about the possible monetary returns from building one’s own Roblox game.  Not sure what the requirements would be to be a developer, how easy or hard it would be to build Roblox games, i.e. is there a coding language to use, a proprietary language, or just a simple graphical tool to build games.  No clue if there is a “developer/partner” annual cost, which is what I paid when developing applications for the iPhone / iPad.  Also, playing on the iPad / iPhone Roblox platform hosting the Theme Park game, would Apple get a percentage of “In-App” purchases for Roblox dollars?  We purchased Roblox bucks from the PC, and XBOX, so it didn’t occur to me there would be margin paid to the platform on which it runs.

Disclosure – I am not a “Premium” Roblox member or a “game” builder.

Best Learning Management Systems for Education | ZDNet

In the context of our new normal, we present our guide of 12 very capable learning management systems, each of which provides a different take on managing learning. We’ll show you LMS solutions tailored to K-12 and higher education, LMS solutions aimed at the enterprise and SMBs, and even one that helps you sell your own courses (AbsorbLMS) and another that optimizes the ability to provide custom certifications (TalentLMS).

Source: The best learning management systems for education, enterprise, and small business | ZDNet

Challenges beyond learning technologies for K-12 education are the social development challenges, especially in the younger ages transitioning into the education system.

Also, special needs children who require direct attention, and are pulled out of mainstream class time for one on one assistance are at the highest risk.  We need to figure out how to best provide for these children in a “remote-only” configuration were “close contact” is required to help mitigate issues such as attention deficit.

Continuing Certification Requirements for Project Management Professional (PMP)

The years seem to have flown by, and it’s that time again to complete my Continuing Certification Requirements for my PMP cert.

I randomly searched the web for PMP courses, then found myself back at PMI.org “Searching Activities”.  Seems like the easiest way to lookup activities because they define the activities, and the correlated list of Professional Development Units, categorized by:

  • Technical
  • Leadership
  • Strategic & Business

Based on the activities I’ve already completed, my majority of work has been accomplished in the Technical category.  I need to focus on attaining Leadership and Strategic & Business categories.

PMP 2019 Continuing Certification Requirements
PMP 2019 Continuing Certification Requirements

Here are a few activities I thought were interesting, and took each one of these Online or Digital Media courses.  Pluralsight provides an excellent set of courses at a relatively low price.  I highly recommend Pluralsight for your learning needs.  I also took a few of the LinkedIn courses and found it to be an excellent learning platform with a wide array of courses that can be applied as PDU credits.

Customizing Your Team Workflow with the Best of Kanban and Scrum

If you have doubts choosing which methodology to use, this course will give you a comparison of Kanban and Scrum, making your choice easier. By watching this course you will learn how to take the best of both, Scrum and Kanban, and how to make a winning combination for your team and project.

Leadership: 1.25

Crisis Communication and Technology: Communicating with Colleagues

Crisis communication is one of the most challenging communication types an organization or individual can face, bringing together emotional vulnerability, ethical challenges, and high-stakes decisions amplified by informational and persuasive goals. When managed well, this communication can neutralize and calm an evolving crisis. When managed poorly, though, crisis communication makes a situation worse. This course takes viewers through the most important parts of preparing for crisis communication, including understanding crisis types and strategies, preparing foundational documents, and how to create communication in the moment. By the end of the course, viewers will have a concrete understanding of how to manage crisis communication for their own organizations, providing invaluable insight and immediate benefit.

Leadership: 1.50

Scrum Master Fundamentals – Growing Yourself and Your Team

Are you a Scrum Master ready to advance your craft? This course will teach you specific strategies for coaching each member of your team and show you how to build on your experience as a Scrum Master to advance your own career to the next level.

Leadership: 1.25

Product Owner Fundamentals – Foundations of Product Ownership

Did you know that one of the most common reasons Scrum Teams fail is the lack of a skilled Product Owner? If you’ve suddenly found yourself in this role, this course will teach you how you can use the role to help your team deliver a great product.

Technical: 0.75   Strategic & Business: 0.50

PMI-ACP®: Value-driven Delivery and Adaptive Planning (3 of 11)

This course will provide an in-depth understanding of Agile adaptive planning and value-driven delivery practices, requirements definition practices, as well as principles and practices related to stakeholder management. This course is part of the PMI-ACP Agile Project Management series.

Technical:  0.75  Strategic & Business: 1.75

Design Thinking: Lead Change in your Organization

Design thinking is a user-centered way of solving problems. It involves extensive collaboration, using strategies such as mapping customer journeys, concept creation, and prototyping. This course teaches leaders how to help their teams adopt a design thinking mindset, and provides examples from author Turi McKinley’s work at frog, a global design and strategy firm that transforms businesses at scale by creating systems of brand, product, and service.

Leadership: 2.00

Organizational Change Management for the ITIL® Practitioner

Organizational change management is as essential skill for all leaders. This course will teach you how to successfully navigate the people side of change.

Leadership: 1.50

Amazon’s Alexa vs. Google’s Assistant: Same Questions, Different Answers

Excellent article by  .

Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home are the two most compelling products in the new smart-speaker market. It’s a fascinating space to watch, for it is of substantial strategic importance to both companies as well as several more that will enter the fray soon. Why is this? Whatever device you outfit your home with will influence many downstream purchasing decisions, from automation hardware to digital media and even to where you order dog food. Because of this strategic importance, the leading players are investing vast amounts of money to make their product the market leader.

These devices have a broad range of functionality, most of which is not discussed in this article. As such, it is a review not of the devices overall, but rather simply their function as answer engines. You can, on a whim, ask them almost any question and they will try to answer it. I have both devices on my desk, and almost immediately I noticed something very puzzling: They often give different answers to the same questions. Not opinion questions, you understand, but factual questions, the kinds of things you would expect them to be in full agreement on, such as the number of seconds in a year.

How can this be? Assuming they correctly understand the words in the question, how can they give different answers to the same straightforward questions? Upon inspection, it turns out there are ten reasons, each of which reveals an inherent limitation of artificial intelligence as we currently know it…


Addendum to the Article:

As someone who has worked with Artificial Intelligence in some shape or form for the last 20 years, I’d like to throw in my commentary on the article.

  1. Human Utterances and their Correlation to Goal / Intent Recognition.  There are innumerable ways to ask for something you want.  The ‘ask’ is a ‘human utterance’ which should trigger the ‘goal / intent’ of what knowledge the person is requesting.  AI Chat Bots, digital agents, have a table of these utterances which all roll up to a single goal.  Hundreds of utterances may be supplied per goal.  In fact, Amazon has a service, Mechanical Turk, the Artificial Artificial Intelligence, which you may “Ask workers to complete HITs – Human Intelligence Tasks – and get results using Mechanical Turk”.   They boast access to a global, on-demand, 24 x 7 workforce to get thousands of HITs completed in minutes.  There are also ways in which the AI Digital Agent may ‘rephrase’ what the AI considers utterances that are closely related.  Companies like IBM look toward human recognition, accuracy of comprehension as 95% of the words in a given conversation.  On March 7, IBM announced it had become the first to hone in on that benchmark, having achieved a 5.5% error rate.
  2. Algorithmic ‘weighted’ Selection verses Curated Content.   It makes sense based on how these two companies ‘grew up’, that Amazon relies on their curated content acquisitions such as Evi,  a technology company which specialises in knowledge base and semantic search engine software. Its first product was an answer engine that aimed to directly answer questions on any subject posed in plain English text, which is accomplished using a database of discrete facts.   “Google, on the other hand, pulls many of its answers straight from the web. In fact, you know how sometimes you do a search in Google and the answer comes up in snippet form at the top of the results? Well, often Google Assistant simply reads those answers.”  Truncated answers equate to incorrect answers.
  3. Instead of a direct Q&A style approach, where a human utterance, question, triggers an intent/goal [answer], a process by which ‘clarifying questions‘ maybe asked by the AI digital agent.  A dialog workflow may disambiguate the goal by narrowing down what the user is looking for.  This disambiguation process is a part of common technique in human interaction, and is represented in a workflow diagram with logic decision paths. It seems this technique may require human guidance, and prone to bias, error and additional overhead for content curation.
  4. Who are the content curators for knowledge, providing ‘factual’ answers, and/or opinions?  Are curators ‘self proclaimed’ Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), people entitled with degrees in History?  or IT / business analysts making the content decisions?
  5. Questions requesting opinionated information may vary greatly between AI platform, and between questions within the same AI knowledge base.  Opinions may offend, be intentionally biased, sour the AI / human experience.

AI Digital Assistant verse Search Engines

Aren’t AI Digital Assistants just like Search Engines? They both try to recognize your question or human utterance as best as possible to serve up your requested content. E.g.classic FAQ. The difference in the FAQ use case is the proprietary information from the company hosting the digital assistant may not be available on the internet.

Another difference between the Digital Assistant and a Search Engine is the ability of the Digital Assistant to ‘guide’ a person through a series of questions, enabling elaboration, to provide the user a more precise answer.

The Digital Assistant may use an interactive dialog to guide the user through a process, and not just supply the ‘most correct’ responses. Many people have flocked to YouTube for instructional type of interactive medium. When multiple workflow paths can be followed, the Digital Assistant has the upper hand.

The Digital Assistant has the capability of interfacing with 3rd parties (E.g. data stores with API access). For example, there may be a Digital Assistant hosted by Medical Insurance Co that has the ability to not only check the status of a claim, but also send correspondence to a medical practitioner on your behalf. A huge pain to call the insurance company, then the Dr office, then the insurance company again. Even the HIPPA release could be authenticated in real time, in line during the chat.  A digital assistant may be able to create a chat session with multiple participants.

Digital Assistants overruling capabilities over Search Engines are the ability to ‘escalate’ at any time during the Digital Assistant interaction. People are then queued for the next available human agent.

There have been attempts in the past, such as Ask.com (originally known as Ask Jeeves) is a question answering-focused e-business.  Google Questions and Answers (Google Otvety, Google Ответы) was a free knowledge market offered by Google that allowed users to collaboratively find good answers, through the web, to their questions (also referred as Google Knowledge Search).

My opinions are my own, and do not reflect my employer’s viewpoint.

Hey Siri, Ready for an Antitrust Lawsuit Against Apple? Guess Who’s Suing.

The AI personal assistant with the “most usage” spanning  connectivity across all smart devices, will be the anchor upon which users will gravitate to control their ‘automated’ lives.  An Amazon commercial just aired which depicted  a dad with his daughter, and the daughter was crying about her boyfriend who happened to be in the front yard yelling for her.  The dad says to Amazon’s Alexa, sprinklers on, and yes, the boyfriend got soaked.

What is so special about top spot for the AI Personal Assistant? Controlling the ‘funnel’ upon which all information is accessed, and actions are taken means the intelligent ability to:

  • Serve up content / information, which could then be mixed in with advertisements, or ‘intelligent suggestions’ based on historical data, i.e. machine learning.
  • Proactive, suggestive actions  may lead to sales of goods and services. e.g. AI Personal Assistant flags potential ‘buys’ from eBay based on user profiles.

Three main sources of AI Personal Assistant value add:

  • A portal to the “outside” world; E.g. If I need information, I wouldn’t “surf the web” I would ask Cortana to go “Research” XYZ;   in the Business Intelligence / data warehousing space, a business analyst may need to run a few queries in order to get the information they wanted.  In the same token, Microsoft Cortana may come back to you several times to ask “for your guidance”
  • An abstraction layer between the user and their apps;  The user need not ‘lift a finger’ to any app outside the Personal Assistant with noted exceptions like playing a game for you.
  • User Profiles derived from the first two points; I.e. data collection on everything from spending habits, or other day to day  rituals.

Proactive and chatty assistants may win the “Assistant of Choice” on all platforms.  Being proactive means collecting data more often then when it’s just you asking questions ADHOC.  Proactive AI Personal Assistants that are Geo Aware may may make “timely appropriate interruptions”(notifications) that may be based on time and location.  E.g. “Don’t forget milk” says Siri,  as your passing the grocery store.  Around the time I leave work Google maps tells me if I have traffic and my ETA.

It’s possible for the [non-native] AI Personal Assistant to become the ‘abstract’ layer on top of ANY mobile OS (iOS, Android), and is the funnel by which all actions / requests are triggered.

Microsoft Corona has an iOS app and widget, which is wrapped around the OS.  Tighter integration may be possible but not allowed by the iOS, the iPhone, and the Apple Co. Note: Google’s Allo does not provide an iOS widget at the time of this writing.

Antitrust violation by mobile smartphone maker Apple:  iOS must allow for the ‘substitution’ of a competitive AI Personal Assistant to be triggered in the same manner as the native Siri,  “press and hold home button” capability that launches the default packaged iOS assistant Siri.
Reminiscent of the Microsoft IE Browser / OS antitrust violations in the past.

Holding the iPhone Home button brings up Siri. There should be an OS setting to swap out which Assistant is to be used with the mobile OS as the default.  Today, the iPhone / iPad iOS only supports “Siri” under the Settings menu.

ANY AI Personal assistant should be allowed to replace the default OS Personal assistant from Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana to any startup company with expertise and resources needed to build, and deploy a Personal Assistant solution.  Has Apple has taken steps to tightly couple Siri with it’s iOS?

AI Personal Assistant ‘Wish” list:

  • Interactive, Voice Menu Driven Dialog; The AI Personal Assistant should know what installed [mobile] apps exist, as well as their actionable, hierarchical taxonomy of feature / functions.   The Assistant should, for example, ask which application the user wants to use, and if not known by the user, the assistant should verbally / visually list the apps.  After the user selects the app, the Assistant should then provide a list of function choices for that application; e.g. “Press 1 for “Play Song”
    • The interactive voice menu should also provide a level of abstraction when available, e.g. User need not select the app, and just say “Create Reminder”.  There may be several applications on the Smartphone that do the same thing, such as Note Taking and Reminders.  In the OS Settings, under the soon to be NEW menu ‘ AI Personal Assistant’, a list of installed system applications compatible with this “AI Personal Assistant” service layer should be listed, and should be grouped by sets of categories defined by the Mobile OS.
  • Capability to interact with IoT using user defined workflows.  Hardware and software may exist in the Cloud.
  • Ever tighter integration with native as well as 3rd party apps, e.g. Google Allo and Google Keep.

Apple could already be making the changes as a natural course of their product evolution.  Even if the ‘big boys’ don’t want to stir up a hornet’s nest, all you need is VC and a few good programmers to pick a fight with Apple.