1 de setembro de 2014
31 de agosto de 2014
In the recent film "The Robot & Frank," an elderly Dad, played by the fine actor Frank Langella, is slipping into dementia so his adult son and daughter debate how best to help him out: get him into an assisted care facility, says daughter. Get him a domestic robot, a caregiver that cooks, cleans up and converses with Frank, says son.
Son wins and brings a robot to his Dad's home to start care-giving. The sharp tensions between Frank and the mechanical caregiver dissolve as Frank realizes that he can resume his previous career as a cat burglar with the aid of the robot. So with this comedic story-line dominating the film, the serious moments of Frank realizing that he will no longer be the person he was----Langella captures those emotions without saying a word--are lost. Thus, what could have been an insightful film, a study of the crushing consequences of dementia on a person and family get twisted in the writers' failure to decide whether they were doing a comedy or serious film.
But that film is not the point of this post.
The point is that while there are tasks that robots can do to help infirm elderly, ill patients, and students the connection between a machine and human being cannot replicate the fundamental cognitive and emotional bonds between humans that sustains caregiving, doctor-patient and teacher-student relationships.
And robo-caregivers, robo-doctors, and robo-teachers have surely entered the world of elderly care, medicine, and education.
Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sherry Turkle, has written often about machine-human interactions in articles and books (see here). She has raised questions about robots as caregivers and was called by one writer a "technology skeptic." She responded in a letter to the editor in the New York Times.
I had written that after a 72-year-old woman named Miriam interacted with a robot called Paro, Miriam “found comfort when she confided in her Paro.”
But I still believe that robots are inappropriate as caregivers for the elderly or for children. The robots proposed as “caring machines” fool us into thinking they care about us. Maintaining eye contact, remembering our names, responding to verbal cues — these are things that robots do to simulate care and understanding.
So, Miriam — a woman who had lost a child — was trying to make sense of her loss with a machine that had no understanding or experience of a human life. That robot put on a good show. And we’re vulnerable: People experience even pretend empathy as the real thing. But robots can’t empathize. They don’t face death or know life. So when this woman took comfort in her robot companion, I didn’t find it amazing. I felt we had abandoned Miriam.
Being part of this scene was one of the most wrenching moments in my years of research on sociable robotics. There were so many people there to help, but we all stood back, outsourcing the thing we do best — understanding each other, taking care of each other.
Now consider robots and teaching. There are tasks that robots can do to help teachers teach and children learn (see here, here, here, and here). But these tasks, as important as they may be in helping out homebound students or grading simple five-paragraph essays, such tasks and others do not add up to what is the core of teaching: the emotional and cognitive bonds that grow over time between teachers and students and are the basis for learning not only what is taught in the classroom but also learning close and personal--beg pardon for using an outdated word-- the virtues (trustworthiness, respect, fairness, reliability, loyalty) of character. And, yes, the flip side of those virtues can be learned from a few teachers as well. That is the personal side of teaching that "social robotics" cannot capture. In short, teaching is far more that seeing children and youth as brains on sticks.
David Kirp, professor of public policy at University of California, Berkeley, made a similar point in a recent op-ed piece.
Every successful educational initiative of which I’m aware aims at strengthening personal bonds ..... The best [schools] ... create intimate worlds where students become explorers and attentive adults are close at hand.... The process of teaching and learning is an intimate act that neither computers nor markets can hope to replicate. Small wonder, then, that the business model hasn’t worked in reforming the schools — there is simply no substitute for the personal element.
Postado por Jorge Werthein às 12:11
Semana passada, lia o último exemplar da revista "Scientific American" quando me deparei com uma carta do renomado físico Gordon Kane, da Universidade de Michigan, nos Estados Unidos. Kane escrevia sobre o artigo de Joseph Lykken, do Laboratório Fermi de Altas Energias, também nos EUA, e Maria Spiropulu, do Instituto de Tecnologia da Califórnia, publicado na edição de maio da mesma revista. Escrevi sobre isso em 27 de abril deste ano.
Lykken e Spiropulu argumentam que a supersimetria, uma teoria que visa estender nosso conhecimento atual da física de partículas propondo a existência duma nova simetria da natureza, está em crise; segundo eles, novas partículas elementares cuja existência é prevista pela teoria deveriam já ter sido detectadas no Grande Colisor de Hádrons (LHC), a gigantesca máquina que descobriu o famoso bóson de Higgs em julho de 2012. Seria hora então de abandonar essa ideia?
A supersimetria propõe unificar os dois tipos de partículas com que descrevemos o mundo material: as que compõem a matéria --como os elétrons, e os prótons e nêutrons (na verdade, os quarks)-- e as partículas que transmitem as forças entre as partículas de matéria --como os fótons (responsáveis pelas forças eletromagnéticas) e os chamados glúons, que atraem os quarks.
Desde a sua invenção em 1974, a supersimetria criou um culto de adeptos, dado o seu poder, ao menos em potencial, de resolver dilemas ainda abertos na nossa compreensão das propriedades das partículas elementares. Talvez sua encarnação mais famosa sejam as supercordas, que visam unificar todas as forças da natureza, incluindo a gravidade. O "super" nas supercordas vem da propriedade dessas teorias serem também supersimétricas.
Explico em detalhe as propriedades das teorias supersimétricas em meus livros "Criação Imperfeita" e "A Ilha do Conhecimento". Hoje, quero retornar à carta de Kane, na qual dizia que algumas versões das supercordas preveem a existência de partículas supersimétricas que serão detectadas no LHC quando a máquina voltar a funcionar em 2015, com energia dobrada. Kane, que dedicou décadas de sua carreira à supersimetria, não quer desistir.
As teorias supersimétricas preveem que cada partícula normal tem uma parceira supersimétrica. O fóton tem o "fotino" e o glúon o "gluíno", por exemplo. As partículas supersimétricas são altamente instáveis e decaem em frações de segundo; com exceção da mais leve delas, que deve ser estável. Por isso, essas partículas são as mais interessantes e mais fáceis de serem observadas em experimentos.
Kane está convencido de que essas partículas serão encontradas em 2015. Em sua carta, disse estar pronto para apostar na descoberta, mas disse estar com dificuldade de encontrar Algum colega para peitá-lo. Pois bem, escrevi ao Kane e já fechamos a aposta: se partículas supersimétricas forem encontradas no LHC (supondo que a máquina atinja o dobro de energia) devo-lhe uma garrafa de uísque de puro malte Macallan de 15 anos.
Caso não sejam, ele me deve uma. Para mim, a questão é: será que, se perder a aposta, ele entregará os pontos? Porque daí em diante, acreditar na supersimetria passa a ser mais fé do que ciência.
MARCELO GLEISER é professor de física teórica no Dartmouth College, em Hanover (EUA), e autor de "A Ilha do Conhecimento".
Folha de S.P. ,31/8/2004
Folha de S.P. ,31/8/2004
Postado por Jorge Werthein às 09:03
30 de agosto de 2014
Postado por Jorge Werthein às 11:42
What should teacher accountability look like?
We know what the current system of accountability looks like, and it’s not pretty. Ever since the passage of No Child Left Behind 12 years ago, teachers have been judged, far too simplistically, based on standardized tests given to their students — tests, as Marc S. Tucker points out in a new report, Fixing Our National Accountability System, that are used to decide which teachers should get to keep their jobs and which should be fired. This system has infuriated and shamed teachers, and is a lot of the reason that teacher turnover is so high, causing even many of the best teachers to abandon the ranks.
All of which might be worth it if this form of accountability truly meant that public school students were getting a better education. But, writes Tucker, “There is no evidence that it is contributing anything to improved student performance.” Meanwhile, he adds, test-based accountability is “doing untold damage to the profession of teaching.”
Tucker is one of the grand old men of education policy. In the 1970s, he worked at the National Institute of Education, followed by a stint at the Carnegie Corporation. In 1988, he founded the National Center on Education and the Economy, whose premise, he told me recently, is that, in order to meet the demands of a global economy, our educational system needs to be re-engineered for much higher performance.
Not long after founding the N.C.E.E., Tucker began taking a close look at countries and cities that were re-engineering successfully. What he came away with were two insights. First was a profound appreciation for the fact that most of the countries with the best educational results used the same set of techniques to get there. And, second, that the American reform methods were used nowhere else in the world. “No other country believes that you can get to a high quality educational system simply by instituting an accountability system,” he says. “We are entirely on the wrong track.” His cri de coeur has been that Americans should look to what works, instead of clinging to what doesn’t.
The main thing that works is treating teaching as a profession, and teachers as professionals. That means that teachers are as well paid as other professionals, that they have a career ladder, that they go to elite schools where they learn their craft, and that they are among the top quartile of college graduates instead of the bottom quartile. When I suggested that American cities couldn’t afford to pay teachers the way we pay engineers or lawyers, Tucker scoffed. With rare exception, he said, the cost per pupil in the places with the best educational systems is less than the American system, even though their teachers are far better paid. “They are not spending more money; they are spending money differently,” he said.
Tucker would not abolish tests, but he would have fewer of them. And they would have a different purpose: In the high-performing countries, the tests exist to hold the students accountable, rather than the teachers. Meanwhile, he writes, “in most of these countries, the primary form of accountability for the school and its staff is high-profile publication of the average scores for the exams for each school, often front-page news.”
When a school falls short, instead of looking to fire teachers, the high-performing countries “use the data to decide which schools will receive visits from teams of expert school inspectors. These inspectors are highly regarded educators.”
Tucker envisions the same kind of accountability for teachers as exists for, say, lawyers in a firm — where it is peers holding each other accountable rather than some outside force. People who don’t pull their own weight are asked to leave. The ethos is that people help each other to become better for the good of the firm. Those who successfully rise through the ranks are rewarded with higher pay and status.
Would the teachers’ unions go along with such a scheme? The unions would certainly have to shed some of the things they now have, such as control of work rules. But they would gain so much else: “Management would get their prerogatives back and would be held accountable for results, but the professionals, granted far more autonomy, would be also holding each other accountable for the quality of their work, as professionals everywhere do.”
As our conversation was coming to an end, Tucker told me that he was working with the State of Kentucky to implement some of the reforms he had outlined in his report. If it works there — and there is no reason it shouldn’t — perhaps we’ll finally get over our fixation with test-based accountability, and finally re-engineer our educational system the way every other successful country has.
Postado por Jorge Werthein às 11:22
Postado por Jorge Werthein às 11:05