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Steve Wheeler

Steve Wheeler is a Learning Innovations Consultant and former Associate Professor of Learning Technologies at the Plymouth Institute of Education where he chaired the Learning Futures group and led the Computing and science education teams. He continues to research into technology supported learning and distance education, with particular emphasis on the pedagogy underlying the use of social media and Web 2.0 technologies, and also has research interests in mobile learning and cybercultures. He has given keynotes to audiences in more than 35 countries and is author of more than 150 scholarly articles, with over 6000 academic citations. An active and prolific edublogger, his blog Learning with ‘e’s is a regular online commentary on the social and cultural impact of disruptive technologies, and the application of digital media in education, learning and development. In the last few years it has attracted in excess of seven million unique visitors.

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Publications by Steve Wheeler

Learning with ‘e’s

In an age where young people seem to have a…

Don’t Change the Light Bulbs

Curated by Rachel Jones, Don’t Change the Light Bulbs offers…

Author Blog

Humans, machines and learning

December 14 2018

Image by Mike MacKenzie on Flickr
One of the many topics I discuss in my forthcoming book is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential impact on the future of learning and development. I, along with many others, believe this is an important subject to explore, because it is a rapidly growing area of technology that will significantly influence our future.

In particular, there are several philosophical debates about the nature of intelligence and how human intelligence differs from machine intelligence. One of the texts I draw from is Tegmark's Life 3.0. Here's an excerpt from the new book:

MIT physics professor Max Tegmark presents some compelling arguments for the future of AI. He argues that the benefits of AI will far surpass the threats, provided they are aligned to human intentions. One of the greatest concerns he reveals is not that computers might become sentient, or ‘evil’, but a scenario in which the goals of ‘competent’ AI become misaligned with ours. His key argument is that the discussion around whether or not computers will attain consciousness or emotional capability is spurious (Tegmark, 2017). Our future co-existence with technology will be premised on the ability of computers to make life better for humanity, not to out-think us.

For Tegmark, intelligence, whether human or artificial, is being able to accomplish complex goals (whether those goals are good or bad). He argues that intelligence ultimately relies on information and computation, not on flesh and blood or on metal and plastic. Therefore, he reasons, with the exponential developments taking place in the world of technology, there is no barrier to computers eventually attaining and even surpassing human intelligence. Such a position can be described as ‘Strong AI’, or in Tegmark’s terms, the ‘Beneficial AI movement’.

Conversely the weak AI supporters predict that computers will not reach a level of intelligence that exceeds our own. Firstly, they argue, human and machine intelligence are not the same thing. Secondly, computers blindly follow code, and have no free will to decide not to follow it (unless they are programmed to do so – which thereby defeats the notion of free will). Thirdly, suggest the weak AI theorists, it is proving extremely difficult to create computer programs that can accurately model or reproduce human attributes such as emotions, abstract thinking and intuition.

Whatever side of the argument you subscribe to, it is interesting to note the comparisons between human and machine. Arguably, all of the above attributes, such as free will, emotions, abstract thinking and intuitive action not only make us who we are, they also create a permanent and unbridgeable divide between humans and computers.

Tegmark, M. (2017) Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. London: Penguin Books.

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Humans, machines and learning by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's

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A little help from my friends

December 13 2018

Image from Maxpixel
My grandest project of 2018 has been writing a new book, which was commissioned by Kogan Page in January. Anyone who has authored a book will know how compelling, and also how lonely it can be. Throughout the year, the book has continuously exercised my mind, and I have spent countless hours of planning, thinking, researching, writing and editing.

I decided to call the book 'Digital Learning in Organisations' from the outset because my expertise lies in learning technologies. The departure is found in the locus - organisations. I have worked with many learning and development professionals over the last decade and have come to know many personally, but L and D is a less familiar terrain to me than school and university education. However, having worked in large organisations for more than 40 years, and having watched the rapid development of new technologies during that time, I feel I can write authoritatively about the challenges and innovations that are happening.

As you would guess, I have enlisted a little of help from my friends along the way, so writing has not been as lonely a task as it might have been. I'm grateful to many who have either encouraged me to write the book, or who have advised me in any specific way. The list is long. But I'm most grateful to those who have contributed directly to the book by responding to my interview questions. I will namecheck just a few here, to give you a flavour of their contributions, which may pique your interest in reading the entire book when it hits the bookshops in April 2019!

Here's David Kelly, New York based Executive director of the e-Learning Guild, with his view on mobile devices and learning:
“Mobile technologies shouldn’t be viewed through the lens of learning. They should be viewed through the lens of problem solving. That’s what this thing we call “self-directed learning” looks like anyway; it looks like problem solving and that’s what’s emerging within the world of digital learning.”
David goes on to consider a number of scenarios around the use of mobile learning in large organisations, and concludes that:
“.....mobile devices are a game changer for organizations – not in the context of mobile learning, but in the context of how they empower what it means to live, learn, and interact in a digital world. In that context, mobile devices are powering the future of digital learning.”
This is at once both inspirational and daunting - thanks David. Another thoughtful contribution comes from Julian Stodd, of the UK based firm Sea Salt Learning who shared some of his views on social media and learning:
“We have moved from a world where learning was substantially formal, codified, and owned, to a world where it is substantially, co-created, adaptive, geolocated, accessible, and evolutionary. Social collaborative technology has enabled the emergence of democratised, and substantially invisible, communities, where tacit, tribal, learning and sharing takes place at scale.”
Julian's views delineate much of the change that has taken place in the world of learning in the workplace over the last 10-15 years. His insight adds great value to the book. 

Digital Learning in Organisations is peppered with examples of innovation and change through learning, and the role digital technologies have played, especially by ground breaking companies like Sponge. You will find pithy quotes from many individuals I greatly respect in the industry, including Nigel Paine, Donald Clark, David Hopkins, Kate Graham, Harold Jarche (Canada), Helen Blunden (Australia) Donald H Taylor, Michele Ricci (Italy), Ajay Pangarkar (Canada) and Jane Bozarth (USA), and also a few of my own anecdotes, salutary tales, and humorous stories from when things didn't quite go according to plan! 

Do look out for Digital Learning in Organisations, which is published by Kogan Page on 3 April 2019. Advanced orders can be placed on Amazon.

Creative Commons License
A little help from my friends by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's

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