US - INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW

28 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW JULY-SEPTEMBER 2018 In schools today, teachers must teach to the median—or, in many cases, to the lowest common denominator. Students must learn on a schedule and from a curricu- lum taking no account of their capabilities or preferences; some students may take twice as long to learn differential calculus but half as long to learn Spanish irregular verbs. The root issue is that the default units of educa- tion—the classroom, the class, the school year, the period, the semester, the quarter—are all arbitrary distinctions dating back to the earliest days of industrial- ized education. My future school is the back- yard of my house, and my class- room is a digital tutor with a virtu- al-reality headset. Or, if I do not have a backyard or a house, my classroom is a bench in a park or the shade of a tree in a rural meadow, say, somewhere in the Shimla. My avatar instructor is Clifford; my educational coach, Aparna. I am learning geometry via a videogame that teaches how the Egyptian pyramids were con- structed. Knowing that I love the pyramids, the A.I. algorithms that guide my avatars deduced that pyramids would be an effective way to engage me in core topics in this critical field of mathematical knowledge. Clifford has been with me for several years. He knows how I learn, what I like, and what turns me off. He speaks in a British accent that, when I created my avatar profile, I chose because I liked the sound of it. Clifford is always on duty, a button-push away. He doesn’t need vacations, bathroom breaks, or lesson- preparation time. And he is more in tune with what is going on inside my mind and with my feel- ings than any teacher ever was in my actual youth. That’s because he has access to almost unlimited amounts of information about me and the world. He can use the powerful sensors in and around me (in my contact lenses, in my iPhone, embedded in the walls, and woven into my clothing) to gain intimate, highly useful knowl- edge about my physical state. For example, Clifford recog- nizes when I am tired, by noticing differences in the dilation of my pupils and color differences in my skin that indicate lower oxygena- tion of my blood. He also notices when I get excited about things, by watching my eye movements closely and sensing my pulse rate. Clifford’s vision is far better than any human’s eyesight. He can interpret the subtle changes in my tone of voice that indicate whether I am understanding subject matter well or grasping at straws. He also learns to match my physical reac- tions to lessons with actual out- comes, in a constant feedback loop that leads him to improve over time as my teacher. When I am sleepy, Clifford may suggest that I take a quick nap or go shoot basketball for fifteen min- utes. When I am confused, he rec- ognizes my lack of comprehen- sion and doubles back to review the lesson with me, or he changes the exercises that I am working on in my tablet, to try engaging a dif- ferent learning style. Sometimes it is videos; at other times, games or books; at other times, holographic worlds. Clifford communicates closely with Aparna for my geom- etry class. He is not in a hurry. There is no bell, no duration of a period. Clifford doesn’t have to worry about whether my class- mates are bored or sleepy, because he has only me to teach. Aparna is a human being. She’s my coach. She never lectures, or scrawls facts or equations on a blackboard. She is there to listen and help. Aparna asks me ques- tions to help steer my thinking in the right direction. She recom- mends reading and exercises to me, answers my questions, and teaches me how to work best with other children. She is charged with making sure that her students learn what they need, and she helps guide us in ways in which Clifford cannot. She also helps with the physical My future school is the backyard of my house, and my classroom is a digital tutor with a virtual-reality headset. Or, if I do not have a backyard or a house, my classroom is a bench in a park or the shade of a tree in a rural meadow, say, somewhere in the Shimla.

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