Sunday, February 26, 2023

OpenAI releases massive wave of innovation

ChatGPT's impact has nothing to do with essays and plagiarism. That's a sideshow, where old-school, lazy assessment hits the wall of smart technology. What OpenAI unleashed was far more interesting, an explosion of creativity and innovation. Putting such a powerful tool in the hands of 100 million in two months meant that a lot of smart people came up with a lot of smart uses and shared them on social media.

It has massively accelerated innovation. Competition does this. In AI this has long been the norm. You can access publicly available data sets, write a solution and post your results publicly on a league table. Our AI expert did this with an image recognition solution as an undergraduate and was top in the world for a long time on recognising apples on trees. The data set included a huge number of varieties of apples on real trees in different light conditions This is an important task as a huge percentage of fruit is harvested at the wrong time. Yields really can be increased and automation introduced. It's a world where anyone can contribute and benchmark.

With LLMs, OpenAI's ChatGPT, based on GPT 3.5, started a race where:
  • AI is integrated into mainstream tools like Teams
  • Larger LLMs are being built
  • LLMs are changing 'search'
  • LLMs are being used on a global scale in real businesses
  • Real businesses are being built on the back of LLMs
  • LLMs as part of ensembes of other tools are being researched to solve accuracy, updatability & provenance issues
  • Open, transparent LLMs (Bloom) are being built
This last one is interesting, an attempt to build and launch a LLM that has data sets from many more languages than mainly English, one that is free and transparent.

More than this the 30 November 2022 will go down in history as the day a new wave of innovation around AI was given birth. This will change everything in learning.

I'll be in Africa, the Far East and across Europe this year talking about this, doing workshops. never been so excited about a learning technology, since I wrote my first programme on my Commodore 64, compiled it and said 'run'. What a time to be in learning and learning technology....

Friday, February 24, 2023

Does L&D take orders & deliver courses like a waiter OR worse, simply serve up food people never ordered in the first place?

Fascinating chat with three people heading up L&D in a major international company. AI has led them to completely re-evaluate their strategy. Key concepts were performance, process and data. What I liked was their focus on that oft-quoted issue of aligning L&D with the business goals - unlike most, they really meant it.

Clearly tired of the old 'waiter taking orders for courses' model, they are shaking things up big time. We concluded that the more appropriate metaphor was actually waiters serving up food which people never ordered in the first place, dishes that the organisation thought would cure you of your selfish ways or be virtuously vegan, hence the 'eye-rolling' when anyone mentions training and HR.

For the first time they felt that the tech was really 'supporting' performance with a shot in the arm from smart tech like ChatGPT. Everyone seemed to be using it, in marketing, prep for meetings, when writing. It's not as if you need to tell people what it is. And it's fiendishly simple to use. It also seemed to create that sense of urgency that Kotter used to talk about, an atmosphere where change was suddenly possible.

They were young, tech savvy, open to new ideas, understood the business needs and I came away feeling that a new generation of people are emerging who understand learning, tech and the art of getting things done. I'm a bit tired of seeing abstract Leadership, DEI, mindfulness, resilience whatever... stuff dished up to people who actually want real and practical help in doing their job. The technology that puts that in the hands of learners has arrived. Performance support will be a teacher or trainer at your fingertips.

We also talked about promoting, the need to see it as 'CHAT'gpt, an iterative process, where you need to understand how to speak to the tech. It's a bit like speaking to an alien from space, as it has no comprehension or consciousness but it is still competent and smart. We have put together 100 prompt tips for learning professionals and taking it out on the road soon. All good in the hood.

Friday, February 17, 2023

7 ways to think and act strategically in your organisation about AI in learning

 If you don’t have a strategy, you will be part of someone else’s strategy” Toffler.

Organisations need to have a strategic view of AI, especially in learning. This is technology that learns itself, that gets better through learning, that is used by learners. It reached 100 million in 2 months, and now hundreds of millions, the fastest ever adoption of a new technology. It is already a global technology.


Above all, you need to see it strategically. There is no imperative to use this tech but there is an imperative to consider its use. Sure, it is OK to say no but you should have a reason for saying no, as this is the technology of the age. I've been saying this in three books, lots of articles and a ton of keynotes for 7 years and it is now happening. This is the new internet, only smarter.


1. Trick is to get down and use it. AI has been largely invisible. you've been using it for ages. Now it has been foregrounded. It is there right on your table. You can play with this tech because it is online and free. That baseline feel for what it can do becomes quickly apparent, List your top five problems. Then go at it to see of the tools can help.


2. But that is not enough. You must get advice on inputs. These tools are only as good as their users ability to use them. Word does not make you a novelist and ChatGPT does not make you a consultant or expert. Prompting, is a skill, a skill that needs to be learned. Having to together a list of 100 prompt tips, this is not easy, as you need to understand how the underlying technology works and how to squeeze the best out of it. 


3. Don’t get bogged down in one dimension, such as cheating in assessments. That is a sideshow and simply reveals the weakness of old practices. Think big not small. Think strategically and expansively about the big needs in your organisation. List them and reflect on how these tools can help.


4. Take a wider view of AI. It is not all LLMs (Large Language Models). It is used in dozens of other learning contexts. I have outlined many of them in ‘AI for Learning’. Think about applying this technology across the entire learning journey; engagement of learners (marketing also), support, personalisation, adaptive learning, feedback, content creation, curation, performance support and assessment. There has been an explosion of innovation in the first few weeks after the release of ChatGPT - be part of that.


5. Think about how this fits the new paradigm of, not courses, but performance support, hitting those sweet spots when learners really need stuff, not loading everything up front in a course. That’s the way things are going - learning in the flow of life. Think learning, not teaching.


6. Ask people who have been doing this for some time and get a plan of action, not just a keynote at your conference or quick webinar, although that helps get the ball moving. Create a sense of urgency as this technology is moving faster than you can schedule such events.


7. Remember that this is moving fast. It is not about ChatGPT. Within weeks Bing was released, ChatGPT 4 is here, as are other potential services from Google and many others. The new timescale is weeks not months. This is about your strategy for the future not what is available today.


I’ve been in this game for a long time doing real projects with real learners in the real world. AI is a big bang event in learning. Happy to help if I can. 

If you need help with strategy, we can help. Contact me on LinkedIN or just email me.

Monday, February 06, 2023

How to prompt like a PRO! 100 types of prompt in ChatGPT for learning

We have been stuck in a productivity rut for some time. AI promises to release us from ploughing that particular furrow, and release technology driven learning from its current malaise. AI is clearly the technology of the age. Almost all of the large, global tech companies are, in essence, AI companies.

In learning AI changes life and work, and by consequence, what, whenever, when and how we learn. AI promises to deliver adaptive and personalised learning on any topic at low cost freeing education from expensive scarcity. This is because it increases the efficacy, not only of content creation but, more importantly delivery. We see a glimpse of this with Duolingo, now an AI company with a highly effective personalised learning system, that is free. They have now expanded into Mathematics. 

They used to say that information wants to be free. A far better mantra is to say that education wants to be free. First, free from the tyranny of time, having fixed lengths of time to get to competence, fixed timetables, course times and so on. Secondly, free learners from the tyranny of place, having to be somewhere specific, like a lecture hall or classroom.

I explored this in my book ‘AI for Learning’. Accelerating learning, making it readily available, along with semantic search and the many other gifts that AI will bring, should make organisational development that much easier, cheaper, faster and better. This has been the promise of most technology and if we look at the past, technology has, on the whole, delivered. 

Generative AI

Generative AI is still in its infancy, yet achieved instant global awareness with ChatGPT. That impact came from the realisation, often from the first output to the first question you asked, that this has huge potential. It put AI into the hands of millions, made it real. There was the expected negativity, largely born of fear, as is usually the case with new technology in learning, but that quickly gave way to wonder, lots of creative uses and speculation about the future.

It is important not to see generative AI as the only way AI has and will impact L&D. My books ‘AI for Learning’ , 'Learning Experience Design' and ‘Learning technologies’ go across the entire learning journey, showing how AI has already embedded itself into almost everything we do online. In that sense it has been here for at least 20 years in search, in UI, text to speech, speech to text (increasing accessibility), also in learning support, content creation, recommended learning pathways, adaptive, personalised learning, assessment and spaced practice.

Prompt Engineering

What ChatGPT does is allow you to use the tool to teach and learn. Once you have mastered ‘prompt engineering’, knowing how to construct the right input, understanding that ChatGPT is a dialogue system not just a producer of monolithic pieces of text, you can output wonderful things. This is a new skill for learning designers and generative AI allows all sorts of complex prompting using iterations, logic and parameters that improve the output. 

It allows you to improve up-front design, get the juices going with stakeholders, producing objectives, likely competencies and skills, syllabi, even titles for your learning initiatives. To create content one can prompt for full content with the right level of detail and nuance, summaries, images, all in different styles and voices, suitable for different audiences. You can create assessments and assignments with full rubrics for marking, also learning activities for discussions, scenarios and role playing. Beyond this you can prompt for emails, social media content and marketing. We have put together a list of 100 prompt ideas for learning professionals  to allow learning professionals to widen their perspective on this technology which we will be using in planned talks and workshops.

Remember that this is only the start of AI tools that will dramatically improve productivity for teachers, learning designers and learners.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

AI and learning is about to get a massive boost

While ChatGPT has become a global meme, it actually distracts from the many other uses of AI for learning outlined in my book ‘AI for Learning'. This includes uses that lie unseen and invisible, such as AI being the new UI, text to speech, speech to text, translation, adaptive learning, learner support, assessment and spaced practice. Duolingo with its superbly smart algorithms and massive data sets is quietly revolutionising language learning. It is, in essence, an AI company. Of course, the best digital technology is usually invisible.

But another invisible technology is being worked on that will have a huge impact on the learning world – SEMANTIC SEARCH. We have been using this and it is astonishingly powerful. At the moment search is keyword driven and often misfires. Google has become dominant as it uses vast amounts of user data to hone its battery of search techniques, and to be honest, it is pretty good. However, it is not good at searching the motherlode of unstructured data in documents, social platforms, online courses, web pages, PowerPoints and videos you have in your organisation or personal data.


Learning technology has recently taken a lurch away from the supply-led LMS, a repository of content and courses, towards the demand-led LXP, which delivers to real needs. Recognising that you actually learn by doing, in the flow of work, you find exactly what you need at that moment, in that context. Performance support has become a big deal.


Enter ‘semantic search’ that uses transformers, similar to GPT. It solves an old problem, called the ‘lexical gap’, where search can’t locate co-located meaning. Traditional search matches exact targets, not a range of similar or related targets, so you get lots of misfires. When you turn language into mathematical vectors in a transformer, you capture a word or sentence’s relationship to other words, a bit like family resemblance (a useful metaphorical concept used by Wittgenstein) where words have fathers, mothers, sisters, brother cousins and so on, you can then match the ‘intent’ of the person who searches, more accurately with its intended targets.


At the moment this works well with documents up to a certain word limit but rapid progress is being made. Being able to find exactly what you need at any point from within your own organisation’s or personal data, will be a huge leap in functionality. It will transform performance support. It will also move beyond text to searching for images, diagrams and video clips.


We will be able to get what we need pulled by search or pushed using algorithmic techniques that embody optimal and personalised pedagogy to you as a learner. In many ways ChatGPT gives us a glimpse into semantic search, as it uses some of these semantic techniques. This is only one of many AI techniques that will hit the learning world. It truly is the technology of the age.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Education may be the death of us!

Having grown up with the orthodox belief that overpopulation will be the death of us, I now find myself among catastrophists who see low birth rates as the death of us. You can’t win in the catastrophe business!

In the Far East, Japan, having encouraged everyone to work til they drop and blocked immigration, is now sleepwalking into an ageing population, falling birth rate, high state spend future and low productivity collapse. China faces an even bigger problem, living with the consequences of an enforced Maoist prohibition on having children, also an imbalance between men and women - last time I checked boys don’t give birth. They have urbanised quickly killing the birth rate even further.
In Europe, from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, down through Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, Greece and Italy the falling population problem has been compounded by an exodus to the richer Western Europe. Economic migrants take the possibility of economic growth with them and leave behind an ageing population, in. a low tax base economy, that need care. Migration is not win-win, it is win-lose. Your young people, who you pay to get educated and trained, flee to richer countries leaving you less able to generate wealth or look after your rapidly ageing population. Eastern and Southern Europe is increasingly becoming a depopulated region, with mass migration out, requiring huge sums to be sent back in by the few EU donor nations who are themselves feeling the crunch. The donor nations in the North and West, about one third, are subsidising the other two thirds in the East and South.
Peter Zaihan’s book ‘The End of the World is Just the Beginning’ goes into real detail on the consequences of this depopulation crisis. One of the interesting features of falling fertility is that people are either not having children at all, having fewer children or fewer children later. Combine this with people living much longer and the median age starts to push up and up, so the pyramid starts to invert.
One of the drivers behind the falling number of children appears to be education. Isn’t is odd that something that is seen as a social good may end up atrophying the total number of people in the social pool. Extending the amount of time young people spend in education - now up to 18, then in Higher Education to 22/23, now a Masters Degree to 23/24 - has been sold as necessary (neat marketing trick). We now have a huge number of people being non-productive during some of their most productive years. They rarely have children during their studies, or afterwards, as they are only starting to build a career in their mid-twenties. As Daniel Dennett says, education turned out to be the most anti-evolutionary cultural trait in our species. He finds it almost impossible to get this empirical fact over to his students - that this may not, in the end, be great for humanity as a whole.
Others such as Goodhart in his book Head, Heart and Hand: Why intelligence is over-rewarded, manual workers matter, and caregivers deserve more respect (2021), plea for the rebalancing of society, economics and rewards away from the Head (cognitive work) towards the Hand (making and manual work) and Heart (health and care work). We have reached what he calls 'Peak Head', the focus on funnelling everyone towards University degrees on a single route towards a single, cognitive elite.
In The tyranny of merit: What’s become of the common good? (2020) Sandel diagnoses a relatively recent shift from the common good to a competitive meritocracy in Higher Education. The financialisation of economies, and changes of attitudes towards success have led to a divide between winners and losers. Finance has moved away from the greater good and rewards for all, towards enormous rewards for the few who work in finance, based on speculative finance, not the creation of valuable goods and services.
This has eaten away at the dignity of ordinary work. Rewards have become hopelessly imbalanced, buoyed up by meritocratic hubris and the success ethic. If chances are assumed to be equal or could be made equal, then those that flourish can attribute their success to personal agency, it is all down to their effort. This is what animates the meritocratic ideal. But social divides have deepened, aided by Higher Education, which induces a feeling that the winners, the graduate class, deserve their success and that the rest fail because it is their fault, which has led to one group looking down on the other. A side effect of this is a lack of respect for vocational skills and work.
The collapse of society, in my view, is far more likely to be a social collapse, or some totalitarian takeover a la Trump, Jinping or Putin, than climate change. That social collapse may come within decades due to not having enough people in rich societies to actually keep them functioning, fiscally or socially. The population pyramid is about to invert with more older than younger people, leaving less people to pay for the old, buy goods in the economy and the geopolitical consequences are frightening.