What is Machine Learning?

Machine learning refers to computers that are able to act and react without being explicitly programmed to do so. Computer scientists and engineers are developing systems that not only intake, retrieve, and interpret data, but also learn from it. To do this, the machine must make a generalization, using its algorithm to perform accurately on new examples after being trained on a different learning data set — much like a human learns from experiences and uses that knowledge to respond appropriately in a different encounter. In this sense, machine learning is widely considered by many researchers and thought leaders to reflect an emerging approach towards human-like artificial intelligence. Practical speech recognition, semantic applications, and even self-driving cars all leverage machine learning. A recent incarnation of machine learning is software called Xapagy, which improvises dialogue and plot moves in stories fed to it by users. The potential of machine learning for education is vast, facilitating altogether smarter technology that has the accuracy of a computer and the adaptability of the most intelligent human beings.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • The ability to review the literature of large areas of knowledge and mine the corpus for information that was not the primary focus of the authors has huge potential for identifying new knowledge. Since much of this literature is poorly structured or not structured at all, this requires the system to identify structure in the data. This reuse of existing data can not only reduce costly repetition of collecting observations, or even allow for use of data from sources that no longer exist (extinct species, ecosystem changes). Tools are coming that may make this capability open to a wider audience. - alanwolf alanwolf Sep 3, 2013
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on STEM+ education?

  • In the case of ML run against large corpuses of text, it offers authentic research opportunities for students, by allowing them to work with fresh data coming from the literature, and giving them a taste of working at larger scale, thereby seeing some of the challenges practicing scientists face. - alanwolf alanwolf Sep 3, 2013
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • GeoDeepDive - A collaboration between geoscientists and computer scientists to extract data that is buried in the text, tables, and figures of journal articles and web sites, sometimes called dark data http://hazy.cs.wisc.edu/hazy/geo/. - alanwolf alanwolf Sep 3, 2013
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