Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Facial Recognition, Augmented Reality, and Teaching

Summer is a time of reflection and learning for me. I really want to be a better teacher and summer give me a chance to read more and to think more. This week I have been thinking a lot about facial recognition and augmented reality. One of the things that I know from experience and from research is that knowing students, especially their names, is a powerful thing for a teacher. Faces are hard for me. I don’t know if it is the way my brain is wired (there is a thing called prosopagnosia or face blindness that I would like to blame) or if I am just not working hard enough at it (as my son who knows every student in his elementary school – he’s the principal – suggests) but I would really love augmented reality that would let me know each student’s name.

I also think “wouldn’t if be nice if a computer scanned the class room and took attendance for me?” On the other hand if we take that to a (perhaps) logical conclusion were get computers that track every student’s face to see who is paying attention. They are trying that in China (link below) and that scares me. It especially scares me if it gets tied into a ‘social credit’ ranking system like China is setting up. (Link below or search for China social credit) Oh boy! I can’t see a lot of students liking that one! Below you will find a link to an article about the CEO of a company that develops facial recognition who warns about how ready it is – or is not! Are we really ready to have it judge people? I think I’d rather see people doing the evaluations.

BTW, there are schools experimenting with tracking students with RFID chips. Does using facial recognition take this to a new level or is it just a logical next step? Do we really want to normalize this level of tracking? I’m a little uneasy with the idea. Maybe more than a little.

But to keep this positive and closer to education and making teaching better, Vicki Davis is seeing a lot of artificial reality and augmented reality at the ISTE conference (link to her recent post below) and seeing some positive things. As well as some risks. Could artificial intelligence replace teachers? Maybe the bad ones but what about the good ones? She doesn’t talk about the costs of teachers vs AI though. You and I know that some people would rather have poor to average “teacher” who are inexpensive than spend more money for the best.

I see artificial reality and augmented reality as being very different. Later this week I am getting a demo of the VR system my wife’s school has installed. I may blog about that after. But for now, augmented reality.

Things that lead to more and better interaction between students and teachers is a good thing. Imagine if every teacher in the school could address every student by name the first time they saw them. My gut tells me that is a good thing. Students want to be known and a name is a powerful part of that.

What if a student showed up at my desk and asked me what they got on the recent test? They do that you know. Somehow they think you remember every grade for every one of their students. A AR system could pop that information up for a teacher. That would be good. Right? Potential for abuse? Sure. There is a fine line between deciding to call or not call on a student based on their grades as a good thing or a bad thing. A reminder that a student is on a concussion protocol might be a good thing though.

So both risk and benefit to facial recognition and AR. How we balance that determines if we use it to improve education and learning or just become control freaks who limit student options. Do we use it to build relationships or to hand off everything to computers? Do we use it to share excitement and new ideas or do we just use it to make education inexpensive at the cost of quality?

So much to think about!

Recommended reading

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