Reinventing higher education: ‘Can we use AI to give the lecturer superpowers?’

Article by SA Mathieson, Guardian Labs, (Transforming the student experience series paid for by Jisc), 9 April 2019

Technology sometimes makes people’s lives more impersonal. But in higher education it is leading in the other direction, as large group lectures are replaced with tutorials, digital resources and software-based coaching.

“We believe the technologies that are coming will reinvent higher education teaching,” says Paul Feldman, chief executive of Jisc, a membership organisation that provides digital solutions for UK education and research. “We think it will turn the whole thing on its head.” Continue reading “Reinventing higher education: ‘Can we use AI to give the lecturer superpowers?’”

Supporting students: the role of data analysis in improving welfare

Article by SA Mathieson, Guardian Labs, (Transforming the student experience series paid for Jisc), 8 March 2019

Students are increasingly concerned about their mental health. One in six people aged 17 to 19 in England has a mental disorder, according to NHS Digital, and students are increasingly reporting mental health conditions to their institutions – 57,305 disclosed one in 2016-17, nearly six times as many as in 2007-08, according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Dr Dominique Thompson, who worked as a university GP for nearly two decades and now advises universities on mental health, believes that students are under increasing pressure from an overly competitive society and a tyranny of perfectionism, all magnified by social media. “People are accepting that we have to do more for our young people,” she says. Continue reading “Supporting students: the role of data analysis in improving welfare”

Tax discs, books, interviews, money – where paper beats digital

Neophilia is a condition where the sufferer believes that newer things beat older ones. It’s quite common among technologists who make their livings introducing new things. This can bias them against older technologies – such as that miracle of resilience, portability and usability, paper.

For Computer Weekly, I looked at some specific areas where paper can outperform digital. George Osborne’s cancellation of paper tax discs appears to be costing the country tens of millions of pounds a year. Take-up of e-books has stalled, with the proportion of Americans reading paper books actually rising. Oxfam deliberately uses paper for some sensitive interviews and in places where people are worried about government surveillance. Continue reading “Tax discs, books, interviews, money – where paper beats digital”

The Christmas gift you deserve: freedom from Facebook

If you want to get yourself a present for Christmas, then how about extra free time with a side-order of serenity? Follow Jaron Lanier’s advice and cut down on social media. I’d add, start with Facebook.

Facebook has unappealing aspects common to many tech companies, such as aggressively (and legally) avoiding taxes. But when it comes to disrupting politics, by allowing who knows who to target voters with ads saying (until recently) who knows what, it has no equal. Continue reading “The Christmas gift you deserve: freedom from Facebook”

Aid organisations dodge cloud for technology that works

There were two reasons I wanted to write about software used by international aid organisations. The first reason was that there were lots of great projects to write about. Where commercial mappers failed, Missing Maps volunteers using OpenStreetMap and aerial images had 23,500 square kilometres of the Democratic Republic of the Congo hit by Ebola mapped in a fortnight, helping Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to tackle the outbreak.

The second reason was that aid organisations need technology that works in all environments. Among other things, this often means avoiding cloud computing. MSF physically flew its new maps to the Congo, first on paper then on a small server, to save bandwidth to its facilities there. Those with staff working mainly in the field, such as Oxfam and World Vision, make sure their software works offline. It demonstrates why cloud is not the answer everywhere, even if mobile coverage in Britain are usually better than in central Africa. Continue reading “Aid organisations dodge cloud for technology that works”