Bill MacKenty

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Sabbatical update 2

Posted in Blogging Personal Teaching Diary Update on 01 - December 2023 at 06:58 AM (about 3 months ago). 146 views.

More people should do this...

Deep Dive into AI and Machine Learning

My fascination with AI and machine learning has only grown during this period. I've been thoroughly engaged in understanding complex concepts such as Manhattan distance, greedy algorithms, and the minimax strategy. My sabbatical has also been an opportunity to learn about knowledge graphs, uncertainty in data, optimization techniques, and neural networks. These areas are fundamental to understanding how AI and machine learning systems learn and make decisions. This knowledge will be invaluable in my teaching and ongoing professional development. It's been refreshing to delve into these areas, and I'm always eager to discuss and exchange ideas with anyone interested.

I'm starting to design an ASW-exclusive Local Large Language Model (LLM) designed specifically for our students' needs. This initiative aims to harness the power of AI in education, offering a revolutionary approach to learning support. The idea is to develop a local LLM that is fine-tuned and optimized to understand and cater to the unique educational requirements of our students at ASW. This model will not be a generic AI tool, but a specialized, school-specific system that comprehends the nuances of our curriculum and the common challenges faced by our students. It will be a local system (not internet connected) and meet all the current legal guidelines being proposed in the EU for using AI in education. The diagram has been helpful to guide my thinking about what an educational LLM should consider:

Work with the IB and Travel to The Hague

Part of my sabbatical has been dedicated to contributing to the International Baccalaureate (IB) organization. Recently, I returned from a productive visit to The Hague, where I collaborated on several initiatives related to the new IB computer science curriculum. This opportunity has allowed me to apply my expertise in an international context and contribute to shaping global education standards. I learn so much about the IB in these visits, and they always enrich my understanding of computer science.

Personal Time with My Chocolate Labrador

On a personal note, my chocolate labrador (Obi-Wan MackObi) , who is now 5 months and a healthy 23 kilograms, has been a constant and joyful companion. Taking care of him has brought much-needed balance and happiness to my days. He is just starting his teenage years now, and that's ...pretty...cool...most...of...the...time... He likes to eat things.

Innovative Educational Endeavors

One of my key projects has been the development of virtual mini-courses for students. These courses are designed to empower students by offering them the flexibility to choose what and when they learn within the course structure. This initiative aims to enhance the learning experience and adapt to the evolving educational landscape. Students will be able to choose how they want to proceed in the course, and multiple pathways will help facilitate interest in different areas of computing. I'm currently offering 4 languages (PHP, Python, Javascript and Rust) and 4 pathways (business, biology/science, computer science and software engineering). At some point I may ask to split these into different courses, but I am quite excited to design, develop and trial these pathways.

"Date Night with Your Mac" Presentation

Looking ahead, I am preparing for the "Date Night with Your Mac" presentation in January. This event will focus on the practical, nuanced and discerning use of Large Language Models (LLMs) in education. Additionally, I plan to explore some practical legal aspects related to technology use in the classroom. One of the main points I will be making is the way we can use LLM's to reduce the amount of time we spend doing administrative tasks.

As I continue on this sabbatical journey, I am grateful for the time to grow, learn, and contribute to the field of education and AI. I look forward to bringing back a wealth of knowledge and experiences to share with my colleagues and students. I miss you all very much.