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We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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How Artificially Intelligent Digital Textbooks Can Speed Learning

August 20, 2014, 6:57 PM

Technology in the classroom is an often talked about goal that has shown few results to date. But that may change as certain high school students in Houston begin receiving artificially intelligent digital textbooks. Initially programmed to instruct mathematics and physics lessons, the books measure a student's progress and respond accordingly, providing further explanation for problem areas and emphasizing related material that might otherwise trip students up. 

"The adaptive textbooks also incorporate a learning method called retrieval practice, in which material that students have already learned pops up again in occasional quizzes. This method has been shown to enhance students' ability to retain material, and the algorithmic textbooks will be able to decide when to ask questions based on past exercises."

The books are not meant to replace the human element in teaching: teachers remain essential for establishing bonds with the students and stoking their curiosity in ways that technology cannot. The books will also help teachers identify patterns, pointing out whether a particular lesson has been difficult for the entire class and therefore merits reviewing.

Creator of the One Laptop Per Child initiative, Nicholas Negroponte discussed why teachers must learn to use digital teaching tools to augment their efforts:

Read more at New Scientist

Photo credit: Shutterstock 


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