The Glendale Central Library was anything but quiet during the “Machine Learning and How It Relates to Education” panel at the second annual Glendale Tech Week, a city-sponsored event that brings together top talent from tech companies in and around Glendale.
The discussion, moderated by our SVP of Strategy Sunil Gunderia, provided a fascinating look at how machine learning and big data are impacting millions of students around the world and creating new professional opportunities. Speakers included Age of Learning’s Director of Data Science and Learning Elizabeth Owen PhD, alongside Armen Toorian, Professor of Robotics and Engineering at Glendale Community College and Mechanical Engineer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The speakers focused on three key themes: How digital learning resources expand access to education, how machine learning can help improve educational outcomes for K–12 students, and how understanding coding can improve students’ job prospects. Here are some highlights from the discussion:
We are living through an exciting time when more and more people have digital access to educational content through relatively low-cost devices. This is the case both for our youngest learners and for aspiring professionals. At Age of Learning, we expect to serve more than six million children on ABCmouse this year alone! Some of these children will be reached through our partnerships with public libraries, schools, and community centers—we provide ABCmouse at no cost to these institutions. And Massive Open Online Course platforms such as Coursera are making it possible for higher education to transcend time and place. One million students signed up for Andrew Ng’s course on machine learning, allowing students from around the globe to learn from this influential thinker.
In the U.S., we are systematically failing most of our young learners when it comes to foundational skills. By the time children reach fourth grade, only 40% of them are proficient in math and 36% in reading (Source: The Nation’s Report Card). “In this age of big data, we have the opportunity to leverage the computational power that’s available to us to understand and drive educational outcomes,” said Sunil. Through products such as ABCmouse Mastering Math, we can support students’ individualized needs at a large scale. “When done well, it’s like having your own personal tutor,” said Liz.
As the largest education technology employer in the greater Los Angeles area, with nearly 600 employees, we understand the high demand for trained professionals across several technical disciplines, including software engineering. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs available but only 400,000 qualified graduates to fill them. We can do more as a society to prepare students for careers in coding and machine learning. It begins with understanding data, engaging in project-based learning, and using tools to bring ideas to life. Liz noted that “computational literacy is a basic literacy of our time,” and Armen added that “every single person in this room should know how to program.”
Glendale Tech Week 2017 offered a fun and inspiring environment through panels, site tours, and networking events. We look forward to participating in future events as we continue to partner with Glendale schools, libraries, and community centers to help make a difference in early learning.