So, Where’s My Robot?

Thoughts on Social Machine Learning

Socially Situated Learning

Picking up on the last post, I really like to think about how machine learning could or should be more like human learning. So, even though I’m a computer scientist by training, I read a lot of psychology literature as inspiration for building more flexible, efficient, personable and teachable machines.

Situated Learning is a field of study that looks at the social world of a child and how it contributes to their development. Throughout development, a child’s learning is aided in crucial ways by the structure and support of their environment and especially their social environment.

In a situated learning interaction, a good instructor structures the task appropriately with timely feedback and guidance. The learner contributes to the process by communicating their internal state (understanding, confusion, attention, etc.). This tightly coupled interaction enables the learner to leverage from instruction to build the appropriate representations and associations. This situated learning process stands in contrast to typical scenarios of machine learning which are often not interactive or intuitive for the human partner.

Here are a few key qualities of human learning that we need to consider for teachable machines:

Learning is a part of all activity

In most machine learning examples, learning is an explicit activity. The system is designed to learn a particular thing at a particular time. With humans on the other hand, there is a motivation for learning, a drive to be a better “system”, and an ability to seek out the expertise of others. Learning is not activity, but is part of all activity.

Teachers scaffold the learning process

An important characteristic of a good learner is the ability to learn both on one’s own and by interacting with another. Children are capable of exploring and learning on their own, but in the presence of a teacher they can take advantage of the social cues and communicative acts provided to accomplish more. For instance, the teacher often guides the child’s search process by providing timely feedback, luring the child to perform desired behaviors, and controlling the environment so the appropriate cues are easy to attend to, thereby allowing the child to learn more effectively, appropriately, and flexibly.

Expression provides feedback to guide a teacher

To be a good instructor, one must maintain a mental model of the learner’s state (e.g., what is understood so far, what remains confusing or unknown) in order to appropriately structure the learning task with timely feedback and guidance. The learner helps the instructor by expressing their internal state via expressions, gestures, or vocalizations that reveal understanding, confusion, attention, etc.

August 2nd, 2006 Posted by | Situated Learning | no comments

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