Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Bloom's Taxonomy and Scientific Knowledge

Benjamin Bloom and his committee created a well-known taxonomy of educational objectives.  In somewhat plainer language, the group tried to sketch out what sort of hurdles a teacher might ask a student to leap in order to convince the teacher that the student knows what he is supposed to know.  Bloom's group came up with the following six types of goals, questions or knowledge demonstrations:

1.   Knowledge - what is the US motto? (Answer: E pluribus, unum)

2.   Comprehension -  What does the motto mean?  (Answer: literally "from many, one" but it means we are many parts but we stand together) Note that comprehension is often established by rephrasing.)

3.   Application - How can knowing the US motto be put to some use?  

4.   Analysis - Where in the list of national mottos is the one for the US?

5.   Synthesis - Create some use or work of which the US motto is part.

6.   Evaluation - Explain how useful or useless it is to know the motto of the US.

As usual these days, we are in the midst of a spurt.  Maybe several spurts but the burst I am thinking of is "AI", that is, artificial intelligence.

I say "Be alert for the name David Weinberger."  He is the author of "Too Big to Know", a good book for soothing your anxiety over not keeping up with all the headlines, footlines, twists and turns of the world today.  I just came across an article by him about the current knowledge in Artificially Intelligent machines.  These babies can figure out cool things such as what to do next, but the way they do it and their reasoning can be too complex for humans to grasp before they age and die.

Weinberger's point is that when we have to fight off the Martians and our smart machines tell us to do X, are we going to refuse because we don't know why the machines are advising that course of action?  I guess it is sort of like what happened when Daddy told us to hide from the enemy in the trunk of the car.  We did it and it worked so we don't really care how Daddy figured out that was the place to hide.

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