Posts with «education» label

Spotify launches educational video courses in the UK

There was once a time when you went to one place for music, another for education, and so on, but many companies are now attempting to turn themselves into a jack of all trades to compete for survival. The latest example is Spotify, which has announced a test for video-based learning courses. The new feature joins the platform's music, podcasts and audiobooks lineup. 

Spotify has teamed up with a range of content partners: BBC Maestro, PLAYvirtuoso, Thinkific Labs Inc. and Skillshare. They offer content in four main categories: making music, getting creative, learning business and healthy living. "With this offer, we are exploring a potential opportunity to provide educational creators with a new audience who can access their video content, reaching a bigger potential swath of engaged Spotify users while expanding our catalog," Spotify stated in the announcement. The platform claims that around half of users have "engaged" in self-help or educational podcasts

The test courses are available only to UK users, with free and premium subscribers receiving at least two free lessons per course. The series will range in price from £20 ($25) to £80 ($101), regardless of a person's subscription tier. Users can access them on mobile or desktop. Exact pricing and availability might change if the feature moves past the test phase. 

This forays into video-based courses follows shortly after Spotify introduced music videos in beta. They're available on select tracks and, like the classes, aren't available to US subscribers (the UK is among the 11 countries with access). 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The UK moves another step closer to banning phones in schools

Mobile phone ownership has become standard for people of most ages, and, while there's a convenience argument, experts and regulators alike have expressed concerns about children's well-being and distraction while learning. To that end, the UK government has become the latest to announce guidance for banning the use of phones during school. It follows other European countries like France and Italy, which prohibit phones in classrooms. 

Some schools in the UK already have no-phone policies in place, but these guidelines could bring widespread adoption and uniformity. "This is about achieving clarity and consistency in practice, backing headteachers and leaders and giving staff confidence to act," Gillian Keegan, the UK's secretary of state for education, said in a release. "Today's children are growing up in an increasingly complex world, living their lives on and offline. This presents many exciting opportunities – but also challenges. By prohibiting mobile phones, schools can create safe and calm environments free from distraction so all pupils can receive the education they deserve."

While the UK government encourages schools to create their own policies, it outlines a few overarching options. The first — and most extreme — is a complete ban on mobile phones from school premises. However, the guidance acknowledges that this could create complications or risks for children when traveling to and from school. The next option takes care of that problem while still taking phones away. It suggests having students hand in their phones when arriving at school.

Then there's the locker route, where phones are kept strictly in students' lockers or whatever personal storage they get at school. While this allows students to keep possession of their device, it still wouldn't be usable at any point in the day, even when accessing the locker during breaks. The final option aligns with what many schools do — let students keep their phones in their bags, but they should be turned off and never accessed. 

The guidance also recommends teaching students about the mobile phone's potentially harmful impact on young people. Study after study has found that social media, in particular, can negatively impact young people's mental health. The UK government argues that, in addition to combating the social media issue, restricting phone use can increase students' concentration, time being active and spending time with peers face-to-face. 

Parents are encouraged to contact the school directly rather than through a private phone if they need to get in touch with their child. The guidance also encourages parents to discuss the rules at home and, once again, the risks of phones and the internet.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

OpenAI and CommonSense Media team up to curate family-friendly GPTs

You will soon find a kid-friendly section inside OpenAI's newly opened store for custom GPTs. The company has joined forces with Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that rates media and technology based on their suitability for children, to minimize the risks of AI use by teenagers. Together, they intend to create AI guidelines and educational materials for young people, their parents and their educators. The two organizations will also curate a collection of family-friendly GPTs in OpenAI's GPT store based on Common Sense's ratings, making it easy to see which ones are suitable for younger users. 

"Together, Common Sense and OpenAI will work to make sure that AI has a positive impact on all teens and families," James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, said in a statement. "Our guides and curation will be designed to educate families and educators about safe, responsible use of ChatGPT, so that we can collectively avoid any unintended consequences of this emerging technology."

According to Axios, the partnership was announced at Common Sense's kids and family summit in San Francisco, where OpenAI CEO Sam Altman shot down the idea that AI is bad for kids and should be kept out of schools. "Humans are tool users and we better teach people to use the tools that are going to be out in the world," he reportedly said. "To not teach people to use those would be a mistake." The CEO also said that future high school seniors would be able to operate at a higher level of abstraction and could achieve more that their predecessors with the help of artificial intelligence. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Amazon will host free 'AI Ready' courses in an effort to attract new talent

OpenAI may grab all the headlines, but Amazon has been quietly toiling on AI across all its divisions and even using AI-powered robots in its warehouses. Now, in a bid to attract new talent, the company is launching a free program called "AI Ready," with the aim of providing generative AI training to two million people globally by 2025. 

Consisting of eight free courses, the classes will be available through Amazon's learning website and offered to non-Amazon employees as well. They'll teach people AI skills including the generative AI technology that powers ChatGPT and other language models. 

They're designed for beginners and advanced users in both tech and tech-adjacent roles. Three courses are aimed at business and nontechnical users, while five are designed for developer and technical audiences. Along with the classes, Amazon announced that it's providing Udacity scholarships valued at more than $12 million to more than 50,000 high school and university students from underrepresented communities around the world. 

 "The goal of AI Ready is to help level the playing field of AI education, supported by the new initiatives we're launching here today," said AWS VP of data and AI, Swami Sivasubramanian. "If we are going to unlock the full potential of AI to tackle the world’s most challenging problems, we need to make AI education accessible to anyone with a desire to learn."

AI technology has been in use for some time now in field ranging from medical research to retail customer assistance — but it really exploded with the launch of OpenAI's ChatGPT virtual assistant. The field is still in its teething stages and systems are notoriously complex, however, so there's a serious shortage of qualified programmers, technicians and others. Amazon notes that 73 percent of employers say that hiring AI-skilled talent is a priority, but three of four are unable to find qualified people. 

Amazon said its aim is to "democratize" generative AI education, noting that the program will benefit not just its own employees but its enterprise customers who seek workers with prompt engineering and other skills. It could also help AWS (Amazon Web Service) customers as several courses are based on its own platforms including Bedrock AI and CodeWhisperer, a tool that automatically generates code. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Duolingo's gamified music lessons are launching this fall

Duolingo is launching its new music course sometime this fall. The educational tech company first announced that it was gearing up to add music lessons to its repertoire back in September, promising "hundreds of bite-sized lessons" that can teach you music with the help of over 200 tunes. Duolingo, of course, has turned music learning into a gamified experience, dividing lessons into levels you have to complete and docking points (or hearts) whenever you enter an incorrect answer. 

You'll start by having to familiarize yourself with the sounds of the C and D notes of C major using a digital piano. Duolingo will have you matching the sounds of each note with their placement on a staff, so you'd know what they sound like and could spot them on a music sheet by the time you're done. You'll move on to the next notes in subsequent lessons, but before you can proceed, Duolingo will test you on what you've learned so far by having you play familiar ditties like Mary Had a Little Lamb. Don't worry — you only have to follow the notes scrolling on screen, but it could still be plenty challenging for the musically inept, like yours truly. If the first lessons are a bit too basic for you, though, you can skip ahead to the more advanced stages of the course. 


In addition to creating a brand new music course, Duolingo has also updated its math curriculum to help you gain "advanced real-world math skills," such as the ability to quickly calculate tips and hourly wage. "While Duolingo is known for language, we’re expanding to math and music because these are subjects that people often find intimidating," Karen Chow, Senior Learning Scientist for Duolingo Music, told Engadget. "You'll hear people say 'Oh I'm tone deaf' or 'I'm just not a math person.' We want to show people that learning these different subjects is possible and it can actually be a lot of fun!"

You can now sign up for the music course waitlist, if you want to start learning as soon as it becomes available. Initially, Duolingo music will only be available in English and Spanish on iOS devices, but the company says it's "hoping to bring the course to more learners very soon."


This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The Arecibo Observatory's next phase as a STEM education center starts in 2024

An educational center could open up at the site of the famed Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico as soon as early next year, but astronomy research won’t be among its missions. At least, not for now. The National Science Foundation announced this week that it’s chosen four institutions to take charge of the site’s transition, with a $5.5 million investment over the next five years. It’ll be a hub for STEM education, with a focus on life and computer sciences.

The NSF first revealed its plans for an education center at Arecibo last year after months of uncertainty about its future, confirming then that the telescope would not be rebuilt. The observatory’s main radio telescope suffered a catastrophic collapse in December 2020, when its 900-ton hanging instrument platform fell onto the dish below, destroying the 1,000-foot-wide structure. The collapse abruptly finalized the end of the telescope’s operations after nearly six decades of observations, during which it became a critical tool in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and in advancing our understanding of the universe.

The new educational center, called the Arecibo Center for Culturally Relevant and Inclusive Science Education, Computational Skills, and Community Engagement (Arecibo C3 for short), is projected to open in early 2024. It’ll be led in collaboration by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras, Universidad del Sagrado Corazón, University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

While there are other working instruments at the site still, which researchers hoped to see funding for to continue science operations, the NSF confirmed to Nature that this is not in its current plans, though it will accept and consider proposals. The telescope's impact will be presented in an interactive exhibit at the new center. Arecibo C3’s executive director, astronomer Wanda Díaz-Merced, told Nature, “We will be building on the heritage of Arecibo, but we will be building in a wider sense.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Duolingo will soon offer gamified music lessons

Duolingo is best known for its language learning app, but it recently branched into teaching math and will soon offer music learning, the company announced. Through a series of "hundreds of bite-sized lessons," users will be able to learn notes and how to play tunes from a library of over 200+ songs. Using the app's gamified learning experience, the Music course "teaches you to read and play music anytime, through interactive lessons," according to Duolingo. 

"We know math and music, much like language, transcend cultures and connect people," Duolingo cofounder and CTO Severin Hacker. "Soon you will be able to learn math and music in the same Duolingo app — all with the same fun, engaging, and effective experience you know from learning languages with us."


Several screenshots show musical notation paired with piano keys (above), along with games like "fill in the blanks" and "match the pairs." The app will appear alongside languages and math at the top of the main Duolingo screen. The math app is already available for iOS, with levels ranging from elementary to more advanced, all using interactive, gamified lessons. 

A job posting spotted earlier this year provided hints that the company was working on a music app. Duolingo didn't give many details other than a few screenshots, but did say that "the course is free, fun and effective. It plans to reveal the app fully at its Duocon conference on October 11th. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

An Iowa school district is using AI to ban books

It certainly didn't take long for AI's other shoe to drop, what with the emergent technology already being perverted to commit confidence scams and generate spam content. We can now add censorship to that list as the Globe Gazette reports the school board of Mason City, Iowa has begun leveraging AI technology to cultivate lists of potentially bannable books from the district's libraries ahead of the 2023/24 school year. 

In May, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed, and Governor Kim Reynolds subsequently signed, Senate File 496 (SF 496), which enacted sweeping changes to the state's education curriculum. Specifically it limits what books can be made available in school libraries and classrooms, requiring titles to be "age appropriate” and without “descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act,” per Iowa Code 702.17.

But ensuring that every book in the district's archives adhere to these new rules is quickly turning into a mammoth undertaking. "Our classroom and school libraries have vast collections, consisting of texts purchased, donated, and found," Bridgette Exman, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction at Mason City Community School District, said in a statement. "It is simply not feasible to read every book and filter for these new requirements." 

As such, the Mason City School District is bringing in AI to parse suspect texts for banned ideas and descriptions since there are simply too many titles for human reviewers to cover on their own. Per the district, a "master list" is first cobbled together from "several sources" based on whether there were previous complaints of sexual content. Books from that list are then scanned by "AI software" — the district doesn't specify which systems will be employed — which tells the state censors whether or not there actually is a depiction of sex in the book. 

“Frankly, we have more important things to do than spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to protect kids from books,” Exman told PopSci via email. “At the same time, we do have a legal and ethical obligation to comply with the law. Our goal here really is a defensible process.”

So far, the AI has flagged 19 books for removal. They are as follows:

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Colorado education department discloses data breach spanning 16 years

After a ransomware attack in June, the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) notified students on Friday of a potential data leak. In June, "unauthorized actor(s)" not yet publicly identified accessed CDHE systems in a ransomware attack. While authorities continue to investigate the full extent of the damage, the department has disclosed that the attack breached personally identifiable information like names and social security numbers.

"The review of the impacted records is ongoing and once complete, CDHE will be notifying individuals who are potentially impacted by mail or email to the extent we have contact information," CDHE wrote in a Notice of Data Incident. But the department warns students that the impact of the breach reaches across programs, from public schools to adult education initiatives, over a 16 year time period.

In response, CDHE is offering free access to Experian credit monitoring and identity theft protection to protect their data. The department recommends impacted groups keep an eye on their account statements and credit reports for suspicious activity. 

Education systems are a popular target for ransomware attacks. In 2022, at least 44 colleges and 45 school districts reported ransomware attacks, compared to 88 total education departments in 2021, according to data from Emsisoft. The Government Accountability Office recommended that the Department of Education and the Department of Homeland Security coordinate to evaluate school cybersecurity efforts across the country. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Samsung Wallet gets digital school ID support for campuses across the US

Students at 68 colleges and universities across the US will easily be able to use their Samsung phones to tap for access and purchases. Samsung's Wallet app now supports digital student IDs, so long as it's on the United States versions of the brand's latest devices. Some of the educational institutions that have enabled ID integration for Samsung Wallet are Penn State, the University of Florida, Central Michigan University, University of North Alabama and the Stevens Institute of Technology.

Apple has supported contact-free student ID cards since 2018, allowing students to tap their phones to access facilities and, say, get food at the cafeteria. Google Pay also launched student ID integration in 2020 in partnership with a company called Transact, which offers solutions for tuition and other student expense payment. That's the same company Samsung has teamed up with to enable this integration, which means users will have to download the Transact eAccounts mobile app from Google Play, as well.

Like other digital student ID integrations, Samsung Wallet allows students to access school facilities with their phone. The app's Fast Mode feature will let users tap their phone without having to unlock their screen, while Power Reserve means they can use their digital ID even if their phone has switched off due to low battery reserves. That said, the capability to pay using NFC at on-campus stores and vending machines aren't available at all of the participating institutions.

At the moment, students can only use Samsung Wallet's digital ID support if they have a Galaxy S20 phone or later, a Note 20, a Galaxy Flip or Fold device, or a Galaxy A53. Galaxy Watch support is coming this fall. Samsung also says that it's working to expand the offering and make it available for students in more institutions. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at