6 Ways to Learn and Dominate in AI

Learning is lifelong, but most people don’t know how to do it well.  Here are 6 ways to dominate.

By VICTOR ANJOS

In my quest to become a superstar in the tech and AI world I feel like I stagnated at times, especially at learning in my early career (as evidenced in my posts regarding how Canada belongs at the top, which chronicled my ascent to leading startups and helping founders). Luckily (for me and for the startups I’ve been a key part in), once I got going, I never looked back.  I am not one to make excuses or to not have “next steps” for myself, I’m very goal and mission driven and on a lifelong path to learning anything and everything that I can.

That made the majority of my employers very happy; I never used the excuse of not knowing how to do something and for a very long time, I believed this should be the norm among knowledge workers.  Unfortunately, that is not the case for the vast majority of staff that I’ve had.

In the spirit of being an ongoing continuous learner (and sponge), let’s examine how and where the system might fail the type of staff that I (and other tech companies) may want to hire.

"I am not one to make excuses or to not have “next steps” for myself, I’m very goal and mission driven and on a lifelong path to learning anything and everything that I can."

High School

Overall, as we get busier and busier, children seem to be the benefactors of poor education and this generally starts at the high school level (where it starts to matter).  Here are some ways that we fail miserably at educating our teens.

  1. Parents are not involved enough,
  2. Schools are overcrowded,
  3. Too much technology in the schools (not specifically owned by the schools, but the technology that students are allowed to have),
  4. Technology brings a whole new dimension to cheating,
  5. School (and education) spending is stagnant (or declining),
  6. We are still using the teacher training methods of yesterday (or realistically, the 1940s),
  7. There is a lack of teacher education innovation,
  8. We have no idea what to do about high school dropouts,
  9. School years are too short and should be extended to be year-long,
  10. We need better programs to assist students with special needs (and those who are physically handicapped).

Unfortunately, not only in the United States, but also in Canada, there is an epidemic of bad education in our high schools and poor focus on education by parents. I am very opinionated on this subject because my parents, being immigrants to Canada, really held me to account and kept me focused on education.  In today’s society of participation awards, parents are lackadaisical about their children’s educations and discipline.

University

The buck doesn’t stop at High School either, and some of the worst culprits are actually the (massively) for-profit University system that we, as North Americans, have agreed to use.

Much more administration than teaching

Not only do professors frequently contrive to lower their teaching loads, but administrators and academic departments encourage them. Just 44% of faculty spend nine hours or more per week teaching, down from 63% twenty years ago. Teaching assistants tend to replace the absentees in the classroom; the professors themselves have cranked up the volume of their research output. However, up to half of published articles are never read by anyone (save editors, and sometimes not even then), and up to 90% never receive a single citation.

Compensating for the lack of teachers in the classroom, at least, is the ever-increasing amount of resources devoted to nonacademic expenses. Shiny new dorms, state-of-the-art gyms, and expensive athletic programs have popped up on campuses nationwide.

"One student in a level 3 Swahili course was not able to say the word “hello” in Swahili."

Institutions of higher education are economically unique in that they have no good way to measure unit costs, and can theoretically spend limitless amounts of money in the name of providing an education. Give a university access to more money, and it will find a way to spend it. Governments that subsidize higher education have not yet caught on to the if-you-give-a-mouse-a-cookie economics of college campuses, and so the bloat continues.

Scandals and Political Correctness

In case you hadn’t heard or seen it there are schools that are just flat out lying, cheating and stealing altogether. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill recently had “fake classes” scandal. The school’s African-American Studies department allowed students to enroll in “classes” which they were not in fact required to attend. Students were virtually guaranteed As and Bs regardless. Lest UNC-Chapel Hill be considered an isolated incident, as similar scenarios have occurred at Duke, Stanford, and beyond.

We also very recently saw the scandals where elite and famous (or well to do) parents were bribing their way into elite Universities in the US.  This may have been one situation where some people were caught, but don’t be surprised if these for-profit entities have more underpaid administrators who look for ways to get payouts such as this in the future.
"The deck is stacked against you to even get into a University, much less to excel and learn what you've paid for."
Low-cost, easily-accessible MOOCs,
Vocational Schools, Private Colleges and Mentor Programs (such as 1000ml's)
have the potential to give the college establishment
a run for its money.

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Higher education is going digital, responding to the architecture of knowledge in a digital age, and MOOCs, while heavily criticized, have proven a much-needed catalyst for the development of progressive programs that respond to the changing world.  Universities have, at times, tried to keep up with correspondence courses and e-learning initiatives, but they are so poorly run (much like the schools themselves) that this new generation of offerings (MOOCs).

Institutional awareness of the future of digital

Unlike their counterparts (the brick and mortar universities) these MOOC institutions are increasingly thinking, debating and dreaming about their role (and digital education more broadly) in defining future models of higher education. Four years ago, many of our faculty senates and upper level administrations infrequently engaged deeply with questions pertaining to the higher education in the digital era. Today, those conversations populate strategy documents, capital campaign materials, and inform decision-making and exchanges between students, staff and faculty on a daily basis. 

Appreciation for the profession of teaching

Research occupies a place of privilege at universities, but MOOCs have helped focus attention on the teaching and learning process on the university campuses. Faculty creating MOOCs often emerge from the experience with a newfound appreciation, and understanding, of the tremendously rich body of research on course design and learning science.

eam-based course design

Creating MOOCs requires people across the institutions to collaborate in ways not native to higher education. Instructional designers, software developers, learning researchers, librarians and videographers team up with faculty (the domain experts) to create each MOOC. The team-based approach to developing learning environments allows each specialist to contribute their expertise. For many of the facilitators, professors and teachers, the move from teaching as a solo endeavor to a community-based effort has been rewarding, capacity building, and ultimately opened their minds to ways to apply team-based approaches to environments beyond MOOCs.

Creation of new space for experimentation

Many participants found that the organizational structures designed around MOOC creation provided safe spaces for experimentation and innovation in teaching and learning. Separated from traditional organizational process and structures and coupled with the team-based approach; teams at our institutions have begun to question inherited assumptions about higher education.

The MOOC hype may be dying, but its momentum has paved the way for increased experimentation with thoughtful and bold ideas for higher education in a digital era.

Continuing education

Beyond the institutional and MOOC learning paths, there is a huge place for people, specifically in technology, to learn on their own; a self-guided method of learning what is relevant at a pace that is much quicker than at any institution and faster than anyone can create a curriculum.

In workplaces (high-tech) all across North America (and the world), where very strong and thoughtful leaders, like me, are at the helm, their staff becomes more than just contributors, they all become students on a tailored learning path, one that (when paired with me at least) fosters and enhances what they learn with real industry experience and real-world knowledge.

Mentors

Further to what staff may get from work, I am a very big advocate of everyone having at least one mentor.  The mentor-mentee relationship is a symbiosis whereby both parties end up the better for it. Mentors are helpful because, in addition to expertise in their field, they have a network of business professionals and, most importantly, they are willing to share what and who they know. People who mentor are likely to have had mentors at some point who helped them understand their industry better, hone their strengths or sharpen skills.

In the broader community

In the general community, there are many opportunities to learn and they are increasing every day.  Nearly a decade ago, it was difficult to find people (and businesses) willing to share their knowledge and prowess with the general populous, to teach them something new and to educate people on the things they are up to.  These days, I personally host dozens of meetups myself as do several other wonderful tech educators, all free of charge and just expect people to take them seriously.

We all provide huge value to our constituents and this often leads to further engagements such as speaking at conferences and summits.

Attending conferences used to be something left to very specific professions and academia, whereas nowadays there are conferences focusing on just about everything, hosted all over the world.  In recent weeks, I have been invited to four AI conferences, a blockchain conference, an O’Reilly conference and two general data conferences, as well as a special conference aimed at meetup organizers.

My personal meetups have run a weekly FREE Lab (for beginners) and another that is more advanced and about to be launched with specific techniques for running and productionizing FUN machine learning projects, to get you into the world of data analysis through projects and the not for profit I’ve created, Data for Good runs events monthly (or thereabouts) and is available all throughout Canada.

Of all those conferences, you now need to pick where to go as they are often of little value if you are well-versed in tech, however they might open your eyes to things that are occurring outside of your nest of the woods (especially if you are part of a very large organization).

"Structured Mentor Programs like 1000ml
truly are the pinnacle of learning."

Structured Mentor Programs

Now that we’ve seen, in the previous section, just how glorious being led by a Mentor may be like, which is what several data, AI and tech programs now try to do, 1000ml decided to go one step further.  During our programs, a learner (or mentee) works through several Mentors in a 6-month incredibly intensive project-based learning program, servicing real clients and stakeholders.

This is purely just EXPERIENCE and nothing more.  Getting people into a field is only about experience in doing the things that are required of you.  There is no specific type of degree or vocation required to be in AI and as such we believe that it is possible to take highly motivated people and drive them, nearly through exhaustion, to a personal milestone of growth unlike any other program.
 

Conclusion

The school system (all public and private education) that has seemingly worked to educate the Western cultures for the last several hundred years are now failing our children and are likely to become relics of the past in the next few generations.  I hear constant grumblings about the school system down to the kindergarten level and how children are not challenged and how the fallacy of not leaving anyone behind is hurting North American economies.  It might be controversial, but some kids need to be left behind and failed – we are often too nice to our students, too inclusive and do not focus on the right things (achievements, not participation).

In an era that is now devoid of criticism, where it could be misconstrued as bullying, I vote that we turn back the clock a little and bring back some tough love.  I notice it too often with so many recent grads who believe that all that’s required of them is to show up, who lack accountability and who just don’t know how to learn (luckily I don’t employ any of these types).

The world needs to have more singular focus, to be the best it can be.  Good enough is NOT good enough and people need to stop having and making excuses for being average, it all starts with a lifelong mission to stay educated.

So what do you do when all signs point to having to go to University to gain any sort of advantage?  Unfortunately it’s the current state of affairs that most employers will not hire you unless you have a degree for even junior or starting jobs. Once you have that degree, coming to my Mentor Program, with 1000ml with our Patent Pending training system, the only such system in the world; is the only way to gain the practical knowledge and experience that will jump start your career.

Check out our next dates below for our upcoming seminars, labs and programs, we’d love to have you there.