April 24, 2009
My friend, the utility function
I've been thinking more about planning lately and I had a thought the other day that tasted like a milestone in understanding to me. At the same time it felt obvious, but I wanted to push myself to articulate it here.
So my epiphany was about the utility function. I'll back up a bit. Decision theory, in a nutshell, to me, is that you lay out your problem in an influence diagram where you model the relevant factors such as the agent's allowable actions and other variables that affect the agent's decisions, then you build the utility function according to how you want the agent to act, and let the thing rip. More here.
Out there in the research world, I've often seen the utility function as a reflection of "how much the student learned". It's impossible to look inside the student's head and read this in as a variable. Instead, researchers have commonly used quizzes and so on as an indirect measure of this.
So the epiphany was this: Don't make the utility function based on the amount the student has learned. You can't measure this anyway. Instead, design your utility function to measure whether or not you have put the student through a meaningful experience, like a story with a beginning and an end, with a goal in mind. You can braid multiple story threads together, and any one activity can contribute towards multiple experiences. The main thing is to pull together a set of relevant activities that have long-term meaning in mind.
This take on the utility function is not mine. I'm sure I heard it before from one of my mentors, probably Gord or Jim, or possibly Mike or Gina. Anyway, I'm happy the thought stuck in my head, wherever it came from, so that it could come back now that I'm tackling the theory in more depth.
I'm a little tipsy on the idea of the utility function as something the programmer places there to influence their desired behaviour, vs. "discovering" good behaviour and then learning to reinforce it.
la la la...
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Index to Steph's NotesFeb. 24th 2007 - Weee! This new part of my website is not an entry, but rather a permanent fixture whose purpose is to "Look Down on All Those Notes With Some Grand Vision of Organization". Wish me luck. LOL
- Representing meta-data (fuel) & the different kinds of "hooks" that intelligent systems can use (how fuel is injected into the motor of the engine)
- Motivation: Semantic net / Rationalizable to a machine
- Semantic network
- Genetic graph
- Prerequisite AND/OR graph
- Constraint Satisfaction Problems
- Bayesian networks / causal graphs
- Technology & Philosophy: RDF, modus ponens,
- Predicates, Logic & situation calculus
- What kinds of data? - What kinds of meta-data would an AIEd system possibly need, and how is it represented?
- task domain knowledge
- "is-prerequisite-to"-type knowledge
- interactions with learning objects & other learners - (location, composition is-a/part-of, sequencing by restricting navigation, personalization, ontologies for LO context)
- lesson plans, curriculum plans, practicing sessions (What is stored, what is generated on the fly? What is remembered?)
- How to organize it - When is it stored in a database? Meta-data? Agent memory banks? Protocols? Repositories? XML files? Home-servers? WSDL services? Frameworks? Portable banks? P2P access?
- Database of object-agent interactions
- Concept of "Home" on a P2P network -- maybe the bulk of a learning object's usage data is on its home server and can be queried using WSDL or something ? Similar homes for each student's usage history, etc. Baggage problem.
- Links to the ontologies
- referring to a concept/relationship - ex. AgentOwl?
- Generation of this data
- Rationalization: For use by other AIEd systems
- What is generated - discuss items under part I.C.
- When it's generated - describe procedural model, which parts of the engine generate what (isa-part-of data, XML feeds, web services, meta data bout groups and collaboration, protocols, examples Friend of A Friend FOAF project)
- Technical notes of HOW it's generated: JENA, issues of implementation demo, my Hermione & Ron agent examples, lol
- Usage of this generated data - see part IV. A.
- Given the engine, who uses it?
- Students / Learners / "Me"
- instructional planning, student model, pre-requisites, tutoring, coaching, collaboration,constructivism
- Teachers / Educators / "Me"
- putting together lessons
- be able to browse through task domain knowledge in an objective / encyclopaedia format, then be able to pick-and-choose what you need for your students
- compose examples, design explanations, pull together diagrams, learning objects, etc. Haystack Relo?
- Administration / Governement / Structure / Crowd Control
- as restrictions/obstacles/sand pit to the robot in agent environment
- can't just have a swarm of students and teachers out there -- need structure of courses, curriculum, objectives, requirements (at least, we do in this day and age!) - Report cards, evaluation, feedback
- government, marks, certificates, requirements, funding, curriclum, attendance, delinquent, non-attending, motivation
- school''s images, goals, strengths, payroll, HR, security, accounts, permissions, privacy
- registration, failed courses
- User Environment -- How does this engine work? What does the user see on the screen?
- Introduction - Given a background in educational psychology, how does the system present itself -- what does the user see, and were does this data come from? Links to thoughts from part I.)
- Task Domain Browsing - Suppose you're you're just idly browsing through the "raw" content. How would it look when it's not wrapped around a learning-context or lesson or tutorial or anything. 'Cross between browsing a raw task domain ontology and browsing a learning object repository.
- Cleaning up the data -- Visualizing the data for humans to pick through the task domain and work on it. Suppose the "Subject Expert" discovers an advancement in science and needs to update the "world's" domain knowledge. (I used the "Subject Expert" terminology from Ontologies to Support Learning Design Context - Thanks Chris) How would they make corrections to ontologies and learning objects, or at least point the users of "old" objects towards adopting the newer ones.
- "Modes" - Learning & Lessons / Checklist - Homework, Assignments, Courses being taken / Collaborative mode / Teaching mode / Calendar- email -adminisrative mode -- See also the different kinds of scenarios in the ActiveMath system
- Evolution of this engine
- target some key implementation hooks discussed in part I - design an experiment/demo
- scrape a page - (Note, scraping can only give objective data, not in-context dat)
- LO repository - related to browsing the task domain?
- a learners "To Do" list - where does it come from? Assignments, courses.
- sample group scenario
- sample teacher lesson planning
- sample data "left behind"
- sample use of that data
- Data mining (for what? lol )
- discovery / generation of ontologies - when do you need to hunt for them, and when do you have to have a solidly-known & predictable ontology?
- I/O - where it happens, which languages, protocols, which agents perform i/o and when, precepts, actuators
- Role Assignments
- My Environment Adapts to me
- Displaying feedback from the server on JSP pages (Software engineering considerations)
- Sketching out a design (Content planning vs. Delivery planning)
- agent negotiations / social structures / ummm... Web 2.0 ?
- garbage collection of meta data
- Artificial Intelligence & Evolution
- Memory Culling: Necessary part of intelligence? (artificial or human)
- Applications for the Genetic/Evolutionary algorithm
- open learning environments
- Agents, pets, grouping, Community modelling
- Protocols - finding groups, cyber dollars, state diagrams (?)
- "Community Studies" - graphs & communication hubs, types of communities (free-for-all, hierarchy of authority, etc.)
- implications of joining a community - what do you share, which parts of your student model are relevant
- Walls & sand traps -- deliberate restrictions as problem-solving for learning
- Communication channels - individual-to-individual, individual-to-community, chat channels, agent-only "administrative" communications, ex. requests for related learning objects in a particular community, etc.
- Educational/Pedagogical focus (this part probably shouldn't be its own section but rather incorporated into the whole picture, but it's separate for me right now because I'm still only just starting to learn about it.)
- Semantics - what there is to talk about in Education
- ex. Merril's First Principles of Instruction, linking educational terms to AI terms
- Pedagogical skills for tutors -- supporting human *and* artifical tutors
- Student modelling - what the machine needs to know about the student, pedagogically-speaking, about learning history/preferences
- Roles - Simulated students, Coaches, Tutors, Teachers,