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The Parmenides, AI and Edutech Connection

25 April 2017

Something is just not right with Edutech.  Although good intentions abound, the application of technology in education at best remains peripheral to the learning process itself. As a result, and in contrast to other application areas like Finance, Education has not benefited accordingly. And given the importance of education, this is something that should merit more research and analysis.

The Problem

After 12 years as the IT Manager of a large K12 school and in conjunction with my background in Artificial Intelligence, I would precisely identify the problem as being a lack of focus on the core of the educational process which is Knowledge. Almost all learning systems today address peripheral aspects of education like communication (e.g. blogs, email), collaboration (e.g. file sharing), multimedia materials (e.g. videos, images) and/or learning path personalization.  But they do not deal with knowledge in itself. They rely on various text books and other disparate learning materials, essentially an incoherent approach. This is where Parmenides, an ancient Greek Philosopher, comes into the picture.


Parmenides was born in the Greek city of Elea. He was the founder of the Eleatic school of philosophy. The single known work of Parmenides is a poem, “On Nature”, which has survived only in fragmentary form. Parmenides was among the first to propose an ontological characterization of the fundamental nature of reality.

An Ontology is a hierarchical set of concepts and categories along with their properties and the relations between them. And this is where Artificial Intelligence comes in to the picture.

Artificial Intelligence

Knowledge representation and reasoning (KR)
is a field of AI dedicated to representing information about the world in a form that a computer system can use and understand. An ontology is a knowledge representation formalism.

So, there you have it: a truly innovative school of the future would invest in creating one crucial digital asset: a school centric AI driven ontology to represent the knowledge it teaches, including basic concepts and sub concepts, assessment and differentially exposing knowledge based on learner profiles. Peripheral to this, text books, blogs, file sharing and learning path options would complete a new digital era learning paradigm. But that would only be the first step.

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