Dall-E Mini, the AI-powered text-to-image generator has taken over the internet. With its ability to render nearly anything your meme-loving heart desires, anyone can make their dreams come true.
DALL-E 2, a portmanteau of Salvador Dali, the surrealist and Wall-E, the Pixar robot, was created by OpenAI and is not widely available; it creates far cleaner imagery and was recently used to launch Cosmpolitan’s first AI-generated cover. The art world has been one of the first industries to truly embrace AI.
The open-sourced miniature version is what’s responsible for the memes. Programmer Boris Dayma wants to make AI more accessible; he built the Dall-E Mini program as part of a competition held by Google and an AI community called Hugging Face.
And with great technology, comes great memes. Typing a short phrase into Dall-E Mini will manifest 9 different amalgamations, theoretically shaping into reality the strange images you’ve conjured. Its popularity leads to too much traffic, often resulting in an error that can be fixed by refreshing the page or trying again later.
If you want to be a part of the creation of AI-powered engines, it all starts with code. CodeAcademy explains that Dall-E Mini is a seq2seq model, “typically used in natural language processing (NLP) for things like translation and conversational modeling.” CodeAcademy’s Text Generation course will teach you how to utilize seq2seq, but they also offer opportunities to learn 14+ coding languages at your own pace.
You can choose the Machine Learning Specialist career path if you want to become a Data Scientist who develops these types of programs, but you can also choose courses by language, subject (what is cybersecurity?) or even skill - build a website with HTML, CSS, and more.
CodeAcademy offers many classes for free as well as a free trial; it’s an invaluable resource for giving people of all experience levels the fundamentals they need to build the world they want to see.
As for Dall-E Mini, while some have opted to create beauty, most have opted for memes. Here are some of the internet’s favorites:
no fuck every other dall-e image ive made this one is the best yet pic.twitter.com/iuFNm4UTUM
— bri (@takoyamas) June 10, 2022
There’s no looking back now, not once you’ve seen Pugachu; artificial intelligence is here to stay.
Has school data collection gone too far?
In today's educational climate, the marker of a school's success is determined by the success of its students, both during their time in school and beyond. While in the past, the idea that schooling should be catered to each individual pupil would have seemed ludicrous, many American schools today, both public and private, collect data on their students with goal of providing just that. By extensively monitoring data collected on their students, teachers and school administrators can see exactly where each individual student excels, as well as where students need work. Though it's not always the case, the use of data and the creation of learner profiles lends itself to the practice of academic tracking.
Academic tracking is the process of separating the highest achieving students and creating a tier system for classes based on students' aptitude in each subject. If classes in your high school were split up into honors, college prep, and general education segments, you grew up learning in this environment. Tracking itself is a controversial subject, with many calling it out as de facto segregation and saying that it negatively affects black and latino students. Whether or not this is true, is the subject of much debate. That said, tracking does disproportionately benefit the children who are high academic achievers, as resources are often diverted to AP and honors courses rather than their gen-ed counterparts.
The inclusion of data to help this tracking system operate, can be viewed either positively or negatively. It depends on your level of optimism. On the one hand, the use of data and individualized teaching practices could lead to the dissolution of tracking altogether, since it would be much easier to help struggling students reach their academic potential. On the other hand is... well, reality. Unfortunately, when theory turns to practice, students aren't all at the same level. They aren't all blank slates that can learn at the same rate. The problem presented by data-collection, particularly if it's coupled with an academic tracking system, is rigidity. With the use of learner profiles, it's possible to breakdown precisely, to the percentage point, what constitutes an honors student. How does this work for courses like English which are largely based on subjective essay grades? On top of this, data doesn't do a particularly good job of showing effort or desire to learn, both of which are integral to an honors environment. Too strong an emphasis on test scores and learner profiles could potentially take away from the human aspects of the teacher/student relationship.
Another prevalent issue regarding data collection is its permanence, as well as the legal precedence set by allowing schools to maintain databases on their students. Many parents are uncomfortable with the idea that their children's school might be keeping a personal file on them. From 2012 to 2014, there was actually a grassroots movement dedicated to fighting against project called InBloom, which aimed to profit from the release of student data. The idea was that no one other than students and educators should be allowed to access those records and that InBloom's mission was directly violating students' rights to privacy. Data shared within a school system can be dangerous because of its ability to shape teachers' opinions about students before they meet. If that data were given to the outside world, say to potential employers, it could be devastating for students trying to get jobs out of highschool. Not to mention the field day that advertisers and marketers would have if they were given access to students' personal data.
The question then remains; if there's a constant threat of dissemination and the advantages to data collection-while promising- aren't yet solidified, why do it? Even with hundreds of companies pledging to protect student privacy, the risk involved seems to significantly outweigh the reward. Many advocates of data collection argue that skeptics are allowing their fear to get the better of them, to the detriment of our public schools. But doesn't it make sense to be skeptical of a scenario in which educators can afford to collect data on students but school systems can't afford books and pencils? Data collection remains an interesting proposition, specifically with regard to personalized education, but until specific legislation is drawn up to combat potential abuse, it seems a bit too risky. It's not necessarily a luddite position to argue for the ability to measure student progress as an essential part of teaching. At the end of the day educators, not a collection of data points, are responsible for whether or not students succeed.
Matt Clibanoff is a writer and editor based in New York City who covers music, politics, sports and pop culture. His editorial work can be found in Inked Magazine, Pop Dust, The Liberty Project, and All Things Go. His fiction has been published in Forth Magazine. -- Find Matt at his website and on Twitter: @mattclibanoff
For these children in under-served communities, "A library could be anything" or everything.
In sixth grade, Katherine Karmen Trujillo competed in an academic decathlon with her school. With fourteen of her classmates, one coach, and photocopied pages from prep manuals their school couldn't afford, one of their team members placed in fourth. Though the performance was not very good, "we were so proud," she told me. "Meanwhile, in other schools, everyone placed first or second." But it wasn't because those students were necessarily smarter or harder-working than the students on Trujillo's team. They came from schools that could afford to have one coach per student and endless prep resources. "You could just feel the difference," she said.
That was the first time Trujillo saw the long-term outcomes of inequality. Having been born to immigrant parents in a poor community in South Central Los Angeles, her Honduran refugee mother and Mexican father never wanted their daughter to work menial jobs or struggle constantly like they did. Fortunately, Trujillo's parochial school allowed her parents to pay a small fee per month for her tuition, which afforded them the freedom to give her a great education. They would sacrifice everything to make sure that their daughter could reach her potential.
Social injustices were not just happening in South Central Los Angeles, but all over the world.
But academic excellence also required social consciousness. Early on, Trujillo had a bent for social justice and was involved in a variety of efforts promoted by her school. Her parents and neighbors helped organize an effort to bring the first grocery store to her neighborhood, which piqued her interest in community organizing. From there, it was a clear path to a life of advocacy.
Social injustices were not just happening in South Central Los Angeles, but all over the world. While in college considering a career in public health, Trujillo applied for a fellowship in Denmark, her first-ever trip outside of the United States, where she joined a cohort of Americans and Danes to examine human and civil rights issues. Considering her background, the only immigration discourse that Trujillo had been exposed to was anti-Mexican rhetoric that blamed immigrants for taking jobs and threatening the safety of the United States. Expecting the supposedly progressive country of Denmark to be completely different, she was surprised when she talked to second and third generation Danes of Turkish origin: "Our grandparents suffered and we continue to not be considered Danish citizens; our nationality and our loyalty to Denmark is constantly questioned," they said. The trip taught her that immigration was a universal issue, and one that could have devastating, inter-generational consequences.
Trujillo returned from Denmark completely changed and "fascinated in studying world cultures through a sociological lens." She created her own major, graduated from college, and moved to Washington D.C. to work for regional advocacy agencies like the Latin America Working Group. She landed opportunities that focused on financial literacy and mentoring, then became entrenched in early childhood education at the National Head Start Association. But her connections from her fellowship are what drove her to her next stage in life.
After communities are distributed basic needs like food, water, and shelter, the next question is, "what now"?
Allister Chang, the son of Taiwanese immigrants and the first in his family to attend college, was sent to France as part of the same fellowship that Trujillo attended. His interest in global education inspired by his personal struggles led him to head Libraries Without Borders, a nonprofit organization that brings mobile libraries and educational resources to under-served communities. Knowing her strong work ethic and tireless commitment, Chang brought Trujillo on as Director of Communications and Advocacy, where together they help lead initiatives merging technology and education to provide for the people that need them the most.
Trujillo was inspired by the versatility of the organization's mission, which echoed her interdisciplinary interests in college. "Libraries Without Borders appealed to me because they were creating opportunities in situations where people had no other recourse," she told me. "Or if they had another recourse, it wasn't physically, intellectually, or psychologically accessible."
Libraries Without Borders is the United States organization that formed as an expansion of the international Bibliothèques Sans Frontières, which was founded in 2007 by French historian Patrick Weil. The mission of BSF is to provide under-resourced communities with access to education in the form of physical and digital, academic and creative resources. They work largely in refugee camps and in areas that have been hit by disaster. After communities are distributed basic needs like food, water, and shelter, the next question is, "what now"?
That's where BSF comes in. Many camps do not have access to schools, community spaces, or other methods of cultural and creative stimulation. This means that refugees or disaster victims are not only physically disadvantaged or displaced, but they're also bored, scared, and unoccupied. BSF provides innovative and intellectual resources like the Ideas Box, a mobile unit that covers 330 square feet, contains a satellite internet connection with a server, a generator, 25 tablets and laptops, 6 HD cameras, a large HD screen, board games, arts and crafts, and a performance stage that can all be assembled in 20 minutes. It's not only fun, but a space that encourages academic and moral growth. Adolescent soon-to-be mothers (who are oftentimes rape victims) can have the opportunity to learn how to care for their babies. Young kids can stretch their imaginations by creating written stories, films, and plays. According to one study of students in the Burundese refugee camp of Bwagiriza, those who met in the Ideas Box for 12 weeks experienced a 23% increase in academic performance compared to their counterparts in a traditional classroom.
Other tools include their KoomBook, a revolutionary digital library that creates a Wi-Fi hotspot and is able to connect to devices and project thousands of learning resources. They even have free digital learning platforms like Khan Academy and BSFCampus. Libraries Without Borders has worked throughout Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East to spread the beauty, value, and healing capacities of knowledge.
A library could be anything.
In the United States, two areas of focus for Libraries Without Borders are Detroit and the Morris Heights region of the Bronx, the nation's poorest congressional district. While these areas do have educational organizations, poor school achievement and economic and social inequalities keep communities away, as they are unable to recognize these spaces as "their own." This feeling of unwelcomeness in libraries is something that Trujillo refers to as a "psychological barrier." But what if this conception of a traditional library was turned on its head?
"I was really drawn to the fact that Libraries Without Borders re-imagines what a library space is," Trujillo said. "It doesn't have to have four walls, a roof, or anything. A library could be anything."
Libraries have always been a place where Trujillo feels comfortable. Because her brother was so passionate about books, trips to the library became a common household activity, unlike in other households in her neighborhood: "I realized that a lot of the kids I grew up with never stepped foot in a library; when they did it was because they were forced to." Libraries Without Borders could be that sanctuary all over the world, for people of any circumstance.
Initiatives like the Ideas Box can be powerful as points of cultural exchange, even in intense periods of conflict. "In one of the places where we were operating, there was a big outburst, a riot of sorts, and the camp itself was destroyed," she said. "But the Ideas Box was untouched."
For some of these kids, this is going to be the only book they have in the house.
In 2015, in collaboration with the New York Public Library, Bronx Pro, DreamYard, and the Alexander Soros Foundation, Libraries Without Borders ran an Ideas Box through the summer in the Bronx, which was open five afternoons a week to children and parents. All hands were on deck to curate content, facilitate workshops, and integrate feedback to create a place for academic encouragement and exploration, providing that welcoming environment that lacked among traditional organizations.
As one half of a two-person team based in Washington, D.C., Trujillo's daily responsibilities include meeting with organizations and schools to identify community needs. One of those needs is to provide books to students that have nothing. An exciting new partnership initiated by Libraries Without Borders is with a Detroit librarian, an upstanding community member determined to fill the gaps of failing Detroit schools and libraries. The partnership involves the support of the United Way of Southeast Michigan, Detroit Public Library, and the Mayor's Office of the City of Detroit. Trujillo proposed an idea to provide free magazines and a full-year subscription to magazines from Cricket Media: "When I told her about the year-long subscription, she said, 'This is going to be so wonderful, because for some of these kids, this is going to be the only book they have in the house.' I wanted to cry, even thinking about it now."
Despite Trujillo's modest upbringing, her house was always filled with books. The reality facing Detroit schoolchildren was something she couldn't imagine. "It really compelled me to work harder," she said. "It made me sad and frustrated, but it also drove me."
It drove Trujillo to devote her passion to helping to execute new projects with Libraries Without Borders. One such project in the works is a mentorship program that would pair Detroit children with professionals in the corporate world: "These kids are going to hear about what it means to be a Social Media Strategist or a Director of XYZ," she said. "Then the folks at the companies we're working with are going to learn what it's like to be a five-year-old in Detroit." This cultural exchange is just one of the ways Libraries Without Borders aims to reach a new audience of not just book-lovers, but advocates of applied literacy.
It is literacy, Trujillo says, that is among the most valuable aspects of a functioning and thriving society. Literacy "helps people be independent; it promotes agency and self-reliance. But it also promotes civic engagement. We are living in a time where we're not satisfied with things as they are. But what are we doing to change them?"
If that's the cost of a more self-sufficient, culturally-informed, and empathetic society, what are we waiting for?
In order to run for office, to protest, or to get involved in a smaller way, Trujillo believes it is essential to know how to access educational resources for self-empowerment. And solutions don't have to come at a high price. The initiatives of Libraries Without Borders are a low-cost, high-impact intervention, especially since a KoomBook can be created from a 3D printer for about twenty dollars. If that's the cost of a more self-sufficient, culturally-informed, and empathetic society, what are we waiting for?
The next steps for Libraries Without Borders in the United States include a laundromat library that will bring educational resources to laundromats, focusing on early learning and literacy in Detroit and professional development in the Bronx. Also, in response to recent legislations on immigration, the organization is adding a third staff member to gear up for their "E-Legal" library program launch, which will utilize digital libraries to provide legal resources for immigrants and mixed-status families.
"It's hard to imagine a reality beyond what you see day to day when you don't have an escape," Trujillo told me. For her, that escape is literature, education, and advocacy. And she has more than given back to her community; the same community in which her parents sacrificed for her pursuit of social change. Libraries Without Borders is true to its name, offering a source of comfort and agency to people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and experiences, in uncertain and often frightening times. Education is a tool that encourages more than just curiosity, but it breeds generations of engaged citizens that never run out of questions. Fortunately, Libraries Without Borders can provide some answers.
To find out more about Libraries Without Borders, get involved, or donate, click here.