The – Hopefully – Bright Future of Education: Why AI is a Force Multiplier for Teachers and Learners

The Brave New World of AI Education

This is “a moment” for education, possibly, “the” defining moment for this century. The disruption that we knew was coming. The wave breaks now… Here are my hot-takes:

  1. Don’t start an arms race with AI (you won’t win)
  2. The future of education is symbiotic (at least for some of us)
  3. AI tools are a force multiplier and provide leverage (increase your impact)
  4. Play this game with yourself: AI will never … (fill in the gap)
  5. Soon you’ll be able to clone yourself (not literally, but will you want to?)
The Future of Education: Why AI is a Force Multiplier for Teachers and Learners

1. Don’t start an arms race with AI (you won’t win)

“How do we fight this?” is a losing question. If you are an educator, you should already know that your students are probably smarter and more devious than you give them credit for.

If we invent machines to detect AI generated text and other content, they will invent machines to get around your machines. This is a battle that you will never win.

Instead we must change the paradigm. We must embrace the best that AI has to offer teaching and learning but not sacrifice the best of what it means to teach and learn as a human being. This is the real future of education.

If you’re an educator and you’re not sure what to do, then try this experiment:

  • Design and deliver an assessment task that requires your students to use GPT or other AI tools.

Then consider what teaching and learning needs to take place so that you still achieve your goals. You may need to think seriously about your assessment criteria and methods.

I didn’t say it would be easy, but as AI technology continues to advance, it’s important to recognise that it has certain capabilities and advantages that humans (we) simply don’t possess.

For example, AI can process vast amounts of data in a fraction of the time it would take a human, and it can identify patterns and insights that would be impossible for a human to detect.

If you view AI as a threat and try to compete with it on its own terms, you’re likely to be disappointed – and probably unemployed.

AI will always be faster and more efficient than us in certain tasks, and it will continue to improve over time. Instead, a more productive approach is to think about how AI can be used to augment and enhance our human capabilities.

For example, AI can help with tasks like grading, data analysis, and personalised learning, freeing up educators to focus on tasks that require human skills like creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence.

By working together in a symbiotic relationship, AI and human educators can achieve more than either could on their own.

So, rather than starting an arms race with AI, it’s better to view it as a tool that can help us achieve our goals more effectively.

The Future of Education

2. The future of education is symbiotic -(at least for some of us)

What does this mean? Let me unpack… A good AI will be better than a bad teacher Bad teachers will be replaced. This is a good thing.

A good AI working together with a good teacher will become something better than both. Something better than both will be something we haven’t seen before. If you know what a centaur is then you’re on the right track.

Let’s back up for a minute too. Do you carry a device in your pocket or on your wrist that allows you to connect with all of the information in the world?

If yes, then try this one weird trick… Ask yourself:

  • How do I feel when I can’t find that device? What if it’s broken or lost?

You are already a cyborg…! You already started merging with the technology when you started relying on the technology in your daily life.

Implications of that aside, right now, with no further advances, AI can provide personalised learning recommendations, automate administrative tasks, and give real-time feedback to students.

This frees up your time as the teacher and allows you to focus on other important aspects of teaching, such as building relationships with students and providing a human touch to education.

Additionally, AI can learn from the interactions between teachers and students, improving its algorithms and recommendations over time.

So, if you’re feeling freaked out as to whether GTP will replace you, let me put it another way.

  • GPT won’t replace you; someone using GTP will replace you.

3. AI tools are a force multiplier and provide leverage (you can increase your impact)

In military terms, a “force multiplier” is any capability or factor that increases the effectiveness of a military force. It allows a smaller force to have a greater impact or reach a larger area than it could without that capability or factor.

Force multipliers can be physical assets, such as advanced weapons systems or vehicles, or they can be intangible factors, such as training, morale, or leadership.

In the context of the future of education, that is, AI-mediated education, AI can be considered a force multiplier for teachers and learners, increasing their effectiveness and efficiency in a variety of ways.

Leverage refers to the use of a lever or some other tool or technique that allows you to generate more force or achieve more output than you could otherwise.

For example, using a crowbar to lift a heavy object is a way of leveraging your strength and using the leverage provided by the tool to multiply the force you can apply.

Now that the future of education has arrived, we have the means to design and build AI-powered adaptive learning platforms that can analyse student performance data to determine their strengths and weaknesses and tailor lessons to their individual needs.

This could enable teachers to leverage the technology to deliver targeted and differentiated instruction to each student, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach.

In this way, teachers can leverage the technology to help students learn more efficiently and effectively, while also freeing up time for other valuable classroom activities.

4. Play this game with yourself: AI will never … (fill in the gap)

This is another thought experiment on the future of education and perhaps the future of everything. Let’s try a couple on for size. AI will never be…

  • Capable of making complex decisions
  • Able to make sense of the world in the same way as a human
  • Able to understand and express emotions
  • Creative

Or what about these:

  • Write a novel that could win a literary prize
  • Compose original music that could rival that of human composers
  • Pass the Turing Test (fooling a human into thinking they were talking to another human)
  • Recognise and identify objects in images as accurately as humans
  • Drive a car autonomously and safely in all conditions
  • Diagnose medical conditions as accurately as human doctors
  • Paint a masterpiece that could be displayed in a museum
  • Develop a sense of humour
  • Create a work of art that could make people cry
  • Predict stock prices and economic trends with high accuracy
  • Become your girlfriend (or boyfriend)

Now try this one. Say it out loud: “AI will never be able to…

  • Do my job”

You may argue that AI will never be able to replicate the creativity and originality of human artists or musicians. You may also claim (hopefully correctly) that AI will never be able to experience emotions or possess consciousness in the way that humans do.

However, it’s worth noting that AI technology is rapidly advancing, and what may have once seemed impossible may become achievable in the future. As AI becomes more sophisticated, it may be able to replicate or even surpass certain human abilities.

This includes your abilities. I’ll leave you to think about that. You have a few more minutes.

5. Soon you’ll be able to clone yourself (it’s displacement rather than replacement)

I’m considering cloning myself. Not literally, mind you. That’s (currently) illegal. However, I suspect that for a small cost I can probably create a GPT chatbot that knows everything I know about a particular domain of knowledge.

This isn’t the future of education. This is a now a present reality.

For example, on this blog and in various digital folders and files I have more than 100,000 words on the subject of how to embed literacy and numeracy into vocational education. This is as a result of teaching a qualification in this field for more than 10 years.

Why wouldn’t I want to train my own large language model (LLM) on this data? I could effectively “clone” this part of myself and embody the knowledge in a friendly teacher-personality avatar in my own AI-powered, personalised learning and development platform.

  • Wouldn’t I be doing myself out of a job?

Well, yes… And that’s exactly the point. I no longer actively do that work and even if I did there are other things I want to do.

An AI-powered version of my knowledge and skills in this small niche could reach more people, work more effectively, be more patient with learners than me and never get bored with the content.

Is this the future of education I want? I’m not really sure, but I think the effect here would be more like the displacement of labour, rather than the replacement of labour.

I’m ready to move on to new and different things and I realise that many are not. However, there are new and exciting avenues for work opening up that we can’t imagine.

This will be a bitter pill for some to swallow, but I believe that if I don’t do it with my skills and knowledge then someone else will beat me to it and do a worse job.

The funny thing is that I already open-sourced all of my content for this job when I was teaching it and people said the same thing, i.e. “You’re doing yourself out of a job”. They were wrong then.

Are they right now? I’m not sure yet.

Whatever the future of education, it’s certainly a brave new world.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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