As we move towards the future, one of the most important gifts we can give students is the confidence and ability to thrive in a novel and complex world transformed by artificial intelligence (AI). It is important to actively maintain our own professional development in this area, through activities such as reading professional magazines and attending relevant conferences. For example, Education Review magazine contained articles on AI regularly during 2017. We need to think about equipping ourselves as teachers to participate in the changing workplace.
AI isn’t new. The term was first coined in 1956 by US computer scientist John McCarthy. We probably all use AI every day, for example in asking a question of iPhone’s Siri or in using satellite navigation systems and instant translation apps. AI algorithms already recognise our speech, provide internet search results, help sort our emails and recommend what we should buy, watch or read. AI will increasingly be all around us from our phone to our TV, car and home appliances. Its possibilities are far reaching – suggestions are being made that the human brain can be connected via a chip or like technology such that a mere thought will enable connection to enhanced cognitive ‘AI’ capacity.
We know that a range of providers are already producing technology-enhanced teaching materials with real-time assessment and feedback for learners. It is important that as teachers we actively embrace technology to enhance our work with students. Rapid progress will only continue and we must not underestimate its scale and impact. As we enter unfamiliar territory we retain the power to shape the opportunities and mitigate the pitfalls which will undoubtedly be part of its development and usage. In a report entitled Teaching in the Machine Age, published by the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation in 2016, teachers were urged: “Rather than seeing technological progress as a threat, teachers and education leaders should take advantage of the many ways technology can enhance their work.”
To stay ahead of AI, we as teachers must upgrade our human capabilities, that is build our own skills in non-technical areas where humans are still ahead of AI, in particular in activities which demand human-to-human interactions. These are the same skills that we discussed in Blog 2 in this series which are vital for us to include in our curriculum for students, the 21st century non-cognitive skills such as imagination, confidence and creativity.
The first blog in this series identified the six Ps of the ideal teacher. The sixth P is Progressive, and emphasises how important it is for teachers to stay abreast of technological developments. “It is not necessary for every teacher to be a digital native at ease in a world dominated by integrated technologies but they do need to be a digital immigrant who can venture into post-millennial territory and survive within it,” the principal of King’s School in Sydney wrote in 2012 in The Australian.
The themes which have been embedded throughout this series on teachers and AI have emphasised the significance of embracing AI to enhance many areas of teachers’ work, in addition to ensuring that we are preparing our students, and ourselves, for the presence of AI in all areas of our lives. However, the enduring theme is that the relationship between children and their teacher, the commitment to student learning and the care for student well-being, the human recognition and acknowledgement of children’s efforts – that is something only humans can do.
Arnett, T. (2016). Teaching in the Machine Age. Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.