Education’s Destruction or Salvation? The Real Truth about Artificial Intelligence
You may know what artificial intelligence (AI) is. Then again, you may only think you know. Education futurists and technology experts have been heralding its arrival in your classrooms for years. Some say it will revolutionize education, allowing for the first time, real learner personalization for every student no matter that student’s interests or abilities. Others say it is the downfall of education as we know it, making the position of teacher (and most of the current education management structure) obsolete.
The truth is, neither scenario is likely in the short term. What is commonly called AI is actually machine learning using decision tree logic, and in its current form is an amazing tool for educators. Real AI, by definition, isn’t here yet. But it’s coming. And maybe sooner than we think.
For clarity on the subject, the Learning Counsel asked Sheryl Abshire to present her thoughts at the recent National Gathering in Dallas. Abshire has a particularly entertaining presentation style, and her information on the coming AI revolution is must-know for every person now working in the education field.
According to Abshire, “AI has the ability to solve problems that would require human intelligence. And it's faster than we are. How we as a country pay attention to this and adopt AI is going to have amazing, amazing ramifications for our society, for our economic wellbeing. And importantly, which maybe we don't think about all the time in education, our position in the world. There is a stiff competition on the planet to recruit AI talent. And unfortunately, China is doing a much better job than we are. They are actively recruiting, building, and moving forward at a phenomenal pace. They're pulling back as many PhDs as they can that we've trained in our universities. Other countries are starting to eclipse us because they have very favorable immigration and work policies.
“We have to pay attention because AI is going to shape the future of power. The world leadership mantle will rest clearly up on whoever can ascend and remain at the top of this mountain. It's going to be the strength of what they term the innovation economy and it's going to drive waves of advancement. I highlight the world education because that's important to us, but we should pay attention to everything else because everything works together.
“Now some people are raising the alarm bells. ‘Oh no, the machines are coming. They're going to take over.’ We don't need to be worried about this superintelligence that's going to take over and we won’t need to defend against the machines and the robots. Some people do worry about it, but the truth of the matter is we're in a strategic competition. AI is at the center of that competition. We need to recognize it; we need to understand it. Basically, our society has been digitized and I like to say AI is the new electricity. It's transforming everything. It's not going to do everything, but we need to know that it's going to do a lot.
“So why do we care about it? Why are you here? Why did Leilani (LeiLani Cauthen, CEO of the Learning Counsel) ask me to talk about it. Well, it's a part of our lives and we are racing to catch up in the education field, but our goal is to help students learn more efficiently, achieve their learning objectives, do better. We want children every single day to do better and here's the key. Our kids are not all the same. We know they're not cookie cutters and every year they're becoming more and more differently abled. We've got analytical thinkers; we've got left brain and right brain thinkers. We've got kids that are creative and communicate in different ways. We're sending them on what we call personalized pathways. I would submit to you, I'm not sure how really personalized they are and as we become more diverse, we have children that have different languages, different cultures and different ways to assimilate knowledge.
“So, we're moving into what is termed AI enabled hyper personalization, not personalization, hyper personalization. And the key is to have systems that tailor and truly personalize the learning for every student, not just say, ‘Oh, we have some personalized learning.’ Truly individualized instruction for each child and machine learning or AI systems helps us do that with custom profiles of learning - very, very granular for every student based on what they know, what they're able to do, their learning modes and their experiences. By 2024 it's predicted almost half of learning management tools are going to be AI enabled. It won't be just a single curriculum for every student.”
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