As teachers, we have a daunting task ahead of us. Within the next fifteen to twenty years, we know that Artificial Intelligence will accelerate the rate which technology is affecting our lives. The impact of this will be existential and, according to Sir Anthony Seldon 2018*, if we are not prepared for it, the effects will be as impactful as global warming and the plastic in our oceans. The machines will be in charge.
Currently, our schools are doing an incredible job at educating our children for the twentieth century. Children in 2018 are still being taught to receive knowledge, learn facts and understand the didactic relationship between teacher and pupil. However, when machines are in control of our lives, they will be programmed to do a far better job. Algorithms mean that they can produce facts and knowledge without error. They will be adaptive and adjust according to different environments. They won’t need to sleep or have to cope with emotional issues. And machines will not be biased, based on their own experiences.
Why, when we understand how AI can help in transport, retail, health are we so behind in education? We are entrenched in a system where the tail wags the dog and we still train our children to become robots. Seldon explains that ‘education is the Cinderella of the technology world and really, we need humans to teach the robots to teach us to be more human.’
With such a short-sighted view of our education system, we are letting children down on a massive scale. When teachers and headteachers are under pressure from our government to focus primarily on exam results which in turn underpin how the school performs, what they prioritise on and how they validate their pupils, the cascade of problems quickly filters into society. It is clear that headteachers are labouring under extreme conditions with one focus in sight; from summer to summer striving for the exam results to push them up league tables. With such time restraints, teachers do not have time to ponder the happiness of their student body nor how to best prepare them for the twenty first century. They are only able to manage exam results.
The notion that we need to arm ourselves for the onslaught of the robot sounds more science fiction but Seldon explains that it has now become Science-fact. In the worst-case scenario, if our government stay asleep on their watch and don’t think nor act on the impact of this change, our children will be rendered as useful idiots, ruled by technology.
There are some schools emerging, around the world where children are learning how to integrate technology into their learning so that they arrive at school with an individual playlist. Technology is offering them personalised learning for maths, language, chemistry and they are able to work at their own pace. The technology is learning with them, for them. The algorithms inform the program, how to respond, when to revise, what to cover, where to reinforce and children make relevant, documented progress, unhindered by poor teaching or other children’s limitations. If we are open to this approach to learning, we are inviting the opportunity for all children, in every corner of the world to have access to an Eton style education at the touch of a button.
What we need to remember is that technology is neutral. We need to teach pupils how to use the gadgets beneficially so that they live in harmony with technology and so that they do not become at the mercy or controlled in all areas of their lives, by the technology. Seldon asks the question, ‘Will technology liberate or infantilise humanity?’ To depict what infantilization might look like in reality, he uses the anecdote about a London cabby who historically took three to five years to memorise every street in London and understand the quickest route from A to B. AI now enables everyone to have that same information, using a smartphone and the pride, knowledge and commitment from the London cabby is kicked into oblivion, no longer required.
We are looking at a five-year tipping point where young people are going to have the opportunity for a better quality of teaching. They will have personalised 1:1 attention from AI who will understand them and how they learn more consistently than any human teacher could.
Teacher training colleges need to be thinking carefully about what to tell their new cohort. If AI can offer deeper, richer learning experiences, then what do our children need from their teachers? They need humanists, they need creatives who encourage children to question, analyse and problem solve about ethics and love and happiness and what it means to be human. They need teachers to encourage children to value the individual qualities they have as humans, to learn crafts and skills that encourage mindfulness and socialisation. They need teachers to teach them how to collaborate and build communities and who can help them prioritise time spend with families and helping others.
At Natterhub, we know that change is coming and the framework we have built is just the start of the innovative, educational, social media required to place education at the heart of the twenty-first century. Natterhub will modernise the primary classroom. Natterhub is tomorrow’s world, today.
* Seldon, Anthony 2018, The Fourth Education Revolution: Will Artificial Intelligence liberate or infantilise humanity?