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Will AI be another EdTech failure?

Does AI actually offer the promise of transformation in education?

This week I was asked to appear on a panel on the topic, ‘Will AI be another EdTech failure?’ This is the first time I’ve ever been asked to comment on the topic, and I enjoyed doing some thinking on the questions that had been sent me.

Here is the first question that was put to us to plan to respond to on the panel, as well as some thoughts. I’ll share the other questions and thoughts on them in future EdThreads.

1. What is your perspective on the potential of AI to really shape education? Does it actually offer the promise of transformation? 

AI has already transformed education, there are millions of students and teachers around the world already using AI to support their teaching and learning. Three questions that help us to explore this topic more deeply are as follows:

  • How has and will AI transform education?

  • How fast will AI transform education?

  • How widely will that change occur?

The how part of this question is addressed in following questions.

In terms of how fast AI will change Ed, this isn’t a generalised question, it depends upon what we’re talking about. Some thing have already changed, and educators are and should be thinking deeply about the impact of AI. Two good examples of this are assessment and curriculum.

Assessment: The fact that pretty much any take-home task can now be done to a pretty high level with generative AI, we need to think deeply about designing tasks in a way that are ensuring that our students are doing tasks and thinking that has deep learning as a by-product, not just performance.

Curriculum: Generative AI is an incredibly powerful planning tool for teachers that can save a lot of time. I encourage you to explore its power!

Two things that I think will change much slower are instruction and what happens in standard classrooms

The best theory of instruction that I’m aware of was laid out over 40 years ago now in Engelmann’s phenomenal book Theory of Instruction. Engelmann’s tome still outlines the most effective and efficient way to convey various content types to students, based upon underlying cognitive processes. The introduction of AI doesn’t change this. Though AI can likely support teachers in their planning (see Curriculum above), this doesn’t mean that we need to change the ways that we communicate information to students (but watch this space for my reply to question 3 below in a future EdThread)

In terms of standard classroom structures, they may change over time, but I don’t see that changing any time soon. One of the great powers of AI is its ability (especially in future and once refined) to communicate information to students in tailored ways. But we’ve had improved options for a long time, such as video. Video and flipped learning is much more effective than teacher lecture (for older students at least) but it hasn’t taken off for a whole host of reasons. I believe that AI faces many of the same barriers

Coming back to the question of how widely these changes will be, I think there’s an important point for us to consider regarding differential impacts on different ages.

To my mind, AI shouldn’t change how our youngest learners directly learn in the classroom. Up to around Year 3, I expect that schooling should remain fairly consistent for at least the next decade or so.

I think there’s potential for it to have some interesting impacts in the middle years, from about 10 year olds to 14 or 15. In this space, I think AI could assist with some more interesting independent projects and independent learning, which I’ll write about more in a future EdThread.

When it comes to older students and post-school learning, I think that AI should transform education in a big way, and I hope that schools and universities begin to harness the power of AI more and more. I think that within about 5 years there will be some significant differences in the ways that we structure learning for students, w.r.t AI, and I hope that at least 20% or so of institutions have these positively changes effectively embedded to enhance student learning by then.

These are just some initial ideas and I hope to develop them further, hopefully with your feedback and input too!

Questions for future EdThreads…

  1. What do you believe is the biggest danger of AI, could this de-skill the profession?

  2. What is the greatest potential of AI in Education? Where do you see AI actually supporting the successful facilitation of teaching and learning and preparing young people to thrive in life?

  3. What do you see are the next steps? What piece of advice would you give to education leaders for how to move forward in successfully implementing AI in their school?

Announcements and Opportunities

Did you know I’m running a full day training on Instructional Coaching on March 12th in Melbourne? Find out more here.

And if you’re keen on some Classroom Management tips, I’ve just released an online course on the subject!