Edtech and Digital Literacy Features Interviews

Artificial Intelligence and Automation is Here to Stay, Education Should Brace up – Rose Luckin

Written by Elvis Boniface

Artificial Intelligence is now a part of our normal lives. We are surrounded by this technology from automatic parking systems, smart sensors for taking spectacular photos, and personal assistance. Similarly, Artificial Intelligence in education is being felt, and the traditional methods are changing drastically.

At the World Innovation Summit for Education global summit in Doha, Qatar, I sat with Professor of Learner Centred Design at the UCL Knowledge Lab in London, whose research involves the design and evaluation of educational technology using theories from the learning sciences and techniques from Artificial Intelligence (AI).

When I asked the usefulness of AI in education, she summarizes it thus:

“AI has come to stay in our life. So, I think we need the population at large to understand more about Artificial Intelligence (AI). So that they can use it to their benefits. And so that they can keep themselves safe. And we need a small percentage of the population to understand enough about AI. To be the people who develop the next generation of AI technology. And we need a small percentage of the population to understand enough about AI. To develop the next generation of ethical guidelines and regulations for AI.

Because it’s a whole new space. And actually, we don’t really know how to regulate and provide people with the right guidelines for development. And we’re getting them, we’re developing them. But we need more people to understand enough about AI to help with the process. And then the third area and that we need to pay attention to, is to change the way that we educate and train the people. Because the world is changing and much of that change is driven by automation. So, we need to think about how we change our education systems. And our training systems in order to precipitate people through quite a different world of work. So, these areas are not different. They’re all interconnected. There are areas all of which we need to pay attention to.”

Then I followed up with more questions.

This is some view that some academicians like you have held. Then from a populism view, there have been series of counter argument that if AI is given its due attention and you begin to develop guidelines, and make it commonplace in the world, it will affect the economy. What can you say about this belief?

Rose Luckin: I don’t think the AI and automation will take perhaps as many jobs as many people feel. It will take some jobs, there’s no question about it. Automation is reducing some jobs in some areas. But we will also create more jobs. Because the automation will precipitate the need for different services and different products. So, I think we’re in a real key point in the evolution of the way AI is impacting our society. So, yes, some jobs will go. No question about it but other jobs will also come up. Jobs which don’t exist at the moment will come around.

And if I think about automated cars, this is not about self-priding of the moment. Because by popular topic of conversations, we have self-priding cars. That might reduce the number of people we need to be drivers. But then, what about other services being provided? Maybe not even driving. So, maybe you also have a legal business and you do your business in the car. Or maybe you’re mail technician and you do your business. And again, this is why we need to think about how we educate people. So that people are prepared to be resilient to challenges. And can be inventive and creative and conceive the opportunity that come around us redoing things differently.

Well coming back to educate us. I think this is where we should be. And it must be enormous for us in the number of jobs that we have. If you look at the whole of this advice, there are always some questions that revolves around my job. And when we look at the different areas of work, that are likely to be most impacting by AI world. Education is always near the bottom. Now, I think that doesn’t mean the educators’ job will change. But what I think is educators shouldn’t fail from being part of this new world.  Because, educators are even more important now than never before.

We know that you’re born to die and likely to live to a hundred. And we will say no, that they are likely to have full fun of their careers. And which means they are going to be learning probably eighty out of those hundred years. So, lifelong learning becomes a reality. Which means we’re going to need lots, lots, lots, more people to be educators and trainers and mentors and facilitators to ensure that people can learn effectively throughout their lives. So, I think I am not pessimistic about the job from Al.

I think we can be optimistic if we educate them appropriately that they will be resilient to change. That they will be inventive and creative and build on new opportunities that will come their way. And I think that if we did it right with the best intention, we will have lots more educators in the world. We’re short of educators at the moment and we don’t need even more. But it does mean to have deliberate decisions by the government to realize the way that they need to invest in education and training. And investing in education and training is lots of data that demonstrates or recognize positively owned economy. So, I think it’s good arguments on notable forms for a great investment in education.

The bend to that argument is that there have always been different innovations in education over the years. And like you said, education is always at the lower/slow end of adoption. There are assertions that the buzz word of AI, virtual reality and other disruptive technologies will fade over time without a direct impact on education. Do you agree?

With Prof. Rose Luckin at WISE Global Summit in Doha

Rose Luckin: I can understand why people will say that because if you look at the history we have. But I think that, it’s not that they’ll fade away. They’ll evolve and they’ll change but I don’t think AI is going away. It’s far too prolific outside of education to go away. It’s part of our lives in more ways than we realize most of the time. And it’s making a lot of people a lot of money. And to be candid and pragmatic, it’s not going away. It is here to stay and I think that it is here to stay in the way that it’s changing the work place. And it will be here to stay in education.

The most important thing for us to do as society, is to help education. By actively getting involved in the conversation about what AI should do in education. I would like to see educators work in way as developers to make sure that the AI used in education is for education. Because most of the companies that develop AI don’t know anything about teaching and all of that in education. They don’t know and they don’t need to. They don’t need any understanding of education to be able to set up and education technology basics. Either one doesn’t need education.

I think it’s even more because of AI. Most of them don’t really understand teaching and learning but educators do. If educators don’t understand AI, why would they? How will they? So, actually if we can get them working together, we would get a much better situation.

Some people have all the codes, they have all the technical power. And then the people that have the pedagogy are not coming in terms with them. How do we bridge that gap?

Rose Luckin: I am not saying it will be easy, it’s not. I’ve been working in this area for twenty-five years. I am sensing a much greater recognition across the world that it’s a prove of work of these partnerships. I’m not saying that is happening everywhere. But there’s been a shift in opinion of people to recognize that there is a need for this, which is a start. In our own fields in our universities, we specifically have a program to bring educational technology developers together with educators. To try and merge the information because we think that it’s important. And everywhere I go, I say the same thing.

This is what we need to do if we’re really going to develop the kind of AI technologist that’s going to be positive to education. We didn’t get it right with educational technology. I don’t think that most educational technologies that we’ve introduced to educators have been pretty effective. I think for many years, teachers felt as if technology was something that was being dumped with them. They weren’t all participating in the conversation. We need to change that for the future if we really want to live with what AI could do for education.

So basically, we have to gather teachers and join us into the conversation. It’s essential and I think it’s time to be all out and make that happen. We need to get the government to insist that technology developers in the developing area of education work with teachers. We need to gather school managers to realize that they need to be prepared to turn to work with developers. And that means that the people who will control their budget need to give them the money. To make sure that they can devote time for their teachers to this fundamental professional development.

I know it’s not easy but I honestly believe that is the best way we’ll get the best technology when it comes to AI. But when it comes to part of education technology, the best way is through these across stakeholders, multidisciplinary co-design partnerships. That’s the way we will enjoy much more better educational technology, AI technology. There is one other thing we have learnt through the work that we’ve been doing with entrepreneurs. And this is about how the large gap in what’s happening for many, many teachers. They’ve never really had the opportunity to think the particular needs that they face. Their classroom, their lecture room, their seminar room, whatever age group that they take.

They haven’t really had the time to sit down and say hey, what is the reason for this particular problem that I am trying to deal with? Who will help me identify the right technology for this problem, for this seater in this classroom. Because it’s been a misconception that someone out there will build a technology. That can stay all across world, that will stay all across a country. And it’s not right because different environment requires slightly different applications of technology. And so, we have to get the real scaling to use for educational technology. We have to get that equalization that needs to come from the educators, from the institutions working.

We’ve developed a program for educators that we’re now actually building into an online program. So, anybody would be able to use it. It doesn’t exist yet but we’re building it at the moment. And the key power of that is we start with an execution. Initially, we start a goal, we look at that particular need. What’s that goal trying to achieve with the SDGs in particular. And that school that nominates itself will have to work with us. We try and translate what the school’s global plan is, into each of those teachers’ trying to achieve at SDGs. We then do an audit of the technology that is available to use, which that school already has. And a human resource that understands how that technology works is a lot of example.

In a lot of cases, somebody enthusiastic brings this technology into school, where they live. And then the hostels have to use that technology or bring someone who knows how to use that technology effectively. And then, we help the teachers, mark specific needs. For example, maybe I’ve got specifically a group of students who are struggling with a particular element of languages. What we do is that we help them mark what technology is available to them, to the need that they’re facing. And then we help them design an intervention with that technology. In a way that they can collect evidence to demonstrate every works.

Then they can share with the rest of the school. That means they understand how to use the technology more effectively. They also understand the methodology of collecting evidence that they can share with their peers. Their peers can understand maybe it will or will not work for them. And then gradually you upscale the institutions. Through those nominating the teachers becoming the champion in that school. A lot is being expected of educators without having enough training and development to deal with those challenges all the time. So, this is the program that we are developing that is specifically aimed at educators. To try and help them use what’s available.


About the author

Elvis Boniface

Ordained Evangelist of the Education Ministry. Learning is my lifestyle, credo and religion. On a mission to disrupt and redirect Africa's Education conversation using Technology and Media. We can do it. Open to discuss any Education initiative and idea. #peace

Speedy reach: +2348185787349 & elvis@edugist.org

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