Ed­u­ca­tion fo­cus:

Whether we like it or not, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence is creep­ing into our schools. Sir An­thony Sel­don, a lead­ing voice in ed­u­ca­tion, ar­gues that we should em­brace it

EDP Norfolk - - INSIDE - WORDS: Mark Keb­ble

From class­room AI to Nor­folk stu­dents at the RSC

In pop­u­lar cul­ture, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence gets a bad rep­u­ta­tion. There’s HAL and his turn­ing against Dave in 2001: A Space Odyssey; Rick Deckard’s mis­sion to ter­mi­nate rogue repli­cants in Blade Run­ner; and a naked Arnold Schwarzene­g­ger tak­ing what he wants on a re­lent­less search for Sarah Con­nor. Ma­chines that think for them­selves are not a good idea, ac­cord­ing to Hol­ly­wood.

The thought of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence tak­ing over our class­rooms is also a scary one… isn’t it? Surely one of the joys of learn­ing is when you are as­signed a pas­sion­ate teacher who just gets you and draws out an in­nate love for a sub­ject from within you.

I would not be do­ing this job if it wasn’t for a slightly ec­cen­tric English teacher who made les­sons fun and ex­cit­ing, leav­ing me ea­ger for more. A ma­chine wouldn’t be able to do that.

Con­sid­er­ing his back­ground and high stand­ing in the world of ed­u­ca­tion, Sir An­thony Sel­don is, at first glance, a sur­pris­ing ad­vo­cate for schools to start em­brac­ing the ever-evolv­ing world of tech­nol­ogy in the 21st cen­tury. His new book, The Fourth Ed­u­ca­tion Rev­o­lu­tion: will ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence lib­er­ate or in­fan­tilise hu­man­ity, will un­doubt­edly ruf­fle a few feath­ers. “I have never been very good on new tech­nol­ogy,” he ad­mits, “and I still only type with two fingers, but I have al­ways been in­trigued by the way new tech­nol­ogy could help ad­dress some of the in­tractable prob­lems ed­u­ca­tion has had. That in­spired me.”

Cur­rently vice-chan­cel­lor of the Univer­sity of Buckingham­shire, Sir An­thony spent 30 years lead­ing the way with a for­ward­think­ing ap­proach to ed­u­ca­tion, no­tably at Brighton Col­lege and Welling­ton Col­lege, so it’s per­haps not sur­pris­ing that his ideas are dif­fer­ent.

The Fourth Ed­u­ca­tion Rev­o­lu­tion starts by de­tail­ing the first three im­por­tant eras in learn­ing with much ded­i­cated to how the third – cur­rent – stage and its ob­ses­sion with ex­ams is fail­ing, rather than in­spir­ing, stu­dents. “I am never crit­i­cal of teach­ers who work in schools, or the stu­dents them­selves. I am crit­i­cal of the sys­tem, be­cause that lim­its op­por­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple to blos­som fully and to en­joy life fully,” says Sir An­thony. “I also think it has dam­aged the ful­fil­ment that teach­ers can get, the re­wards that teach­ers can get from their pro­fes­sion by nar­row­ing it down. Ed­u­ca­tion should be about broad­en­ing out. There were many

re­mark­able things about the third ed­u­ca­tion rev­o­lu­tion. You look at state schools and they are full of re­mark­able, ex­tra­or­di­nary things, so to say they could be bet­ter does not mean to say there is not any­thing good about them. The good things about our schools are of­ten de­spite and not be­cause of the sys­tem un­der which they have to op­er­ate.”

Sir An­thony’s ar­gu­ment about AI and what it will of­fer clearly does not make the teacher ob­so­lete. “The chal­lenge is we need to ac­cen­tu­ate the hu­man con­tact – ac­tive, cre­ative learn­ing – and so much of the learn­ing in the third model era was pas­sive,” he states. “Stu­dents sat down, teach­ers taught the ma­te­rial, stu­dents learnt it and then re­gur­gi­tated it. There is very lit­tle in­di­vid­u­al­i­sa­tion in that, very lit­tle scope for creativ­ity, very lit­tle scope for per­sonal hu­man con­tact.

“So what I like about all thinkers in the past who have ac­cen­tu­ated the cre­ative and ac­tive learn­ing is that is ex­actly what we need to take for­ward into the fu­ture, par­tic­u­larly in the world where the se­duc­tive AI ma­chines will – if we are not care­ful – take over all our think­ing for us. We need to em­pha­sise the cre­ative, the hu­man and the ac­tive – other­wise we will be­come sub­merged.

“I am al­ways wor­ried by peo­ple who are ob­sess­ing about their gad­gets and would rather play com­puter games than be out in the fresh air, re­lat­ing to other peo­ple. The na­ture of learn­ing is for hu­man to hu­man in­ter­ac­tion, and tech­nol­ogy can of­ten be an ex­cuse for what is the most im­por­tant thing about all ed­u­ca­tion – which is stu­dents re­lat­ing to each other and stu­dents re­lat­ing to teach­ers.”

In the face of re­cent re­ports link­ing a child’s hap­pi­ness – or lack of it – to spend­ing too much time in front of a screen, will in­tro­duc­ing even more screens to a stu­dent’s life have an im­pact on well­be­ing? “We need to be help­ing our young peo­ple learn how to use this tech­nol­ogy rather than be used by it,” is Sir An­thony’s em­phatic an­swer.

“Ban­ning is not the an­swer. We need to teach our young peo­ple how to use it to en­hance their lives, learn­ing and their en­joy­ment and un­der­stand­ing of the world.”

The Fourth Ed­u­ca­tion Rev­o­lu­tion of­fers an in­sight into how AI is al­ready be­ing used in schools around the world and makes for a com­pelling case, though he can see why some teach­ers would be wary of AI com­ing into the class­room.

“We are all wary of the new un­til we can see how it works. There’s talk about the ero­sion of jobs and that’s a real worry to teach­ers. I ac­tu­ally say in the book we are go­ing to need more teach­ers and teach­ing as­sis­tants in the fourth rev­o­lu­tion model than in the third.

“But I think the fear of AI rather than the re­al­ity is key here and the prod­ucts on the mar­ket have sim­ply not con­vinced that they are in­dis­pen­si­ble. We are 10 to 15 years away from a gen­eral ac­cep­tance and a gen­eral ab­sorp­tion of these new tech­nolo­gies.”

How does Sir An­thony see a typ­i­cal les­son pan­ning out 50 years from now? “When you in­ter­view me in 50 years time,” he chuck­les, “we will be talk­ing about schools that have be­come more like mod­ern of­fices – much more open plan, more fluid spa­ces. Ev­ery child will ar­rive and have their in­di­vid­ual learn­ing plan for the day, which will take up per­haps 25% of the day.

“They will be go­ing through maths, lan­guages, some cul­ture and creativ­ity, some so­cial sciences, hu­man­i­ties, all in front of their own AI teacher on screen. It will take them at their own their pace – it will know their own learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, it will know when they are need­ing at­ten­tion and it will be pro­foundly more ef­fi­cient than the cur­rent sys­tem.

“This frees up 75% of the school day for com­mu­nal ac­tiv­i­ties, group work, project work, team-build­ing ex­er­cises, prob­lem solv­ing, vol­un­teer­ing, cre­ative work, phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity…” As can be ex­pected, the re­sponse to the book so far has been mixed, but to Sir An­thony’s credit he has cre­ated an en­gag­ing read, free of jar­gon. The ma­chines are com­ing, but per­haps it’s time we cast them un­der a lighter shadow. Sir An­thony Sel­don is a former head of Welling­ton Col­lege. The Fourth Ed­u­ca­tion Rev­o­lu­tion (UBP) by Sir An­thony Sel­don, £14.99.

“We need to be help­ing our young peo­ple learn how to use this tech­nol­ogy rather than be used by it”

Sir An­thony Sel­don

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.