Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Why doing nothing with AI is not an option

In the business of technology adoption, the prudent path often lies in inaction. Education, in particular, has a natural proclivity for sifting through the chaff of technological fads, embracing only those innovations that truly enhance learning outcomes or make educators' lives easier. This organic process of selection has served the sector well, allowing it to evolve at a measured pace without succumbing to the allure of every shiny new tool. However, the emergence of AI presents a singular challenge, one that makes doing nothing all but impossible.

The disruptive potential of AI in education cannot be overstated. For centuries, the cornerstone of our pedagogical approach has been the written word – assignments and assessments that serve as both a means of developing and gauging understanding. The AI-powered tools capable of generating human-like responses threaten to undermine this foundational element of education. Inaction in the face of this shift is not merely ill-advised; it is a recipe for curricular erosion and a potential deskilling of an entire generation. Most educators intuitively understand the threat, hence the tinge of moral panic surrounding the AI invasion of education. 

Moreover, a passive approach to AI in education risks exacerbating existing inequities. As Leon Furze, a prominent voice in the field, has vividly described, policing student use of AI tools will inevitably lead to a new digital divide. Access to these technologies, even at the seemingly modest price point of $20 per month, can serve as a significant barrier for many students. The solution lies not in restriction, but in universal training – ensuring that all students are equipped with the skills to harness AI efficiently, thus leveling the playing field.

The stakes extend beyond the classroom. Higher education and K-12 institutions that fail to adapt to the AI revolution risk further straining their already tenuous relationships with employers. In an era where the relevance of traditional education is increasingly questioned, ignoring the clear signals from the labor market is a perilous path. It leaves educational institutions vulnerable to political attacks and diminishes their ability to prepare students for the realities of the modern workforce.

The imperative, then, is clear: embrace the bots. This is not a call for wholesale abandonment of traditional pedagogy, but rather a recognition that AI must be woven into the fabric of our educational approach. Curriculum must be revised, assignments and assessments reimagined to not only incorporate but require the use of AI. Every student, regardless of background or discipline, should be exposed to and ideally proficient in leveraging these tools.

Such a transformation is no small undertaking. It demands resources, commitment, visionary leadership, and a comprehensive institutional strategy. But the alternative – a slow, painful descent into irrelevance – is far more daunting. The question is not whether education can afford to embrace AI, but whether it can afford not to. In this particular case, inaction is the riskiest action of all.

"First try with AI"; On the advantages of organic learning

Some people advocate for structured training programs and dedicated time for AI learning, but a more organic approach is more effective and ...