Heads, teachers and education policy-makers need to be less risk-averse and more willing to embrace the potential of technology, if they are to help learners develop a skills-set for the 21st century, Professor Rose Luckin, the director of UCL EDUCATE, said.
Delivering the Gresham College Lecture on AI and Education: The Reality and the Potential, at the Museum of London, last night, Professor Luckin said educators needed to develop a better understanding of the potential of artificial intelligence in the learning process, particularly in developing various intelligences.
“Decision-makers in education are very risk-averse and often do not want to make big changes, because they are concerns that such changes might disadvantage the people in the process of their education when the change hits,” she said. “However, if we do not make big changes, the consequences are likely to be worse and the risks much greater.”
Professor Luckin said many teachers remained fearful and pessimistic about the future of their profession in the wake of technological advances, and sometimes believed AI was “the stuff of science fiction”. But studies had suggested that education would be among the jobs “least prone to automation”.
However, this did not mean that there would be no changes in education. “I believe education will change dramatically as we use more AI and it will change in terms of what we teach, to ensure that our students can prospect in an AI-augmented world,” she said.
“The impact of this will not be felt by everyone equally. Those with higher education levels will be least vulnerable when it comes to automation and job loss. We therefore need to provide particular support for those with lower levels of education.”
Professor Luckin said this required teaching young people about problem-solving and collaborative working; helping them to understand what knowledge is and how to verify its veracity. They also needed to develop social intelligence to face global problems, as this was something machines were not able to do.
Young people needed to develop their emotional intelligence and understand what it means to be human, and to be able to react to emotional perspectives – something that it hard for AI to achieve.
AI, however, could be used to measure the development of intelligence in increasingly nuanced ways, and to help people become more intelligent.
Professor Luckin said: “Being human is extremely important. The very aspects of our humanity, the aspects that we do not measure, but are fundamental to what it means to be hon, are the ones that we are likely to need more of in the future – for example, empathy love and compassion.”
She said AI could be used to tackle educational challenges, but this required partnerships – such as the UCL EDUCATE programme – to build capacity, and to bring together the users and developers of technology, and the research that can evidence the efficacy of the technology for teaching and learning.
This “golden triangle” was at the heart of partnerships “that engage the AI developers, most of whom do not understand learning or teaching, with the educators, most of whom do not understand AI, and the researchers who understand AI and learning and teaching”.
The lecture can be viewed here.