Violeta Popadic, online ESL teacher and Educator at Acadsoc
The advancements that technology has made cannot be ignored in the classroom. It has given rise to so many possibilities that we may have never even imagined in our wildest dreams, like audio-visual learning that makes students eager to participate. On the other hand, the development and the continued innovation of artificial intelligence (A.I) have the world divided on so many levels. Questions around ethics and morality have been raised by even the most dedicated of developers and scientists. A.I already influences so much of our educational activities, from our cell phones and the applications they operate, to the way in which we complete tasks in the classroom such as assignments and tests, and to how children learn at school.
The future of learning is positive, but it is imperative to consider all the factors at play and those who will benefit and lose the most. In our daily lives, we need to consider the role that artificial intelligence plays and is set to play in the future of learning. There needs to be an honest conversation between all parties involved in the advancement of A.I – a deeper consideration needs to be made to ascertain the types of powers we are willing to give A.I over us when we take a look at our educational aspirations.
We should consider many factors at play that highlight moral and ethical concerns – for in its consistency, change is not always good, and we must be prepared for all the possibilities that it may bring.
One A.I, Different Students
When we look at the role that A.I is playing in the advancement of education, we cannot discount its value. An important question that is raised is whether a standardized version of A.I is broad enough to accommodate the different students that exist in the classroom. At foundation level for instance, students respond to different styles of teaching such as repetition, sight and music to name a few. The issue arises when a standard has been set as to how A.I will educate. How many students will be neglected on the basis of them not being able to align themselves with the standard of A.I? What then becomes of the student who takes longer to grasp a concept when A.I is governed by time and not response? Does A.I have the patience to cater to each and every student’s needs? How quickly can students adapt to the ever-changing software and ‘intelligence’ of A.I?
Solution: A dedicated effort by these role-players is needed in order to safeguard against the issues that may be irreparable in the future, as these developers stand to benefit the most financially through the advancement of A.I in the classroom.
Some of the developers who can better help us solve these educational concerns are;
AIBrain (a company that is focused on robotics and smartphones, aiming to infuse the human skill, memory and learning with artificial intelligence) – many students use their smartphones for research and learning.
Intel (a software company that has invested over $1 Billion to the advancement of artificial intelligence) – they have enough power to forecast safeguarding issues and create software or hardware that can help to integrate human behavior into their machinery and robotics.
Mark Zuckerberg (the founder of Facebook and a prominent advocate for artificial intelligence) – with Facebook being one of the go-to applications for learning in groups, it is vital to make sure that students’ privacy is honored and that the information provided is open-ended to make sure that students can reach their own conclusions.
Bill Gates (the founder of Microsoft and the richest man in the world with $86 Billion) – On a more traditional or professional approach, more than 90% of computers use Microsoft as their operating system and Microsoft must make sure that their software still assures that the users maintain their independence as individuals. Students have lives outside of the classroom and their computers must adhere to those different needs.
Google (the number 1 search engine in the world with companies such as Android in their arsenal of A.I companies) – as their go-to search engine for anything and everything regarding school, Google needs to make sure that platforms such as email and personal details are kept safe. With Android being used on cellphones such as Huawei and Samsung, this software can develop categories that are able to make the classroom available to students at all times, wherever they may be. This will build confidence and convenience for students needing to put in that extra works in their own free time.
Students must still feel like they are actively participating in their learning experience and not merely regurgitating information that is fed to them by these A.I platforms, so instead of creating the perfect robot based on theory, develop a deeper understanding of the students’ needs by learning from the wealth of experience that current teachers have.
The Standard of Morality and Ethics for Students
In an April 2016 article, Kris Hammond wrote, “I am less concerned about robots doing wrong, and far more concerned about the moment they look at us and are appalled at how often we fail to do right. I am convinced that they will not only be smarter than we are, but have truer moral compasses, as well.”
Kris makes a very valid point. Humans fail consistently to live up to their own expectations and that may put them in grave danger of being seen as ‘imperfect’ by machines. It’s a possibility that machines may revert to teaching us about our own ethics code, further highlighting how imperfect we are, and making us prisoners of our own code of ethics. Students are at risk of being brainwashed to be morally upright and ethical at all times and maybe even end up losing the very essence to being human. Students may even find themselves behaving such as robots – governed by a higher purpose.
Solution: We need to find the grey area between all of the intricacies involved, to create machines that understand how the human race works and not try to tamper with its imperfection. One way of doing this is to not try to create a human-replacement robot. One of life’s great mysteries is the human race; its imperfection is what makes it so perfect. How relationships are created and developed, to how compassion and consciousness are not a state of being, but the essence of being. These are some of the things we cannot pass on to machines, because these things cannot be learned, but are things we are born with, that make us who we are.
Teachers who are vested in the sector of education, are part of the people in the sectors that are actively pursuing to adopt artificial intelligence on a more holistic basis. The upside to this is the increase in productivity around the classroom, but the downside is the millions of teachers who will find themselves without a job. The profession that is possibly the most important to us will be the most hit by the adoption of A.I. The question that exists is how do we balance robotics who are hubs of all kinds of information (which is at the core of learning) and teachers who are skillfully endowed through years of experience (efficiency of teaching).
The loss of teachers would mean an emptiness in the hearts of students that no machine or software could replace. Laughter will be substituted by the monotones of repetitive robotic sounds. In all actuality, bonds will be broken without the hope of ever being repaired, and students, just like their teachers, would be desensitized – losing a piece of that human-factor with each day that goes by.
Solution: Teachers need to hone their other skills if they are to survive in the possible competitive climate that may be brought on by the rise of artificial intelligence. One way of doing this is participating in jobs in the E-learning sector of education. Companies such as Acadsoc are using online education as a means to bridge the gap between the advancement of technology with the need to learn conveniently by students all over the world. This gives teachers a competitive advantage against anyone else who may have a one-dimensional perspective of being a teacher.
Here’s to the Future
Although uncertain, the future is alive with many possibilities. A.I has given rise to the development of online educational companies such as Acadsoc, an example of merging the human skill with the convenience of artificial intelligence. More time and effort needs to be dedicated to finding a balance between the human-race and the machines we seek to replace certain aspects of our lives. One way to find this is by looking at ourselves and what we are hoping to achieve as a people – secondly, what powers we are planning to give up in the pursuit of such a purpose. Humans were made to conquer, and at often times it has that ambition to conquer that has brought the demise of some of the world’s greatest minds to have ever live.
Remember who Icarus was and what led to his downfall. Sometimes your wings melt if you fly too closely to the sun.