The Covid-19 pandemic and the social distancing policy most countries have adopted in an effort to contain the spread of the virus within manageable levels has seen us quickly accelerate the adoption of technology across sectors.
The influence of technology has been more drastically and noticeably accelerated in sectors such as health and education. Doctors are conducting preliminary consultations and check-ups over digital health platforms. Teachers and pupils are in many countries are trying to continue with their curriculum via online education platforms.
That technology solutions allowing for more human interactions, communication and cooperation to be achieved remotely will more quickly become mainstream than would have been the case without the coronavirus pandemic, is a relative certainty. The focus over the past few weeks has, for obvious reasons, been on remote communications and task coordination and management technologies.
But many expert observers believe the rapid, forced extension or adoption of new digital solutions over the current lockdown period will have a broader impact in coming years by making more of us more open to the influence of the latest technology in the world. That could accelerate the adoption of other kinds of technology, not only those that are useful for remote work and communication.
Management and regulators are often a bottleneck to the integration of technology. Yes, often care does have to be taken around where, when and what technologies change ways of doing things. But a shift in attitudes would also foreseeably speed up adoption of new technologies without compromising careful enough consideration of the potential consequences.
Technology In Education – Why Has Digital Transformation Been So Slow?
One sector that has been behind the curve when it comes to digital transformation is education. Online education platforms are starting to establish themselves. But the technology is generally focused on allowing lessons and lectures to be viewed online and/or on demand. There is still very little technology used in classrooms themselves or in how knowledge is transferred from curriculum and teacher to students.
Education Stakeholders Are Conservative By Nature
This can largely be put down to the concern parents have around their children’s education and the importance they place on it. That has led to a very cautious, slow approach to the integration of technology in the education space. Parents are sceptical of anything unfamiliar, worried it could risk education outcomes.
There is also cognitive dissonance between most people enjoying the benefits of new technology and accepting much of it improves living standards and the concern over exposure to new technology is harmful to younger generations.
This is the same reflex that saw older generations fear rock and roll music would corrupt and ruin youngsters in the 1950s. And the parents of 70s and 80s kids worry about how 4 hours of kids’ TV a day and the advent of video games would compromise their development into adulthood. The parents of younger millennials and Gen Z were worried the internet and smartphones would mean the generation after them would go to hell in a handbasket.
We seem hardwired to believe that what we grew up with and how we were educated is the best way. Any other way, especially if it involves new and unfamiliar technologies or ways of doing things, is treated with extreme caution. Often outright rejection. That goes a long way to explaining why the pace at which technology has been introduced into mainstream education has been slow.
Technology Is Often Expensive
The cost of new technologies is also a major bottleneck. State and even private education has to be provided within constrained budgets and those often simply don’t stretch to experimenting with new technologies. They have to be tried and tested and have achieved buy-in across stakeholders from government departments, management, teachers and parents.
Technology may have the potential to offer financial efficiencies in education. But the upfront cost of introducing it is often enough to put those who hold the purse strings off taking a risk. Of course, not all new technology solutions turn out to bring the benefits they claim. Companies more often have the resources to take those risks and think again if it doesn’t work out. The organisations responsible for education often don’t have that luxury. Both in terms of the financial commitment involved and the responsibility to those they are providing an education to.
AI Is Revolutionising Technology And The World Around Us More Quickly Than Most Realise
Across sectors and applications, artificial intelligence is quickly embedding itself as the key driver of progress. AI’s integration into everyday life, and impact that is having, is accelerating at a quicker pace than most would have expected just a few short years ago.
That can largely be attribute to the speed at which the technology itself is developing. The advent of cloud computing has allowed for vast volumes of data to be cheaply storable and transferable across the internet. At the same time, the microchips that process data have become both far cheaper to produce and far more powerful. And the world is filling up with millions of pieces of technology that are constantly gathering more and more data.
With data, and generally the more of it the better, the raw commodity that powers the education of artificial learning algorithms, the field of technology’s pace of evolution has been turbocharged by the perfect storm.
From traffic management in busy metropolises, to urban infrastructure management and the development of new, revolutionary drugs, artificial intelligence is expected to bring about the next huge leap forward for humanity. And quite possibly in the much nearer future than most of us realise or expect.
AI Will Eventually Be Given A Role In Education. Here’s Why One Expert Is Convinced It Will Be A Deeply Transformative One
Rose Luckin is a UCL professor, co-founder of the Institute for Ethical AI in Education, and author of ‘Machine Learning and Human Intelligence: the future of education in the 21st century’. She is convinced that the use of AI in education will lead to a level of biological human education, and nurturing of natural intelligence, that will prove to be a game changer. More so than what AI itself will achieve.
Most of the discussion and development around AI in education, says Professor Luckin in an opinion piece for the Financial Times, focuses on technologies such as “robot teachers, adaptive intelligent tutors and smart essay marking software”. But she believes these applications of AI in education will represent nothing more than a step along the way against the bigger picture.
She believes AI’s real contribution to education will come from it helping us learn in a way that is not only precisely adapted to us as individuals but will understand ourselves better and how we best learn or teach others. AI’s role, says Luckin, will be to “extend, develop and measure the complexity of human intelligence – an intellect that is more sophisticated than any AI”.
Human intelligence works on many different levels. We’ve found it relatively easy to automate rules-based tasks. Even when the rules are extremely complex. What we struggle to automate is even the kind of accomplishments of human intelligence we usually take for granted and would consider simple. But involve taking a best guess based on a scenario where there are no fixed rules around inputs and outputs.
That’s why AI has been able to beat the world’s best chess players for years now. But hundreds of billions of dollars, thousands of the worlds’ sharpest scientific minds and years and years of work have been required to get close to a reliable robot driver. And why trying to develop an AI that can beat the best human players of ‘real life simulation’ computer games where rules are not fixed, like multi-player shoot-em-ups, has so far proven a challenge too far.
AI can achieve wonders when it comes to spotting patterns in huge volumes of data that the human mind would never be able to spot. And that has many potential uses. But it is a far more limited range of application of intelligence than the human brain represents.
However, if AI’s strengths are applied to helping us optimise the strengths of our own kind of intelligence – that would be the dream combination. Luckin thinks this is what AI’s role in education will become:
“Just as electricity invisibly powers lighting, computers and the internet, so it shall be for AI in education”.
“For example, secondary school students explain to a friend how much they understand about photosynthesis. The way they articulate their explanation can be captured and analysed, and each student offered an immersive augmented reality experience that targets their misconceptions”.
The feedback we receive from AI will give us much improved meta-intelligence. That means our own understanding of what we do understand, don’t understand and why. That will apply to how we approach not only academic learning and self-awareness but also how we deal with social relationships and situations. Big data on human behaviour will combine deep learning algorithms and our own human intelligence to help us gain a far deeper understanding of ourselves and ourselves in relation to others.
That will allow us to learn far more effectively, not only in an academic context but across all of the ‘lessons’ we encounter in life. As Professor Luckin explains:
“The implications are significant. We can collect and analyse huge amounts of data about how we move, what we say and how we speak, where we look, what problems we can and cannot solve and which questions we can answer.
The processing and AI-enabled analysis of multimodal data such as this will highlight more about our progress than how much better we understand science, maths, history or foreign languages.
It will show us how well we work with other people, how resilient, self-aware, motivated and self-effective we are.
Sound ethical frameworks, regulation and education about AI are essential if we are to minimise the risks and reap the benefits. Embrace today’s educational AI systems judiciously. Use them to learn as much as possible about AI. But remember that today’s AI is merely the start. The future is the use of AI to build the intelligence infrastructure to radically reform the way we value our own human intelligence”.
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