A Chance to Do the Right Thing



Flickr, Evan Shelhamer, Oct 17, 2013, CC some rights reserved

As a break from the overly lengthy posts of the last couple of weeks, I wanted to focus on just one idea this time.

Call me cynical, but when large corporations advertise that they are on the cusp of providing “personalized learning systems”  for students, accompanied by pictures of smiling children with headphones seated in front of a computer, my skepticism meter begins to beep.

Earlier this week I received a fascinating link from a good friend and colleague. The link was to a piece offered by a British publishing firm, Raconteur. (See About Us note below). It addressed the rapid increase in investor attention and development efforts in the areas of Artificial Intelligence for Education (AIE). The authors spoke to the accelerating progress in AI and the potential impact of advances on education.

As an example of this promise, the authors describe the variety of ways in which Artificial Intelligence can supplement and support the work of teachers as they work with students to improve content knowledge. The meter began to beep again.

For me, this highlights a basic problem – the authors of the article and most likely those working in the area of artificial intelligence are starting from the same misinformed perspective as the architects of the reform movement. They begin with the definition of education as the transmission and acquisition of content-based knowledge. This is much too narrow a starting point and leads to the equally narrow direction for solutions – solution to problems defined as the failure of schools to deliver to students the skills to reach the requisite levels of accomplishment.

In our Flipboard magazine, Career Readiness – Now and for the Future, we have curated numerous studies, surveys, and discussions regarding the need for the development of skills and dispositions that extend well beyond the acquisition of discrete content knowledge as currently documented through single large scale assessment regimes. This growing awareness further validates the importance of learning how to learn, how to be, and how to do as the cornerstones of learning experiences for our students.

While folks in higher education, business owners, and corporate leaders throughout the country are sharing the urgent need for what are commonly referred to as “soft skills” – i.e., things such as collaboration (real-time and virtual), social intelligence, critical and adaptive thinking, understand concepts across multiple disciplines, perseverance, tolerance, etc., state and national policy makers continue to focus on the results of large scale assessments in 2-3 discrete content areas.

Artificial Intelligence in Education initiatives that improve the effectiveness and efficiency of learning that which is increasingly being recognized as the wrong thing will simply add to the list of disappointments in our education, further fuel the misguided blame on our schools, and continue the commitment to trying to do the wrong thing better.

From Raconteur’s About Us page

Raconteur Media is a publishing house and content marketing agency. Raconteur produces special reports for The Times and The Sunday Times, as well as content marketing solutions for brands and bespoke market research. Raconteur combines premium editorial, analysis and graphic design with a commitment to high-quality executions in print and online across all of its services. Our content informs, inspires and influences thought leaders worldwide.

Don’t know about you, but I find the last sentence a little frightening.

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