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Hybrid Teachers for Hybrid Learners

By Jason Cooper
Hybrid Teachers for Hybrid Learners

Everywhere we look, companies are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enhance our lives. Our email inboxes are free from SPAM thanks to AI filters. The medical profession has begun to deploy AI in interpreting scans and detecting cancer with more accuracy and consistency than human doctors can manage. The finance industry relies heavily on algorithms to analyze consumer patterns and design strategies for creating wealth. The transportation industry is on the precipice of a revolution thanks to the development of self-driving vehicles that rely on AI to move people further, safer, and more consistently than humans can. Yet AI remains largely absent from a major field of human activity: education.
When we read about AI in the media, it is often evoked in descriptions of a future jobs market in which humans are replaced by machines. The real power of AI, however—and the future of education, I would argue—lies in engineering AI to work with, rather than in the place of, humans.
Whether it’s in the medical profession, the finance industry, or transportation, when AI and humans work together, we reach a level of consistency and efficiency that neither could achieve by going solo. While AI will handily beat a human in a game of chess, it is no match for a human-AI hybrid player. This hybrid, or “human in the loop” approach, will help us to realize the full potential of AI across all industries, including education.
Our students are already hybrid learners, utilizing a range of tools and platforms to engage in a knowledge economy beyond the walls and timetables of the schools they attend. Young people today access their learning at moments that are convenient for them, in ways that suit their personal preferences, and supplement what their human teachers have to offer with online resources.
With the help of AI, we have the opportunity to capitalize on our students’ intrinsic motivation to learn anywhere, anytime, through the provision of 1:1 AI mentors that utilize the data analysis power of AI to provide real-time, accurate information on the student’s learning, along with feedback about which strategies and resources are having the most impact.
Imagine an individual mentor—a Siri or Alexa, if you will, or a virtual mentor that you can see, like Magic Leap’s “Mica”—that engages with students and leads them through a learning journey that is anchored to prescribed standards.
Picture a student saying, “Alexa, let’s do some simultaneous equations.” To which Alexa responds by accessing the student’s learning journey and picking up where they last left off, providing a range of engaging and challenging tasks designed to consolidate the understanding and application of whatever skills or standards are the class’s current focus. In the background, AI is busily working to analyze each response, using this data to determine the next step along this particular student’s learning path, then providing resources and tasks to ensure his or her proficiency in any given standard.
Thanks to AI, students will be guided to move forward or to revisit certain concepts based on the information generated as they complete each task. Human teachers can access these metrics in real time, giving them the opportunity to enhance in-class learning by engaging students in four of the top five “Most In-Demand Skills of 2020,” according to the World Economic Forum: creativity, complex problem solving, collaboration, and critical thinking (Future of Jobs Report, World Economic Forum 2016).
The more an individual works with an AI Mentor, the more the Mentor learns about the student and the more accurately it is able to tailor the learning experience. At the same time, individual data can contribute to fleshing out a Big Data big picture with respect to education worldwide, in which trends and patterns will be clear and educators will learn which resources and teaching strategies are having the most impact on student learning. Think John Hattie on steroids, in real time.
AI also needs to be embedded in the curriculum, not just responsible for teaching it. Our students should be engaging in philosophical and ethical discussions about how we use AI, as well as what a future with AI should involve. Exploring questions such as, “How much privacy are you willing to sacrifice for convenience?” or “Can the human race continue to progress without AI?” will help our students to understand both sides of the AI argument, while positioning them in such a way as to make informed decisions.
The teachers of the future will be those who are willing to embrace and work with AI to provide a wider range of learning opportunities than either a humans or AI can provide on their own. Our hybrid learners deserve hybrid teachers. Schools that fail to prepare for and embrace this future risk going the way of Kodak and Nokia.
Jason Cooper is the Primary School Principal at Bangkok Patana School.

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